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Island Hopper Songwriter Festival Brings Ten Days of Tunes to Southwest Florida Beaches

Time to plan for the 2020 festival!

Written by Tammy Ragusa
Island Hopper Songwriter Festival Brings Ten Days of Tunes to Southwest Florida Beaches
Gone West at the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB

The sixth annual Island Hopper Songwriter Festival recently wrapped in beautiful southwest Florida, and if you’re considering attending next year’s ten days of tunes in the tropics, then we have a few things to share with you that may push you to block those days on your calendar and book your travel.

Island Hopper Songwriting Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB
Island Hopper Songwriting Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB

THE SETTING

Island Hopper takes place in beautiful Ft. Myers, Sanibel and Captiva. The sub-tropic environment remains sunshine-y and warm enough for enjoying water activities during the day well into October. In the evening, cool ocean breezes make evening patios sheer perfection for enjoying the vast array of music that wafts through the salt air during the Florida festival.

There are plenty of options for beachfront accommodations, from beautiful resorts, like Pink Shell (that include multiple pools, onsite restaurants, outdoor bars and activities for adults and children alike), to luxury and economy hotels, to adorable beach cottages that are like a home away from home.

Temperature averages range from the mid-70s to the low 90s, peaking in the early afternoon and dropping quickly as the sun sets. You can easily get an extra bit of wear from that sundress or those bright shirts, but be sure to pack a sweater or light jacket for evening.

Ryan Hurd at the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB
Ryan Hurd at the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB

THE SONGS

There are over 150 performances in a variety of fun venues, most offering great food and fun beverages as well. Many of the shows are walkable to each other, but far enough apart that sound doesn’t bleed from one stage into another. The venues range in sizes, but all have a feel of an intimate feel and great acoustics, plus plenty of photo ops to make the friends back home wishing they were there.

Speaking of artists, more than 80 singer-songwriters participate in the Island Hopper Songwriters Festival, including artists like Rodney Atkins, Jerrod Niemann, Stephanie Quayle, Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, Ryan Hurd, Gone West (which features Colbie Caillat), Striking Matches, Bridgette Tatum, Clint Daniels, Even Stevens and Kostas.

Just as diverse as the artists that appear at Island Hopper is the variety of genres they represent and present during the event. Country, rock, pop, Americana, folk, blues and, heck, talented and tiny Sheena Brook bumps out a rap medley that brings the Late Night Jam crowd to their feet. Don’t be afraid to get into it, snap pictures, singalong — yes, you’ll recognize the hits that these artists have written — and mostly, don’t hesitate to express your enjoyment with a rousing round of applause.

Island Hopper Songwriting Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB
Island Hopper Songwriting Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB

THE FOOD

If ridiculously fresh seafood and fruit-infused cocktails are your thing, prepare to indulge. But guess what? If unique burgers and craft brews are your thing, you’re also going to be satiated. From casual tiki bars to upscale establishments, you’re bound to find something to tickle your tastebuds during Island Hopper.

Most restaurants offer a “catch of the day,” and some, like Dixie Fish, are right on the water where those catches come from (the ceviche there is THE BEST). The burgers at Ford’s Garage are going to be hard to beat with their never-ending list of toppings — try the peanut butter — but be sure to share an order of funnel rings. Trust me. If you’re hankering for an adult beverage, Point Ybel Brewery offers a choice of craft brews that are intriguing and delicious. A menu that offers a variety of IPAs, stouts and more highlight infusions and essences that may have you scratching your head, but ask for a sample. It might blow your mind. Be sure to save room for a crepe from Chocolate Coffee Company next door, or return the next day for a smoothie, smoothie bowl or delicious avocado toast.

If you leaning towards a finer dining experience, the choices are plentiful and many offer beachfront views that will take your breath away. The sunset from Costa Island Cuisine is worth an early reservation, and so is the surf & turf. Then step right down to Cabanas for more music.

Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB
Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB

THE FUN

If you find yourself with a little extra time and want to squeeze in a different kind of fun, you have plenty of choices.

Swimming, parasailing, jet skis and kayaks are favorite activities for visitors to Fort Myers and Sanibel and are available at many locations along the beach, including the resorts.

One obvious thing is the attention that the area plays to the conservation and preservation of the vegetation and wildlife in the area. Lighting is designed to protect sea turtles who nest in the area, the “stingray shuffle” is encouraged to protect both the animals and the visitors, and shelling of live mollusks is discouraged.

A trip to the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates takes visitors back in time to the 1800s when the estates were established. Thanks to Edison’s second wife, Mina, vegetation offers an explosion of color and wonder over 20 acres. A banyan tree presented to the Edisons in 1925 from Harvey Firestone is still thriving and greets guests as they enter the facility. An on-site museum also showcases the many patents Edison was responsible for, as well as a fun exhibit showcasing the camping adventures of Edison, Ford, Firestone, John Burroughs and their wives.

The best place to enjoy the wildlife is right on the water. Grab some friends and charter a boat from EcoVenture Florida. Captain Matt can’t guarantee sightings, but the probability is high, thanks to his keen eye. Manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and stingrays populate the area, as well as pelicans, herons, egrets and osprey.

Captain Matt can also take you to the secluded shell-lined beach of Cayo Costa, then on to lunch at Cabbage Key where it is rumored that the cheeseburger inspired Jimmy Buffett to pen his hit, “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”

Rodney Atkins at the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB
Rodney Atkins at the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival; Photo By Brian Tietz/Lee County CVB

ISLAND HOPPER 2020

Next year’s Island Hopper Songwriting Festival will take place September 18 – 27, 2020. Artists have not yet been announced for the event, but you can sign up for information on the event’s website, or download the super handy app that you’ll use throughout the festivities to locate where your favorite songwriter is performing or to create a comprehensive schedule.

Flights arrive daily into the Southwest Florida International Airport (code: RSW), and ride-sharing, taxis and shuttles are available to hotels. The Ft. Myers-Sanibel website has more information on accommodations and attractions as well.