• By Ken Perrotte

Island Hopper Festival at Fort Myers Beach - Beat Summer Crowds, Listen to Awesome Music, Drink Loca


After most families have wrapped up their summer vacations and kids are back in school, you can often find Florida's usually crowded beaches happily free from congestion. The Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel and Captiva Islands area is beautiful, and offers a wide array of outdoors activities, wonderful restaurants and nightlife, and music.

Music purists looking for a low-key early October destination need to take a look at the Island Hopper Festival , a multi-day event celebrating singer-songwriters. Here, you can see and listen to the people who actually wrote the lyrics and came up with the chords to many of our favorite songs. Except for a couple higher profile gigs, almost everything is free, with artists rotating among various bars, beaches and more (about 20 different venues in all), sharing their music.

Estero Boulevard in Fort Myers beach and Captiva Island are the site of many of the intimate concert venues. The Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina often hosts main events. In 2016, I saw Maren Morris perform an abbreviated acoustic set there. Late afternoon thunderstorms delayed, unfortunately, the performance.

Besides the ample resorts and beachfront hotels/motels, there's also the cool, quirky Red Coconut RV Resort . You can rent RVs here, or bring your own. They also have a beachfront section where your motor home can become temporary waterfront property.

While you're in the area, make a stop at the Wicked Dolphin Distillery in nearby Cape Coral. They offer tours, tastings and onsite sales. Take the tour. It's free, short and the tasting comes at the end. They make their rums in small batches, using Florida sugar and an American copper pot still, the largest in South Florida. They age their "reserve" offerings in once-used bourbon barrels. The aroma in the barrel room is wonderful. The "Gold Reserve" was my favorite. They also offer a "premium" line and a few "rumshine" varieties, flavored with fruit.

The rum distillery owners recently branched out, opening a craft brewery in a spacious Cape Coral location that offers live music, gastropub food and, of course, a variety of their beers and ales. Big Blue Brewing, a craft brewery that will feature tours, tastings and have a craft-inspired restaurant attached to it. Fort Myers also has some good brewpubs, including Bury Me Brewing, with a collection of somewhat morbidly named beers, and the Fort Myers Brewing Company, which has a broad selection of tasty products.

If you're looking to eat and drink away from the property where you're staying, breakfast at the Heavenly Biscuit, on Mango Street just off Estero, is a colorful, often-crowded option.

The 2018 festival is scheduled for Sept. 21-20. Check the web site as dates near to see specific artist and venues. And, for a rundown of all there is to see and do in this beautiful area, visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com.

#FortMyersBeach #IslandHopper #PinkShell #WickedDolphin #OutdoorsRambler #Perrotte #travel

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Except as noted, all text and images are by Ken Perrotte (Outdoors Rambler (SM). Some items, written by Ken Perrotte and previously published elsewhere, are revised or excerpted under provisions of the Fair Use Doctrine