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September 2023
Ray Sarracino, Jackie Parker, Miriam Dotson 239-338-3500

What’s New from Fort Myers - Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods
Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, reopenings, nonstop flights, fall events

LEE COUNTY, Florida (U.S.A.)
September welcomes headliners for Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, restaurants reopen and more special events. For more information, go to

Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, Sept. 22-Oct. 1 
We are counting the days until Island Hopper Songwriter Fest. Make plans now for this award-winning event filled with fun and music. The four locations and dates for the 10-day festival include: Captiva Island, Sept. 22-24; Cape Coral, Sept. 25-26; downtown Fort Myers, Sept. 27-28; and Fort Myers Beach, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. More than 60 songwriters are scheduled for 122 performances.

Bringing BMI songwriters to Southwest Florida to perform in intimate settings gives fans the opportunity to interact with the musicians up close and personal. While most shows are free, this year’s Island Hopper will offer more ways to enjoy unique, ticketed live performances: 

  • Charlie Worsham, country singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist started out at the top, playing the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 12. He’s toured with Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley. With his just-released “How I Learned to Pray,” a collaboration with Luke Combs, he will perform at the Gather Chef’s Dinner on Sept. 25 in Cape Coral.  
  • Chris Janson will perform along with special guest, Kristian Bush of Sugarland at the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina pool party on Fort Myers Beach, on Oct.1.
  • Local favorites, Sheena Brook and Brian Sutherland, will play the Music on the Mound at the Mound House on Fort Myers Beach on Sept. 30.
  • Enjoy brunch on Sept. 23 at Old Captiva House on Captiva Island featuring Tim James and Kat Higgins; on Oct. 1 at Diamondhead Beach Resort on Fort Myers Beach with Dave Pahanish and Rob Snyder

The lineup also includes: Clint Daniels. Ben Burgess, Emily Shackelton, Phil O’Donnell and Sonia Leigh. For the full lineup and ticket information, visit or download Island Hopper app. 

Island Hopper Songwriter Fest is presented by BMI, iHeart Radio’s Cat Country 107.1 FM, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods.

Margaritaville Beach Resort on Fort Myers Beach has announced that it will begin accepting reservations for stays that begin March 15. Check out details at

Lovers Key State Park reopens along with welcome and Discovery Center
Lovers Key has reopened for limited day-use activities. Tram services operate 8 a.m. to sunset and will transport visitors to within 800 feet of the beach. Paddling equipment, beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent through the concession. The gift shop has cold water, beverages and some merchandise. The Discovery Center is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The boat ramp is closed. Please note: The park does not have electricity.

Bowditch Point Park on Fort Myers Beach opens
Bowditch Point Park has opened daily from dawn to dusk. The parking area and beach are open while the preserve and facilities remain closed.

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers offers fall wet walks
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is offering a fall schedule of wet walks allowing visitors access to part of the Slough that’s normally off-limits and offers a way to experience the beautiful wetlands in new ways. Led by trained guides, these walks follow a restricted, water-filled, sinuous trail amid thick green ferns, towering cypress and chattering woodpeckers. 

Walks take place Sept. 9, 16, 23, 30 and Oct. 14, 21, and 28. Additional specialty walks include Sept. 2: “Hurricanes and Forests: One tree's disaster is another's opportunity” with Dr. Win Everham, FGCU, Dept. of Ecology and Environmental Studies. And on Oct. 7: “Aquatic Critters:  A peak into the lives of some of the amazing creatures that call the Slough home" with Brian Murphy, retired Environmental Education Teacher. Visit for reservations.

Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs reopens welcome center and gift shop
Wonder Gardens has reopened its historic welcome center and shop following renovations from hurricane damage. The popular tourist stop is a botanical garden and refuge for more than 300 rescued, rehabilitated and non-releasable birds and reptiles. As one of Florida’s first attractions, it began in 1936 and has captured the nostalgia, history and wonder of old Florida with tropical flora and fauna from around the world.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Sanibel Island, rebuilding underway 
With plans to open by the end of 2023, the museum is working on its aquariums, lobby, museum store and restoration of its landscaping and wetlands. The Living Gallery of aquariums and marine life will be restored, and again feature the beloved Giant Pacific Octopus, Giant Clams, Cuttlefish, Florida mollusks, and over 60 species of marine life. The exhibits of the Great Hall of Shells will be updated and refreshed, exhibiting thousands of beautiful species from all over the world.

Sun Saver Passport: Dine, Play, Shop, Sip
This popular, digital savings pass provides instant access to a variety of deals and experiences from area attractions, restaurants and more across four categories – Dine, Play, Shop and Sip. Sign-up is simple and free. Passports are instantly delivered to phones via text and email. And there is an option for users to save the pass on their home screen for one-tap access. Sign up now to start saving.

Cape Coral Quest: Win prizes and explore 
Download the Cape Coral Quest app for a fun way to explore the area and a chance to win prizes through Nov. 30. Follow the directions at to collect a Cape Coral Quest Pass to participate on any mobile device. 

Dining, entertainment and brewery news 
There is daily news of the reopening of a restaurant or attraction and the progress that our accommodations are making. Each piece of good news moves us closer to recovery. Here are a recent few:

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille has reopened on Fort Myers Beach with a full menu and waterfront views. Located in Fisherman’s Wharf next to Dixie Fish Co.

