15 Pros and Cons of Living in Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers is closely tied to neighboring Cape Coral, which we’ve covered in a previous article. The Cape is made almost entirely of residential houses so the residents of Cape drive over the bridges in mass to visit the employers, stores, restaurants, and entertainment inside Fort Myers. Anyone looking to move to Fort Myers should also research Cape Coral so you can understand your future neighboring town. 

This article is written for those looking to avoid the mass housing of Cape Coral and instead take up residence inside the town limits of Fort Myers.

10 Benefits of Living in Fort Myers, Florida – Pros

We will first look at the factors that make Fort Myers appealing to those looking to become residents of Southwest Florida. 

An aerial view of Fort Myers and its beach. Green water is in the front, a dense town is in the middle, and empty land is in the back

1. Beaches

Cape Coral may be known for its 400-miles of man-made canals but Fort Myers has one thing the Cape does not: beaches directly on the Gulf.

Fort Myers has over 7 miles of beach, with the town maintaining 26 public access entries. Residents and visitors can enjoy white sandy beaches sitting on the warm gulf waters, and you can even bring your dog.

Fort Meyer beaches give you access to all of the water sports common in the state including boating, fishing, paddleboarding, and more.

As an added bonus, residents of Fort Myers have access to the calmer waters of the Caloosahatchee River and its estuaries, where you can take a kayaking trip to get up close to the manatees and other fauna of the area.

2. Nature

Fort Myers sits near the edge of Florida’s Everglades, providing residents with a huge variety of opportunities to experience nature.  The top parks in this region include the Crew Wildlife and Environmental Area(28K acres), Estero Bay Preserve State Park (10K acres), and San Carlos Bay – Bunche Beach Preserve (718 acres). 

In addition, the local area is home to over 50 small preserves offering various ecosystems to explore including marsh, cypress, and maple swamp, oak hammock, and pine flatwood.

Visitors to these preserves may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of manatees, black bears, Florida panthers, swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, and more.

3. Weather

Residents of Fort Myers will have plenty of days to spend at the beach and preserves because the area receives 355 days of sunshine each year. Some precipitation occurs on 145 days of the year. This provides a perfect combination of sun and rain to keep the region lush green all year around. Summers do get hot and humid with high in the 90s, but the other three “seasons” are a perfect 60-70 degrees.

A photo of an airport terminal with a lot of tall windows. A plane can be seen flying overhead.

4. Travel Infrastructure

Fort Myers has Interstate 75 and over a half dozen major roads running through it. This is a factor that is easy to take for granted but is worth mentioning because one of the downsides to Cape Coral is that the town has zero interstates and almost zero wide roads running through it. Cape residents have to drive into Fort Myers to hit the interstate. 

Fort Myers has the added bonus of having the Southwest Florida International Airport nearby. This airport ranks as one of the best medium-sized airports in the nation, though it does not offer the same level of infrastructure and amenities as Florida’s major airports.

If you are in the mood for a visit to a big city, Miami is just 2 hours across the Everglades using Interstate 75.

5. Decent Cost of Living/Housing

The cost of living in Fort Myers is 10% below national and Florida averages, driven by housing prices that are 10% under national norms ($269 Fort Myers versus $291K US). The weather and beaches of Florida are in high demand so it is rare to find a beach area that has housing prices below average.

Related: Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in The Villages, Florida

6. Housing Options for Every Budget

The town of Fort Myers was not a planned community like Cape Coral, so the growth of Fort Myers has been much organic and natural. As a result, the area has a wide range of housing options to choose from. Multi-family homes and apartments can be found for around $100K  and single-family homes start around $175K. There are luxury homes topping $6 million, and everything in between. While 65% of Fort Myers residents own their homes, there is also a huge selection of rentals available at a variety of price points. 

7. Decent Schools

The city of Fort Myers has the best schools in Lee County and out-rank the schools of Cape Coral. Overall, the city schools rank in the Top 85% of schools in Florida, with the majority of schools in the city receiving an A or B score. It appears the lowest scores are along Interstate 78 and around the airport.

A photo of Thomas Edison's house. A large Southern style home with grey siding, green shutters, and a bright red roof.

