Exploring downtown Fort Myers, an alternative waterfront destination in Southwest Florida

Most travelers dream about the waterfront view when they plan a trip to the Fort Myers area.

The view of the Caloosahatchee River from my table was wonderful.

Oxbow Bar and Grill is located inside the pier building and serves great food.

I have been coming to the Fort Myers region for a long time and have never seen this view. I have been to downtown Fort Myers many times.

I have been missing something.

Most of the people who travel to this region are looking at the Gulf of Mexico. There is no substitute for the sun and sand on Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach. While those two towns are mostly out of commission for the upcoming tourist season, downtown Fort Myers is open for business.

Hurricane Ian caused some damage to the downtown area. Most of the businesses that were affected by the flooding have reopened.

Megan Dunphy, the director of sales for the Oxbow, said that the hotel was closed for a week.

The hotel is located in the River District, which has evolved into a charming, lively neighborhood.

The Caloosa Sound Convention Center and the new Caloosa Sound Amphitheater are owned and operated by Mainsail Lodging and Development.

Over the past five years, the Lee County Convention and Visitors Bureau has seen downtown come into its own.

Check out these other destinations in Southwest Florida.

Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island is a great place to go for sun and sand.

Pine Island has a lodge called the Tarpon Lodge.

Hurricane Ian caused debate over the island’s future.

The Causeway will reopen to the public on January 2.

In the past two decades, the population of Lee County has doubled to over one million. The county seat has doubled in size.

They are not all going to the beach because they have to live and eat in places.

The Arcade Theatre, built in 1915 and home to the Florida Repertory Theatre, is one of the main attractions in the downtown area.

It is spread across a small space with brick streets and a small-town vibe.

I enjoyed dinner at the Veranda, a long-time special-occasion restaurant in town, with fresh seafood on the menu, live piano at the bar, and a waitstaff wearing tuxedos.

Love Boat opened its newest location on Hendry Street just days before I arrived.

The store on Sanibel is temporarily closed. It gives me another reason to go downtown when I am in the area.

The hotel is part of the evolution of downtown.

There is a memorial for people who died in Hurricane Ian.

There are outdoor dining places in the river district.

If you decide to go, you should go to downtown Fort Myers.

Visitfortmyers.com and my river district.com for more information.

I stayed at the Hibiscus House Bed and Breakfast, which is located in a century-old house just south of downtown and has an overnight rate starting at $200.


The small team takes on the tremendous boat salvage effort


More than two months have passed since Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida.

There are hundreds of boats that can still be seen along the Lee County coastline.

In the first month or so, we assessed about 4,000 vessels, 700 of which are not in working order. About 300 have been removed.

Franklin has been in charge of the collection and reunification of boats. The majority of vessels are in hard-hit Lee County.

The fourth wave of 15 officers will leave next week. We have teams that are built out until the end of 2022, and then we have teams that are ready for the year 2023.

How does a small team take on such a large project? The first thing to do is determine what makes a boat non-functional.

The captain said it was either wrecked, junked or substantially dismantled.

The determination is made by the FWC team based on their observations as they run on the water, searching for lonely boats, and surveying them to see if they have taken water or are missing significant parts.

Capt. Franklin said that officers have software on their phones that feeds a database.

If the boat is in working condition, the owner can claim it, or they can waive rights to the vessel. It can be removed by the Florida Department of Emergency Management.

There is an option if the owner disagrees with the deeming of the boat to be in poor condition.

Franklin said that they give them a “Notification of Rights” package which explains their rights. The vessel is eligible for removal if they don’t contest it or the hearing officer finds that it’s not up to snuff.

The work is piling up. Franklin said it took more than six months to clear the water. Ian will be staying as long as necessary.

He said that it depended on how quickly the boats were removed. We are here until the job is completed.

You can call the Boating and Waterways Hurricane Ian hotline if you still have a boat that’s been damaged.

The report was originally aired on Fox 4. If you click here, you will be able to watch FL 24 for free.


Fort Myers Beach shrimp boats returning to the water


The “Lexi Joe” was lifted into the water on the back bay. The photo was provided by a person.

It has been two months since Hurricane Ian made it off the land and three of the 45 shrimp boats have made it back into the water.

The return of the shrimp boats to water has been a Herculean effort that has made huge strides in recent weeks.

One of the company’s 11 shrimp boats, called “Double E,” was the first one to make it off the property of the two owners. Grant and his family have been in the shrimping business for over sixty years. The shrimping business has been on Shrimp Lane off Main Street in San Carlos Island for over 50 years.

It’s a slow process but it’s happening

Steve Beyel got the first two boats off the ground and into the water. The first boat to be recovered was funded by a Texas businessman who is hoping to get state approval to remove debris on the island. The state gave Beyel resources for the project.

After being stuck on land for two months due to Hurricane Ian, the “Lexi Joe” shrimping boat has returned to the water. 

Beyel is waiting for funding for more equipment. The state is expected to put out a request for proposals for a contract to rescue the boats.

The U.S. Coast Guard is assisting with the shrimp boat recovery mission.

The weight of the shrimp boats laying on their side makes recovery efforts difficult. There are wooden and steel shrimp boats covered in fiberglass. He said that some of them are destroyed. About 85% of the boats can be saved, according to him.

Some fishermen are sleeping in tents.

After being forced to land by Hurricane Ian, the Lexi Joe was brought back onto the water by Steven Steve Beyel of Beyel Brothers Crane & Rigging.

It is a difficult situation for everyone in the industry. People are wondering where their next meal is going to come from.

More than 40 shrimp boats were damaged by Hurricane Ian and were taken out of commission.

Gore Seafood Inc. is owned by the former Fort Myers Beach Mayor and her husband, Henry Gore. The Gore Seafood Inc. boat Lexi Joe was the second boat to return to the water.

Gore described the feeling of seeing her company’s boat back on the water as a relief. The weight of the world watching my husband work.

Gore said “Lexi Joe” and “MizShirley” will be going to Alabama to get hauled out. They have insurance for the damage.

Gore was happy that the shrimp boats were back on the water.

I think it’s important to point out that after meeting face-to-face with Governor DeSantis, he told me that he would get those massive shrimp boats, vital to the tradition and character of our small-town community charm and a huge impact to the local economy. Gore said that the man was doing it. They have done everything they said they would do.

Gore was able to meet with President Joe Biden when he made a joint appearance with the congressman. Gore talked to him about how important the shrimping industry is to the community. Gore said that the man explained that FEMA money was out there.

The governor of Florida and the president of the United States came together. She said that they needed both of them.

The process won’t be quick. It takes a while to get everything in order. It is not easy to do. She said it was a huge operation.

There is only one crane available, so it may take a while for more of his boats to return to the water. There are holes in some of his boats. Some of them are still usable. He said that some are still being assessed. There are holes in some of the boats. He knows that two or three of the boats won’t work again. He said they don’t have insurance.

The effort to get the boats back in the water needs more heavy lifting equipment. He thinks it’s a matter of state money. He said there was a long way to go.

When all the boats are back in the water, he doesn’t know what the shrimping business will look like. The shrimping is really good. He said there are a lot of shrimp. Shrimp is cheap and the cost of fuel is high.

There have been hurricanes here in Fort Myers Beach. He said that it was nothing like Hurricane Harvey in Texas. We know that it is a disruption to life.

The situation was described as dire.

After being stranded on land by Hurricane Ian, the Double E shrimp boat has been returned to the water. The photo was provided by a person.

His buildings and offices were also damaged by the damage to his boats. The docks were destroyed by Ian. He said that there were a lot of infrastructures that was destroyed. I have no idea how we get back into the business.