A sunset blaze of orange, yellow and crimson glistens in an undulating pattern on the Gulf. Your only companions on the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are pelicans that splash down for dinner and sandpipers scurrying along the water’s edge.

Isolated from the rigors of “real” life, you’ll lose your cares when you find yourself at the beaches of Fort Myers – with its lush barrier islands, white sand beaches and neighborhoods like Sanibel. Here are our top five reasons to chill out in this pristine paradise.

1. Splendid Seclusion

When you’re in the mood to meditate, ready for a commune with nature or need to spend quality time with that special someone, Sanibel’s Bowman’s Beach offers plenty of privacy. And Captiva Beach is oh-so-romantic and a prime place to see a spectacular sunset. The beautiful barrier island of Lovers Key State Park features hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing and ranger-guided fishing tours.

2. All in the Family

There are more than 30 beach access points to family-friendly Fort Myers Beach, each spot with its own personality. Featuring a baby-changing station, playground, picnic areas and fishing pier, Lynn Hall Memorial Park, in the heart of Fort Myers Beach, makes for a fabulous outing. On the Caloosahatchee River, Yacht Club Community Park offers similar perks plus a marina and heated outdoor pool.

3. Shellabrate!

You’ll find sensational shelling at Turner Beach on Captiva Island. Stay for sunset on the beach and dinner at a restaurant across the street. Gulfside City Park, Lighthouse Park and Tarpon Bay on Sanibel also boast a bounty of seashells. Sanibel’s protruding position in the Gulf creates a natural scoop for shells. In the quest for these treasures, visitors and locals alike can all be caught stooped over and shuffling along the shores in a stance lovingly known as the "Sanibel Stoop."

4. Boatload of Fish

Light tackle and back bay fishing are excellent at Bowditch Point on north Fort Myers Beach. Parking is plentiful and there’s a boathouse at this drop-in point for the Great Calusa Blueway. Surf fishing is a popular pastime at Little Hickory Island Beach in Bonita Springs. Pull up your car to the water’s edge at Sanibel’s Causeway Beaches to swim, fish or boat.

5. Cavalcade of Creatures

The protected-species habitat of Bonita Beach Park is where you’ll witness Florida’s creatures while having the convenience of restrooms, concession stand and other amenities. Or, go completely wild at Bunche Beach on San Carlos Bay. Its combination of sandy beach, mangrove forest and salt flats makes wildlife viewing ideal. Accessible only by boat, Cayo Costa State Park boasts miles of beaches and acres of pine forests, oak-palm hammocks and mangrove swamps. Cayo Costa hosts manatees, dolphins, a multitude of birds and more.

When You Go...

Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods