Southwest Florida

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Southwest Florida is the region along the southwest Gulf coast of the U.S. state of Florida. The area is known for its beaches, subtropical landscape, and winter resort economy. [1]

Definitions of the region vary, though its boundaries are generally considered to put it south of the Tampa Bay area, west of Lake Okeechobee, and mostly north of the Everglades and to include Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties. For some purposes, the inland counties of DeSoto, Glades, and Hendry, and the thinly populated mainland section of Monroe County, south of Collier, are also included.[1]

The region includes four metropolitan areas: the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota MSA, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers MSA, the Naples-Marco Island MSA, and the Punta Gorda MSA. The most populous county in the region is Lee County (760,822 population), and the region's largest city is Cape Coral with a population of 194,016 as of 2020.[1]

Map of Southwest Florida. Counties in red are always included in Southwest Florida, while counties in pink are sometimes included in Southwest Florida.


Fishermen wading in Fort Myers Beach.

Southwest Florida was mostly not developed until the Florida land boom of the 1920s. The Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) expanded south from Tampa. There has been a major real estate boom focusing on downtown Fort Myers (high-rise residential condominiums); southern Lee County (commercial development and high-technology); eastern Collier County (residential development); and eastern parts of Bradenton. Numerous efforts in recent years have been made to reduce development and preserve open space and recreational areas.[1][further explanation needed]

Inland counties (DeSoto, Hendry and Glades Counties) are notably rural, with the primary economic driver being agriculture. Important products grown in this area include tomatoes, beef, sugarcane, and citrus products including oranges. Agricultural harvesting in Southwest Florida employs approximately 16,000 seasonal workers, 90 percent of which are thought to be migrants.[2]


Each county in the region has its own county government. Within each county, there are also self-governing cities, towns and villages. The remaining majority of land in each county is controlled directly by the county government. It is also very common for incorporated municipalities to contract county services in order to save costs and avoid redundancy. The region is designated as one of Florida's 4 districts for the Committee of Southern Historic Preservation (C-SHP). The district has been represented by Tommy Stolly since 2013.[3]

Regional Transportation[edit]


Southwest Florida is served by several major highways, including the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) and the Interstate 75 freeway, both of which connect the area to Tampa to the north, and Greater Miami–Ft. Lauderdale to the east. Long-term cooperative infrastructure planning is coordinated by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (web site), and in heavily populated Lee County, the Metropolitan Planning Organization.[4]

Greyhound Lines serves several locations in Southwest Florida, including Bradenton, Fort Myers, Naples, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Sarasota.


Southwest Florida International Airport, located to the south of Fort Myers, is the area's primary airport for commercial traffic, serving 10.3 million passengers in 2021 and becoming one of the 50 busiest airports in the United States. Since 2022, the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings Discover operates a direct route between Fort Myers and Frankfurt Airport, the sole nonstop flight to Europe in the region; the airport also facilitates travel between 28 states as well as the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario and Havana.[5][6][7]

Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport serves as the secondary airport for the region and the primary airport for American and Canadian travelers hoping to travel to the northern part of Southwest Florida, flying as far west as Denver, as far north as Toronto Pearson and Minneapolis, and as far east as Boston. In 2021, the airport served 3.16 million passengers, a new record for the airport.[8][9]

General aviation airports sprawl across the region, with the airport in Naples being the twelfth busiest in the nation for private jet traffic. The region also hosts general aviation facilities at namesake airports in various locations including Immokalee, Buckingham, LaBelle, Arcadia, Marco Island, Punta Gorda, and Venice, as well as at Fort Myers' Page Field, Placida's Coral Creek Airport, Everglades Airpark near Everglades City, and the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport straddling the line between Southwest Florida and the Miami metropolitan area.


SeaPort Manatee provides a full range of port services for commercial, industrial and cruise ship purposes.