Also on Fort Myers Beach, Heavenly Biscuit has returned on wheels. Located in its same spot-on Mango Street, the favorite breakfast spot is serving from its food truck.

RC Otters Eats on Captiva Island has reopened for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with music daily on Andy Rosse Lane.

Also on Captiva Island, Sept. 22 is the reopening date for the Green Flash. The waterfront restaurant, built on the site of the former Timmy’s Nook, has been repaired and renovated. The docks will also be available and the owners say it is almost identical to the pre-Ian restaurant.

Lighthouse Café of Sanibel reports that it has found a new home in the old Sanibel Fresh location next to Lazy Flamingo and DQ. The island breakfast favorite will have news on the opening coming soon.

The Fish House in Bonita Springs has reopened following extensive renovations.

Coming soon: Swamp Cat Brewing Company plans to open this fall in Fort Myers.

Bay Street Yard is planned for downtown Fort Myers with seating for 300, food trucks, covered stage with TV and games. The outdoor venue will be next to the Luminary Hotel.

Airport News
Southwest Florida International (RSW) assists travelers with non-visible disabilities
The Sunflower Program, now in nearly 200 airports worldwide, allows travelers to discreetly let others know they have a non-visible disability. Along with Port Authority staff, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau’s Visitor Services Tourism Ambassadors have been trained in this initiative and will help inform the traveling public at RSW about the Sunflower Program. 

Booths are located in the east and west atriums of baggage claim from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sunflower symbol, printed on a lanyard, badge, hat, bracelet or other branded item, indicates that a person may need more assistance and patience is appreciated. When airport personnel see someone wearing the symbol, they know they may need extra assistance, more time or help reading signage.

New air service at RSW:
Breeze will start nonstop service to the following cities in November:
Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK) – three times weekly
New Orleans (MSY) – twice weekly
Norfolk, Virginia (ORF) – twice weekly
Richmond, Virginia (RIC) – twice weekly
Syracuse, New York (SYR) – twice weekly
Pittsburgh (PIT) – four times weekly
Louisville, Kentucky (SDF) – twice weekly
Columbus, Ohio (CMH) – three times weekly
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina (RDU) – twice weekly

JetBlue Airways: Worcester (ORH), weekly starting Jan. 4, 2024.

Annual festivals and events

Island Hopper Songwriter Fest 
Sept. 22-Oct. 1

FITMIX FEST, downtown Fort Myers
Sept. 29-30

Clyde Butcher’s America’s Everglades Exhibit
Oct. 2-Jan. 2, 2024
Centers for the Arts of Bonita Springs

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge “Art in the Wild”
Oct. 21-22

Cape Coral Oktoberfest
Oct. 20-22 and 27-29

Taste of the Islands /Taste Off the Islands 
To support CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife), Sanibel Island 
Nov. 13-19

Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tip-Off/Beach Division Matchups
Nov. 20 
6 p.m.: Wisconsin/Virginia
8:30 p.m.: West Virginia/SMU
Third-place and championship contests are set for the same times on Nov. 22.
Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College

Elevance Health Women’s Fort Myers Tip-Off/Island and Shell Divisions
Island Division: Nov. 23 and 25. Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma and Princeton. 
Shell Division: Nov. 24 and 25. Wisconsin, Marquette, Boston College and Arkansas.

Sanibel Island Writers Conference
November TBD

39th Annual Cape Coral Festival of the Arts, Cape Coral
Jan. 13-14, 2024

Bonita Springs National Art Festival
Jan. 13-14, Feb. 10-11, March 2-3, 2024

Bacon Jam
Jan. 13, 2024
Caloosa Sound Amphitheater, downtown Fort Myers

“Ding” Darling Lecture Series, Sanibel Island
Jan.18-March 28, 2024

39th Annual Cape Coral Festival of the Arts, Cape Coral
Jan. 13-14, 2024

Niki Butcher Exhibition
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
January-February TBD

ArtFest Fort Myers, Downtown River District
Feb. 2-4, 2024

21st annual Burrowing Owl Festival, Cape Coral
February TBD
Rotary Park

Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade, Fort Myers
February TBD

“Ding” Wild Days of Wellness
March 23-24, 2024 

Spring training 2024, February and March
Boston Red Sox 
JetBlue Park, Fort Myers
Minnesota Twins
Lee County Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers

25th Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival, Fort Myers
March 2, 2024

86th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival
March 7-9, 2024

ECHO Global Food and Farm Festival, North Fort Myers 
March 12-16, 2024

34th Annual “Ding” Darling Day Conservation Carnival
April 20, 2024

14th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival

12th Annual “Ding” Darling and Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament
May 10, 2024

Fringe Fort Myers
June 6-9, 2024

National Seashell Day
June 21, 2024

National Seashell Day
June 21, 2024

July TBD
Pine Island

2nd annual FITMIX FEST, downtown Fort Myers
Sept. 27-29, 2024


EDITOR’S NOTE: Fort Myers - Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Matlacha, Boca Grande & Outer Islands, North Fort Myers, Alva, Buckingham and Lehigh Acres. For more information, go to



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