Comparing Life in Fort Myers vs. Naples

If you’re interested in visiting the Gulf side of southern Florida, you have plenty of options. Fort Myers and Naples are likely high on the list of potential locations. As two well-known retirement and vacation destinations, understanding the difference between Fort Myers vs. Naples is an excellent place to start. 

They both offer large swaths of incredible coastline, with warm Gulf of Mexico water and sandy beaches. Plus, they both have a variety of delicious restaurants, shopping of all sorts, and many outdoor activities.

But there are some significant differences. Naples is an enclave for the wealthy with significantly more-expensive real estate prices and an overall upscale area. On the other hand, Fort Myers is a more affordable location that still has a variety of amenities worth visiting.

In this post, we’ll go through a brief general comparison, then dive deep into the details of each city. After reading this, you will know everything you need to know about Fort Myers vs. Naples. 

A sign is mounted to a dead tree. The text on the sign says Florida. The beach can be seen in the background

Fort Myers vs. Naples: General Comparison

Both cities sit in Southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast, separated by 45 miles. You can find nearly any kind of housing. Detached homes are available in both, along with plenty of multi-family condo complexes and countless hotel accommodations. 

There are plenty of golf courses, marinas, and pools in both places. You’d have no problem finding a golf foursome in either Fort Myers vs. Naples. Backyard pools are just about as common as the golf balls that might make their way into them. 

Population

Fort Myers neighbors Cape Coral. Together they create Lee County, a sizable metropolitan area with over 750,000 inhabitants as of 2019. 

Naples is a smaller city with a census population of under 20,000 people. Naples’ bay area and the harbor are much smaller compared to Fort Myers’ extensive Estero Bay. Marco Island, home to many resort hotels and beaches, is south of Naples.

Real Estate Prices

One of the most definitive differences between Fort Myers and Naples is the real estate prices. Naples boasts one of the largest millionaire populations in the nation.

As one would expect, the real estate prices reflect that wealth and are considerably higher than in the Fort Myers area. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is over $1 million in Naples and just under $250,000 in nearby Fort Myers. 

If you’re trying to figure out what separates Fort Myers vs. Naples, the real estate prices are worth noting. 

Airports

The largest airport in the general area is the Southwest Florida General Airport, which sits just east of the downtown Fort Myers area and a short drive away from Naples. This is the likely landing point to visit either city via commercial airliner. 

If you want to find a place to land your private plane, then Naples can accommodate you with a smaller regional airport. Its private jet traffic compares to that found in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Now that you have a general idea of some differences between these two cities, let’s explore the details of each location and find out what they have to offer.

A photo of a waterway in Naples, FL. Colorful buildings and green grass line both sides of the shoreline,

The Upscale and Luxurious Naples, Florida

Naples has been a destination for the United States upper class for nearly a century. In the 1930s, the well-known aviator Charles Lindberg used to land his plane on the now-popular 5th Avenue in Naples. At the time, the city was not much more than a sleepy beach town, but its popularity has continued to progress. 

5th Avenue

Any plane would have great difficulty landing on 5th Avenue now. It is the bustling heart of Naples now, boasting many dining options, boutique shops, and other upscale amenities. Some compare it to Worth Avenue in Palm Beach or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

It has, however, retained some old-world charm that comes so often with historical areas of Florida. Many buildings feature mid-century architecture. Beloved ice cream and coffee shops are everywhere. 

Naples Beach

Looking to soak in the sun and splash in the water near Naples? Head to Naples Beach. 

The sandy area of Naples Beach is not extremely wide as many luxurious homes sit fairly close to the water behind the public beach area. Nonetheless, the area makes an ideal spot to get tan and enjoy the warm Florida temperatures. 

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

Another option just a bit further north of town is Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. It has a large beach area and parking lots.

You can go for a hike up the nature trail to an observation tower for a bird’s-eye view of the area. Or grab your snorkel, paddleboard, or boat to explore the vast inland waterways. 

Other Outdoor Adventures

You can find a wide array of other things to do in Naples, Florida. Get your favorite method of water transportation to cruise the many mangrove-filled waterways, or jump on the nearly limitless number of boat and kayak tours available.

The Naples Botanical Garden and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are two popular outdoor adventures in Naples. The Botanical Garden features zones with tropical gardens from various continents, while Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a massive 13,000-acre area of protected wilderness with an elevated walkway system. 

An aerial photo of Fort Myers, FL. A large area of densely packed houses. There is a large bay and a bridge in the rear of the photo

Fort Myers: More Affordable, but Still Action-Packed

Fort Myers has a deep history as well, but a relatively-recent project kicked off in 2003 to reinvigorate the area. It has worked out tremendously for the Fort Myers region as it is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. 

Fort Myers Beach and Pier

Once again, you won’t be disappointed if you’re looking to spend your days baking in the sun and soaking in the warm Gulf of Mexico water. Fort Myers Beach is located on the 7-mile long Estero Island. It has golden-colored sand with plenty of places to set down beach chairs, umbrellas, and more. 

The pier itself juts out over 500 feet into the water and is yet again a spectacular spot to watch a sunset over the water. Add this to the list of similar features found in the discussion of Fort Myers vs. Naples. 

River District

As one of the most culture-rich areas in Fort Myers, the River District is the place to find it all away from the beach. It has many museums and galleries, plus a wide variety of restaurants and shops

While Naples’ 5th Avenue might bring in the luxury stores and fine dining, the River District is sure to be a memorable experience for any visitor to Fort Myers. 

Lovers Key State Park

If you want to find a near limitless amount of protected inland waterways to visit, then Lovers Key State Park is just the ticket. It has four barrier islands between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach.

Canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are extremely popular throughout the area and add to the Fort Myers vs. Naples similarities. You can find a lot of different fish, birds, and other spectacular sights, especially if you have a keen eye and a set of binoculars. 

Lee County Manatee Park

Another aquatic adventure awaits at the Lee County Manatee Park. As the name suggests, you can find manatees hanging around if you visit during the right times of the year. 

The manatees venture up into the canal most often between November and March, when they are escaping the cooler waters in the Gulf of Mexico and enjoying the warmth of the protected inland waterway.

JetBlue Park

Snowbirds aren’t the only ones who have selected Fort Myers as home. Two professional baseball teams have set up their spring training in the area to avoid the cooler temps back home. These are the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox.

You can grab a ticket and a hot dog to enjoy some of America’s favorite pastimes before the regular season starts up. Who knows, you might get a glimpse of the next all-star before they make their Major League debut. 

Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Another popular tourist activity is visiting the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. They have extensive grounds with a museum and many galleries. You can learn a lot about electricity or just soak in the beautiful botanical gardens and land. 

A massive Banyan Tree, reportedly dating back to 1925, is located on the estates. It covers an acre of ground and is around 65 feet tall. 

A photo looking up at several tall palm trees, with white buildings in the background

Fort Myers vs. Naples Wrap Up

Those looking to enjoy nice beaches, a variety of restaurants, and many tourist attractions can’t go wrong in either location. Both Fort Myers and Naples have a lot of oceanfront sandy beaches and inland waterways to explore, plus plentiful restaurants and shopping opportunities. 

But if you want to point out the differences between Fort Myers vs. Naples, then you should look at the real estate prices. Naples is where the wealthy like to settle down with multi-million dollar vacation homes, while Fort Myers is home to houses more affordable for most retirees and vacationers.

 

Related: 15 Pros and Cons of Living in Fort Myers, Florida