Your Florida Waterfront Home - Shane Waterfront Wilson's Blog and Boating Guide

Your Florida Waterfront Home

Shane Waterfront Wilson's Blog and Boating Guide

Estero Island and Fort Myers Beach Part 2

Posted by Shane On October 17th

Hello everyone, I hope you all are doing great!!!!


We left off last time at Matanzas on the Bay Restaurant on Ft. Myers Beach. We were able to make it all the way through the Bay and around the southern tip of Ft. Myers Beach before stopping for lunch at Matanzas.  Afterward, we were going to take you on the rest of the tour behind Estero Island to see all the different Restaurants, Bars and Marinas, but the afternoon thunderstorm put a quick stop to that!  I have to say, one of the great things about boating here in Southwest Florida is that even if it’s blowing 20 or 30 knots you’re protected by our barrier islands. No rough water, no sea sickness, just a great day on the water exploring the waterways.  This week we continue our waterfront journey.


Once you leave Matanzas, right across the Bay is a place called Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Cafe.  This is on the north side of Matanzas Harbor across from Fort Myers Beach at the base of the bridge on San Carlos Island. I’ve eaten here on several occasions and it’s a very cool place to go by boat. Bonita Bill’s serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with tasty food and a festive atmosphere as well as live entertainment.  The staff is great and it’s just a really fun place to go. Check out the link to the trip advisor website that tells you more about Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Cafe.




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Just around the corner is another great restaurant called Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille.  This place is awesome!!  If you’re into great food, great atmosphere, great water views, live entertainment…This is the place to go. Doc Ford’s features a lower deck outside right on the water and an upper air conditioned area as well. I like to describe the menu as eclectic Caribbean – try the Yucatan Shrimp, oh my gosh, spicy, but not too spicy, and soooo good. For your main course try the Banana Leaf Snapper – excellent. The name “Doc Ford’s” comes from the main character in a series of novels by Randy Wayne White, a local author and co-owner of the restaurant.  He writes all about Southwest Florida and??? Well, you just need to read his novels. One of my best buds, Craig, has read every one of Randy Wayne White’s books. Craig tells me it’s fascinating to be reading his novel taking place on the water in our local area and being able to reflect back, “hey,we were there”, or “hey, we saw this or we did that”. If you enjoy reading, you’ll enjoy these novels.  


For the novice boaters who may have challenges docking their boats, Doc Ford’s has full time dock hands who will help you guide your boat in and help you tie up; don’t forget to tip them. I only bring this up because several of you have called me and e-mailed me your concerns about docking your boat in front of all these people who are at these establishments. Yes, half the people are watching you dock your boat the other half are oblivious. As I tell all my new boaters, “take your time coming into the dock, there’s no race, take your time , nice and slow”.  When you get close enough, throw your lines to the dock hands, put your boat in neutral, and let the dock hands pull you in and secure your boat. These guys will make YOU look like a pro 🙂 No one has to know your heart is pounding out of your chest, no one has to know the anxiety you’re feeling as you approach the dock. Take it nice and slow and do not panic, ever!!!!. Oh one more thing, have your dock lines out and cleated off on your boat before you get to the dock. Not sure which side to cleat your ropes to?  Well do both starboard and port sides so you’re ready and you’re not scrambling trying to find your ropes and untangle them. Check out these photos and look at the Doc Ford’s website.



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After pulling out of Doc Ford’s, head south down the Bay, it’s a beautiful cruise by boat.  You’ll see all the marinas, boatyards, shrimp boats, etc.




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I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the Key West Express.

This is where you would depart from, heading to Key West; coming back from Key West, you would disembark here as well.


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Just on the other Side of the Key West Express is another neat place to go. If you’re into sports and looking for a place to watch the game on the water, this is it…..Big Game Waterfront Grill. We’ve been here many, many times for football games, etc. It’s a great atmosphere, the service is great, and so are the people. There are plenty of places to park your boat. There’s nothing  better than meeting all your family and friends by boat here and watching your favorite teams play – there are big screen TV’s everywhere!



Take a look at their website.

Just next door is an equally fun place, with a totally different atmosphere, it’s called Parrot Key Caribbean Grill Restaurant at Salty Sam’s Marina.


This is another waterfront restaurant with great food and service and the crowd is always in a laid back mood. Parrot Key also features live entertainment. It’s fun to sit at the bar or a table on the water and see all the boats coming and going.  Many times while we’re waiting for our food to come out, or after our meal, we’ll walk the docks looking at all the boats.  It’s hard to put the feeling here in words – relaxed, casual, laid back  – “at peace” comes to my mind. Remember, Parrot Key is located on the grounds of Salty Sam’s Marina, a full service marina offering wet slips, dry slips, boat barn storage, fuel, service work, etc.  Scroll down to the weblinks to Parrot Key and Salty Sam’s…

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Now don’t be surprised if you see pirates at Salty Sam’s Marina…..There’s a pirate ship docked there and for a small fee will take you out on the high seas for a great time.  It’s actually quite entertaining with the show the pirates put on, on the Pirate Ship. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, you just have to experience it for yourself.  This is a really fun adventure for when your family and friends come to visit…



Here’s the website for more information on the ship and scheduling.

Docked right next to the pirate cruise is Sea Racer Tours, a relatively new boat touring company on the beach. It came on the scene in 2017 and has quickly become a top attraction. The boat is pretty big…70 feet long and holds 128 passengers. It’s a surprisingly smooth ride for a speed boat, even in choppy waters. Your kids/grand kids will love it because dolphins aren’t shy about playing in the boat’s wake. Check it out for yourself.

Sea Racer Tours speed boat

I hope this issue of the Boating Guide has given you some new great places to go to, see and experience. We’ve been to these places time and time again. We bring family, friends, clients and every single time it’s a new adventure. You just never know what you’re going to see… Dolphin jumping in your wake, a large Leopard Ray jumping up and out of the water or the massive gentle Manatee swimming up to your boat. You just never know.

There are several other places to see and experience. We’ll hit those on next week’s Boating Guide.

 Until next time, make it a great weekend. Please make time for your family and friends, life goes by so fast.







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