Free Things to do in Florida: Fort Myers and Sanibel

Must Do Visitor Guides Southwest Florida travel tips and vacation planning. Free Things to do in Florida: Fort Myers and Sanibel!

One of the best parts about visiting Southwest Florida is the flexibility to create an upscale, luxury vacation or budget-friendly adventure. It’s even possible to fill your vacation with free things to do in Florida and never run out of things to do. Fort Myers and Sanibel offer some of the best shelling in the world, as well as nature-inspired recreation and free fun. From art to seeing the local wildlife, here’s our round-up of free things to do in Fort Myers and Sanibel for a budget-friendly vacation.

Downtown Fort Myers Art Walk

A Fort Myers must-do, the downtown River District social bustles with creative energy on the First Friday of every month. From 6 p.m. until 10 p.m., galleries, museums and shops stay open late with special exhibits and activities during the monthly Art Walk. Looking for even more free things to do in Florida? Hop on the free trolley for quick access to shops and galleries outside of the immediate downtown area to get the most out of your Walk.  

Downtown Fort Myers Music Walk

Music lovers looking to discover new and favorite acts gather in Downtown Fort Myers River District on the third Friday of each month. Performers and bands play dozens of venues starting at 7 p.m. There’s something for everyone whether you’re looking for jazz or rock. Keep an eye out for shops and galleries open late and offering free wine to entice visitors to come and take a peek.

Times Square Sunset Celebration in Fort Myers Beach

The sunset is always a must on your free things to do in Florida list. But instead of watching the sun slowly set over the Gulf of Mexico, celebrate it with the locals on Fridays and Saturdays. The family friendly Sunset Celebration at the Times Square area of Fort Myers Beach draws a crowd. Starting at 5 p.m., guests come to watch the sunset and enjoy the pedestrian path full of shops, bars, and restaurants along with live music for a festive backdrop. 

Shelling on Matanzas Pass Preserve

Get away from the bustle of the crowd to the tucked away Matanzas Pass Preserve. This unspoiled Estero Island sanctuary features some of the last maritime oak hammocks in the area along with a tidal swamp, mangrove forest and 1.25 miles of trails. Wind through the gorgeous trees to the bay and look for live shells and wildlife. Get the most out of the preserve by taking a free guided tour or enjoying some on-site geocaching.

Visitor Education Center at J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge

Educational fun ranks our list of free things to do in Florida. Learn more about the National Wildlife Refuge System and Sanibel’s migratory flyways with exhibits and hands-on children’s area. The Education Center at J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge is open to the public with free admission. 

Visitors can also see the work of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist that offered witty commentary that concerned the nation. Darling also served as the Director of the U.S. Biological Survey appointed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was pivotal in increasing average of the National Wildlife Refuge System and raise awareness and partnerships for the emerging field of wildlife biology. 

Sanibel Lighthouse

See one of the first lighthouses on Florida’s Gulf Coast north of Key West and the Dry Tortugas at Sanibel Lighthouse. In 1972, the Coast Guard moved to discontinue running the lighthouse; however, the locals protested and delayed the idea. In 1982, locals who lived in the development by the lighthouse received free accommodations in exchange for helping maintain the area. The lighthouse was eventually given to the City of Sanibel and restored. The area around the lighthouse is open to the public, but the inside of the lighthouse itself is not. Take some photos and watch ospreys and pelicans dot the landscape. 

Finding free things to do can only enhance your southwest Florida vacation. Save your money for accommodations, restaurants, or the things that really matter to you in life and explore Fort Myers and Sanibel for free. 

For festivals, events, and other free things to do check out the Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva Island Events Calendar

Must Do Visitor Guides Free Things to do in Florida: Fort Myers and Sanibel. A list of free things to do in Fort Myers and Sanibel for a budget-friendly vacation.
Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey
Free Things to do in Florida: Fort Myers and Sanibel. A list of free things to do in Fort Myers and Sanibel for a budget-friendly vacation. 
Must Do Visitor Guides
Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Written by: Susan Finch | Author Website

Susan Finch is a travel writer and content marketer for the tourism industry who spends her time obsessing over the latest travel trends, wrangling her small kids, and planning her family's next big adventure.