For those looking to keep their trip coastal, Southwest International is the airport to choose for your travels. Servicing the nearby areas of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Marco Island and Bonita Springs, it clocked up over seven million passengers in 2013 despite only initially being built to cope with the overflow of Fort Myers’s pre-existing airport, Page Field. Unsurprisingly, Southwest has fast outgrown its initial size and multiple rejuvenations are underway, including a 25-acre scientific research complex, a new runway and a direct connection to Interstate 75.
As to be expected from such a constantly developing hub, Southwest International is well up there with the most modern and aesthetically pleasing of airports. Regularly winning awards for environmental excellence, concession convenience and business enterprise, expect stunning views of the coastline and friendly staff across all 28 gates.
Acting as a midpoint between Miami and Tampa, Southwest Airport is easy to reach via Interstates 75 and 41.
A short drive away from the Everglades, Charlotte Harbour and the Gulf coast, this airport doesn’t boast the slogan ‘from baggage claim to beach in under 30 minutes’ for nothing.
Taxi services are cheap and plentiful, and an on-site rental car service center is located just steps away from baggage claim. Parking rates are highly affordable at $2 per 20 minute increment, with your first 20 minutes thrown in for free.
For those who wish to use public transport, local bus operator LeeTran departs from outside the airport between the hours of 7:25am and 8:00pm. Free hotel shuttle buses also service those staying in the local area, but it may be worth calling ahead; while the Fort Myers Hampton Inn and Laquinta Inn provide 24-hour shuttle service, other nearby hotels run more discretionary hours.
Split across the airport’s three concourses and main terminal, Southwest’s shopping options aren’t quite as varied as some of the larger Florida airports. There are, however, a good selection of tourist-worthy gift stores – Brighton Collectibles, the PGA Tour Shop and the Shell Factory to name but a few. Those who wish to build up a little Dutch courage before their flight may fare a little better – Casa Bacardi (concourse D) and Jose Cuervo Tequileria (Main terminal) are both good spots to make use of the duty free service. In terms of food, fast-food chain outlets outnumber the more traditional eateries – Burger King, Starbucks and Great American Bagel are all present, with just Shula’s Bar & Grill flying the flag for sit-down meals.
For those with a long layover, there are plenty of hotels nearby. Both Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn are just a mile away, and a mix of various other chains and independents are only a little further afield. With the airport facilities often offering secured special room rates at partner hotels, it may be worth enquiring at the information desk to ensure a good deal.
What not to miss
With nearly 50 miles of world-renowned beaches and more than 150 golf courses in Lee County alone, Southwest is situated within acres of picturesque landscape that is well worth waking up early to enjoy. With the airport itself offering dog walk and passenger leisure areas, an air of relaxation definitely tinges the local atmosphere, making it a perfect place to de-stress before hurtling headfirst into holiday adventure…