Seminole Gulf Railway provides freight services throughout Southwest Florida.[10] The Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line, and the Florida East Coast provide Florida with an intriguing history since most of the South's classic lines are operated here.[citation needed]


Tourism is a major economic driver in the area. The warm winter climate draws tourists from across the United States, Canada, and Europe.[4] Small towns as well as cultural centres, sea-captains hangouts and small industrial centres, Southwest Florida has more than 25 major tourist meccas. Southwest Florida is a region with a comfortable mixture of Florida's classic and cosmopolitan, relaxed and fast-paced. A place for everyone.[11]

Bonita Beach

Major attractions/destinations:

  • Beaches in the following locales:
Edison's winter home.
  • Attractions including:


FGCU's Academic Core

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is a public university located just south of the Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers in Lee County, Florida. The university belongs to the 12-campus State University System of Florida. FGCU competes in the ASUN Conference in NCAA Division I sports. FGCU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate's, 51 different types of bachelor's, 29 different master's, and 6 types of doctoral degrees.[12][3]


The following table shows the professional teams and major NCAA Division 1 teams that play in Southwest Florida.

Club Location Sport League Tier/Division Venue (capacity)
Florida Everblades Estero Ice hockey ECHL Mid-level minor league Hertz Arena (7,100)
Fort Myers Mighty Mussels S. Fort Myers Baseball Florida State League Minor league — Class A Hammond Stadium (7,500)
Bradenton Marauders Bradenton Baseball Florida State League Minor league — Class A LECOM Park (8,500)
Charlotte Stone Crabs Port Charlotte Baseball Florida State League Minor league — Class A Charlotte Sports Park (7,000)
Gulf Coast League Red Sox Fort Myers Baseball Gulf Coast League Rookie League JetBlue Park (10,823)
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Fort Myers Basketball ASUN Conference NCAA Division I Alico Arena (4,500)

Spring training[edit]

Florida is the traditional home for Major League Baseball spring training, with teams informally organized into the "Grapefruit League." As of 2004, Southwest Florida hosts the following major league teams for spring training:

Area codes[edit]



County County Seat 2000
(2010 to 2018)
% change
(2010 to 2018)
Charlotte County Punta Gorda 141,627 159,978 184,998 +15.64% 186,847 184,998 +15.64%
Collier County East Naples 251,377 321,521 378,488 +17.72% 375,752 378,488 +17.72%
DeSoto County Arcadia 32,209 34,862 37,489 +7.54% 33,976 37,489 +7.54%
Glades County Moore Haven 10,576 12,881 13,724 +6.54% 12,126 13,724 +6.54%
Hendry County LaBelle 36,210 39,143 41,556 +6.16% 39,619 41,556 +6.16%
Lee County Fort Myers 440,888 618,754 754,610 +21.96% 760,822 754,610 +21.96%
Manatee County Bradenton 296,385 322,833 394,855 +22.31% 399,710 394,855 +22.31%
Sarasota County Sarasota 325,957 379,448 426,718 +12.46% 434,006 426,718 +12.46%

Major incorporated cities[edit]

Major unincorporated communities[edit]

Communities listed have a population greater than 30,000 according to the 2000 census.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Southwest Florida Travel Guide - Vacation Resource & Coupons!". Southwest Florida Travel.
  2. ^ "Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council". Archived from the original on May 11, 2006. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Education in Southwest Florida | SWFL Economic Development Alliance".
  4. ^ a b "THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Southwest Gulf Coast 2019 - Must See Attractions in Southwest Gulf Coast, FL | TripAdvisor".
  5. ^ Digital, WINK News (August 1, 2022). "RSW sees 21% decrease in June year-over-year traffic, up year-to-date". WINK NEWS. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  6. ^ ABC7 News (March 28, 2022). "Airline adds only non-stop flight to Germany from RSW". ABC7 Southwest Florida. Retrieved October 26, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Southwest Florida International Airport Routes". Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  8. ^ "Nonstop Destinations". Fly SRQ. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  9. ^ "SRQ Airport Finishes 2021 With Record-Breaking Numbers". Sarasota Magazine. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  10. ^ "Freight". Seminole Gulf Railway. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  11. ^ "Your Vacation Guide to Southwest Florida". Visit Florida.
  12. ^ "Commission on Colleges". Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved March 31, 2013.

External links[edit]