8. Attractive Historic Downtown Area

Fort Myers started as an actual military fort around 1850 and was incorporated as a town in 1885. The first luxury hotel was built in 1898 and the town quickly gained a reputation of being a great spot to spend the winters. Growth continued and then grew rapidly in the 1930s. 

All of this means that Fort Myers has many historical buildings, of different architectural styles, especially in its downtown area. Contrast this to Cape Coral which was started in the 1960s and has seen rapid growth only in modern times.

These historic buildings not only provide a lovely view, but they are also home to a steady stream of music, arts, and cultural events. The downtown area also has a concentration of numerous statues, memorials, and murals dedicated to both modern art and the history of the region.

9. Plenty of Restaurants and Nightlife

Fort Myers is home to nearly 400 restaurants, most of which are locally owned. This huge selection offers options for every taste and budget. Many of the best restaurants are located in the downtown area.

The city also has a lively nightlife scene with downtown being filled with bars, pubs, nightclubs, and live music venues. 

If you are interested in a quieter evening out on the town, Fort Myers has nearly a dozen performing arts theatres.

10. Diversity

Fort Myers is home to a wide variety of cultures. About 50% of the population is White, 25% Black, and 25% Hispanic. That diversity is reflected well in the many cultures represented in the Fort Myers restaurants and cultural events.

5 Disadvantages of Living in Fort Myers, Florida – Cons

Southwest Florida has a lot of benefits to offer its residents, but scratch the surface of any paradise and you are sure to find a few unpleasantries.

A row of attached homes painted very brightly with pinks and blues. Tall palm trees stand in front of the homes.

11. High-Density Population

The town of Fort Myers is approximately 49-square miles in size and the barrier island that contains its beaches is only 6-square miles. With a year-round population of 87K crammed into this space, the population density is 1,600 people per square mile. That is a density found in urban areas.

The shocking fact is that the above population density includes only local residents. This number fails to take into account the 4.8 million people that visit this area each year. When the tourism season strikes and the snowbirds travel south, the number of people in the city can feel overwhelming. The locals may get crowded out of their favorite beaches and restaurants.

12. Bad Traffic

The traffic in the Cape Coral area has been ranked 7th worst in the nation, up there with San Francisco and Miami, and worse than Tampa Bay and Orlando. And an insurance analysis of traffic incidents (i.e. accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and citations) puts the Cape at the 4th worst driving city in Florida.

Residents of Fort Myers enjoy slightly less traffic as they get to avoid the bridges in and out of Cape Coral. However, there is only one major road in and out of the Fort Myers Beach area. This road becomes a nightmare of traffic during the busy tourist season.

13. Hurricane Risks

Nature created barrier islands for the purpose of absorbing the impact of storms, thus protecting the coastal inland behind it.  Fort Myers developed its beach area directly on top of its barrier island. This puts a lot of homes, hotels, and businesses at risk of a devastating storm surge should a major hurricane hit. 

The land of Fort Myers is an average of 10-feet above sea level. A Category 2 hurricane can bring a storm surge of 6-8 feet, while a Category 5 storm surge can be above 20 feet (Hurricane Katrina storm surge was 28 feet). 

Fort Myers’ neighbor, Cape Coral, has the dubious honor of having more properties at substantial risk of flooding than any other place in the nation: 

  • Studies show that 87% of Cape Coral’s 120K homes are currently at risk
  • and by 2050, that number will increase to 97% of properties. 

14. Low Salaries

The average income of $23K per individual, which is below the US average of $27K. An average household brings in $37K, well below the US average of $53K. 

The primary reason for these low salaries is because the town lacks any major commercial or industrial companies. Top employers for Fort Myers residence are in the local schools, local government, hospitals, and grocery stores. Nearly 20% of its jobs are tied to tourism which can suffer when visitors are at their lowest.

While the cost of living and housing is relatively low for a beach town (Pro #5), the salaries are also on the low side, making homeownership a stretch for many residents.

A picture of a lake covered in green algae.

15. The Waters of Fort Myers Get Polluted

Man has spent the last 90-years aggressively farming and developing the land around Lake Okeechobee. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that this shallow lake is now polluted with herbicide, pesticide, and manure run-off. 

