Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..
Lorna Neale, assistant manager at our Norwich travel agents inside Thorpe Travel, jetted off to sunny Florida. After spending four nights between Fort Myers and Sanibel, here are the highlights from her trip…
Destination: Fort Myers & Sanibel
Operator/Host: Jetset flights
(Hotel names/Ship name): DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa, Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, Outrigger Beach Resort, Tween Waters, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa
Airline: United Airlines
Duration: 4 Nights
Check-in was very easy at Heathrow Terminal 4 and the United Airlines lounge through security was very nice, quiet with rather tasty food. We were also provided with unlimited complimentary food and drinks; a big bonus at the start of a trip.
The outbound flight was very good. Economy Plus has lots of leg room but the food service is no different to standard economy. The flights have seat back TVs with on-demand movies, sitcoms and games and the food was very good for airline food. We were given two choices of meals whilst the drinks are chargeable on all United flights; about 7 dollars for alcoholic drinks.
The cabin crew were very friendly throughout.
DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa – This was a lovely hotel with all the accommodation coming in the form of very spacious suites. They have a full-sized lounge with cooking facilities, bathroom, bedroom with iron board and iron, and a large balcony with sun-loungers. The restaurant for breakfast was very good with choices from continental options to a full cooked breakfast. One morning it was waiter service and then on the other it was a buffet.
The hotel has a spa too, as well as swimming pools, pool bar and direct access to the beach. The hotel offers plenty of parking too. Incidentally, this is the only hotel we actually stayed in; the rest were viewed during hotel inspections.
Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina – This hotel was just a short drive from the Diamondhead and one that I really liked. The reception was light, bright and very spacious and the hotel was family friendly with a kiddies pool. It is split between two buildings and there is a wristband system in place which allows access to the bedrooms, the beach and the main building.
The hotel has fenced the pools of to and from the beach as the beach is public and they do not want the public using the pool and hotel facilities. The rooms are one and two bedroom units with a fully-equipped kitchen, table and some are interconnecting for people who are travelling in a large group. There is a main restaurant and also a café for lunch. We ate in the café and the food was really good with massive portion sizes.
Outrigger Beach Resort – Personally, I wasn’t too keen on this hotel. It seemed very dated and could have done with some new furniture. I can see why people love it there as it’s cheap and set on a really long, nice powder beach. However, the pool is very tiny and the bar was small too. The size of the rooms was great but the decor was old fashioned and there were sadly no balconies in the lead room type. There were also two dirty, plastic chairs outside the door which was on a walkway for other people to get to their rooms.
Tween Waters – This hotel, on the island of Sanibel, was another one of my favourites. It is set out in different blocks and so is not a massive high rise hotel. There is a large swimming pool with bar, spa and gym facilities and the rooms are very big in size, with bathrooms with a shower and a separate bath. Interconnecting rooms were available again and there were kitchen facilities in all the rooms.
The fine dining restaurant was amazing with great views of the sunset, whilst they also have a bar with nightly entertainment. You do have to cross the road to get to the beach, but the hotel does have a lake where you can canoe and kayak.
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa – We didn’t get much time at this hotel as it was the morning of our flight, but breakfast was fantastic; self-service, ranging from cold meats to cheeses to cereal to cooked breakfast with eggs however you liked them. The hotel is very grand with luxury foyers, lots of swimming pools and the rooms are large. It offers buggies to take you to the local golf courses and rooms that would sleep two families with dining facilities.
We took a trip to Lovers Key State Park where we had the opportunity to participate in kayaking or a nature trail around the lake.
Another excursion took us to the Miromar Outlets, which is a large, outdoor shopping mall. Some of the shops included brands such as Ralph Lauren, Nike and Calvin Klein.
Finally, we took a boat trip to Cabbage Key from Captiva Island. This would have been an enjoyable trip if you like boats. Cabbage key has one restaurant which is famous for its cheeseburgers and key lime pie, whilst there is also a nature trail and lighthouse you can climb.
Most of the trip was a highlight for me. Seeing the hotels was nice and restaurants in the local area were very good. I loved the shopping experience as well.
I really liked having a mixture of activities as well as getting to look around the hotels. Because of this, I was able to get a feel of the area as well as the accommodation on offer.
I would have like more time to get ready in the evenings, as I felt very rushed at certain times. The early eating times in the evening also meant that we were all back in our rooms by 9/10pm.
I would also have liked to swap the Cabbage Key trip for another hotel inspection or activity, as there was not much to do on the island.
I would recommend booking a short stay in the Fort Myers area as part of a longer trip that takes in cities such as New York of Orlando. It is a great place to unwind, a very friendly area and the kind of place where you do as much or as little as you would like to; ideal for families or couples. It’s somewhere you can easily walk out at night to dine out or go to the movie theatre and regular flights make it so easy to make trips between here and the other big cities in this part of America.
As I mentioned before, some of the local restaurants were really great. We ate out on two evenings at Charleys, which is located across the road from Outriggers, and Matanzas, which was located at the harbour near Diamondhead hotel. My favourite was Charleys - a great steakhouse with seafood and salad. I was very shocked that not many restaurants serve fries as standard as, with this being America, I thought I would be living off fries. Matanzas was good, but the views over the harbour were stunning.
We also ate at a French café in Miromar Outlets. This was a quaint, little restaurant; serving classics like quiche, Caesar salad and soup. Again, it was very nice food for a quick bite to eat whilst shopping. The people in Fort Myers love their steak and seafood, so a lot of the hotel and restaurants serve this together. The cost of the average meal was certainly not cheap for an evening meal, though.
Must see? Watch the sunset at Tween Waters
Must do? Shopping at the Miromar Outlets
Must try? Kayaking in Lovers Key State Park
Drop in at one of our travel stores to speak to someone about planning a trip like Lorna’s. We can also help arrange all sorts of holiday extras such as travel insurance and airport parking.