FORT MYERS BEACH,
Fla. -Years ago, I broke ranks with my college girlfriends who
headed to the Florida coast in lemming-like fashion in search of
wild times each year.
But the strangest
thing happened a few light-years later: Florida seemed like a great
place to travel on a different sort of girls-only trip, as the lone
grown-up with my 7-year-old daughter.
something appealing about the idea of Floridas Gulf Coast, powdery
sand, seashells galore and low-glam lodgings that provided enough
comfort and simple conveniences as a framework for a vacation
without a relentless roster of activity.
And it was a
quick, one-flight hop from New York.
At the ripe old
age of 39 (again), I was finally a spring-breaker.
south, Id learned that the cab ride from the airport to the hotel
would cost about $40 each way, and as Id planned to do some
exploring, it was more cost-effective to rent a car instead.
Set loose on the
roads of Fort Myers in my ubiquitous white midsize sedan, I did my
New York best to drive fast.
I covered the
short and well-marked distance from Southwest Florida Airport in
Fort Myers to Estero Island, home of Fort Myers Beach, in just
under an hour and endured just two are we there yets during our
As we drove over
Matanzas Pass Bridge onto the island, the Main Street entertainment
area announced our arrival in vacationland (see sidebar
spotted the 12-story DiamondHead Beach Resort, which is fronted by
a long, flat, white beach.
In another 20
minutes, we were in bathing suits on the beach with our feet in the
gulf. A box of beach toys provided by the property offered the
necessary inspiration for an hours worth of digging and hunting for
The nearby heated
pool came with a priceless commodity -- a herd of
networked her way into a group of kids, frolicked until dark, drank
the first of many virgin strawberry margaritas served poolside and,
after a room-service dinner, conked out face down on the king-size
bed while I snoozed on the pullout sofa of our waterview,
Both the hotel
and Fort Myers Beach seemed uncrowded, and the bellman later
explained that a large convention had just left town. Although the
areas reputation called for crowds, our stay was delightfully
Fringed by a mix
of private homes, businesses and unglitzy, mostly low-rise hotels,
the atmosphere was laid back and child-friendly.
exception of one particularly stormy day, the gulfs flat-as-glass
water was very safe for smaller children, and the wide beach was
fine for shelling and exploring.
Two teens we met
said theyd explored the beach independently and prowled Main Street
to escape the gravitational force of their parents.
families at DiamondHead carrying bags of groceries -- to take full
advantage of their well-equipped kitchenettes to prepare quick
meals and snacks.
stores were within walking distance, but I opted to make a
10-minute drive to one of several nearby grocery stores for better
By night, the
town fairly hummed with activity, with lots of tourists exploring
on foot. We spotted some fellow guests downtown at Main Street,
hoofing around the surf shops, restaurants and ice-cream
For adults who
wanted a bit more nightlife, there seemed to be a fair amount of
traffic in and out of the open-air bars and restaurants that dot
Estero Boulevard, but after our early dinners, Sophie and I took
the slow lane instead.
dolphins breaching offshore from our screened balcony as the sun
set, walked on the beach and, after much splashing and diving and
playing outdoors all day, welcomed an early bedtime.
This had been a
spring break I could tell my Mom about.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].