During the summer months, the polluted Lake produces a huge amount of blue-green algae, covering 2/3 (500 square miles) of the lake. These algae is considered toxic and the human population is advised to stay away from the lake waters during these times.

Due to increased rainfall and hurricanes, the Lake waters have been rising. To relieve the pressure on the dikes and dams, and to prevent catastrophic flooding, the Army Corp of Engineers occasionally releases the floodgates, emptying water to the Gulf via the manmade Okeechobee Waterway and Caloosahatchee River.

Put the two facts together and, pretty much every summer, the Army Corp sends polluted, toxic, blue-green algae-infested water down the Caloosahatchee River, and towards the beaches of Fort Myers.

Related: Advantages to Living in Destin, Florida

Is Fort Myers, Florida a Good Place to Live?

Yes, Fort Myers is a good place to live. It offers great beaches and great weather for most of the year. This diverse city with historic roots offers great restaurant and cultural arts scenes. Residents get all of this for a below-average cost of living price.

However, the positives of the city also attract 4.8 million visitors per year, in an area just 55-square miles in size. So during the busy season, when the weather is at its coolest, there will be a ton of snowbirds from the cold north that will descend into the Southwest Florida area. During this time of the year, residents of Fort Myers must deal with busy roads, restaurants, and beaches.

A photo of the sunset over the ocean at a Fort Myers beach. A long pier can be seen extending out into the ocean.

Is Fort Myers Wealthy?

Nearly every city has its wealthy and not wealthy parts. In Fort Myers, the water-front Iona neighborhood has an average home price of $672K versus the houses near the airport with an average price of $185K. 

However, overall, the income of Fort Myers is modest, not wealthy. The average income of $23K per individual, which is below the US average of $27K. An average household brings in $37K, well below the US average of $53K. 

What Does it Cost to Live in Fort Myers Florida?

The cost of living in Fort Myers is 10% below national and Florida averages, driven by housing prices that are 10% under national norms ($269 Fort Myers versus $291K US). In general, residents should find the costs in Fort Myers to be around the national average, which is a rare find for a beach town.

However, please note that the city lacks any major corporate employers, so the salaries in the area are below average.  The average income is $23K per individual, which is below the US average of $27K. An average household brings in $37K, well below the US average of $53K. 

Related: Fort Myers vs Naples

What is the ZIP code for Fort Myers Florida?

The city of Fort Myers has 12 ZIP codes: 33901, 33903, 33905, 33907, 33912, 33913, 33916, 33917, 33919, 33966, 33971, 33990.

Fort Myers, Florida Crime Rate

The crime rate statistics for Fort Myers are not very great. The city has a violent crime rate of 54 versus the US average 23, and a property crime rate of 44  versus the US 35.

On the positive side, please note that the crime rates have been steadily declining over the last 20 years and are on track to drop at or below national averages in the next several years. It is also worth mentioning that much of the crime occurs in certain neighborhoods along Interstate 68 and near the airport. The vast majority of residents and beach visitors experience little crime.

What County is Fort Myers, Florida In?

Fort Myers is in Lee County, Florida

What is the Temperature in Fort Myers, Florida?

The average high temperature for November-March is around 70-80 degrees F.

During the summer months (April-October), the temperature increases to a hot and sticky 90 degrees,

Related: 25 Best Mobile Home Retirement Communities in Florida

Is Fort Myers Beach a Party Town?

Fort Myers is the home of Florida Gulf Coast University and several smaller colleges. The town does have a healthy night scene, especially in the downtown area where you will find many bar, music, and dancing options. Fort Myers has also been ranked as one of the “Top Sexiest Spring Break Destinations in the U.S.”. The  Lani Kai resort is a particular favorite for hundreds of college kids looking to party.

However, the college kids are usually outnumbered by the senior snowbirds, and alcohol is not allowed on the Fort Myer beaches. 

So there are plenty of party options available if you want to seek them out. But there are also plenty of opportunities to avoid the party scene.

Related: 15 Pros and Cons of Living in Cape Coral, Florida