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.
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 (661,000 population), and the region's largest city is Cape Coral with a population of 165,831 as of 2013.
With no large cities in its early history, Southwest Florida was largely ignored by commercial developers until the late 19th century. As a result, the region lacks the heavier development present in other parts of Florida. In recent years however, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Southwest Florida International Airport, located in South Fort Myers, served over 7.42 million passengers in 2009 and offers non-stop flights to 3 cities in Europe and 2 in Canada, in addition to 36 domestic airports. The area's secondary airport, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, served 1.34 million passengers in 2009.
The following table shows the airports that serve the Southwest Florida area with commercial flights:
|Enplanements||Largest airline |
|Tampa International Airport||TPA||TPA||Large hub||8,268,207||Southwest (5,186)|
|Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers)||RSW||RSW||Medium hub||3,789,386||Delta (1,650)|
|Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport||SRQ||SRQ||Small hub||1,340,000||Delta (636)|
|St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport||PIE||PIE||Small hub||1,220,000||Allegiant (1,082)|
|Punta Gorda Airport (formerly Charlotte County Airport)||PGD||PGD||Small hub||836,000||Allegiant (830)|
Port Manatee provides a full range of port services for commercial, industrial and cruise ship purposes.
Seminole Gulf Railway provides freight services throughout Southwest Florida. 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.
Tourism is a major economic driver in the area. The warm winter climate draws tourists from across the United States, Canada, and Europe. 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.
- Beaches in the following locales:
- Attractions including:
- Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers
- Lake Okeechobee renowned for fishing and ecotourism.
- Naples Botanical Garden
- Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
- Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation where the Seminole nation operates a sizable casino.
- Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota
- St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota
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 Atlantic Sun 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.
The following table shows the professional teams and major NCAA Division 1 teams that play in Southwest Florida.
|Florida Everblades||Estero||Ice hockey||ECHL||Mid-level minor league||Hertz Arena (7,100)|
|Fort Myers Miracle||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||Atlantic Sun Conference||NCAA Division I||Alico Arena (4,500)|
Florida is the traditional home for Major League Baseball spring training, with teams informally organized into the "Grapefruit League." As of 2004[update], Southwest Florida hosts the following major league teams for spring training:
- Atlanta Braves in North Port
- Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers
- Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota
- Minnesota Twins in South Fort Myers
- Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton
- Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte
- Area code 239 Collier and Lee counties (Portions of Hendry, Charlotte and Monroe counties)
- Area code 941 Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties
- Area code 863 DeSoto, Hendry and Glades counties
Television and radio stations
(2010 to 2018)
(2010 to 2018)
|Charlotte County||Punta Gorda||141,627||159,978||184,998||+15.64%|
|Collier County||East Naples||251,377||321,521||378,488||+17.72%|
|Glades County||Moore Haven||10,576||12,881||13,724||+6.54%|
|Lee County||Fort Myers||440,888||618,754||754,610||+21.96%|
Major incorporated cities
- Bradenton, Manatee County
- Bonita Springs, Lee County
- Cape Coral, Lee County
- Fort Myers, Lee County
- Naples, Collier County
- North Port, Sarasota County
- Sarasota, Sarasota County
- Punta Gorda, Charlotte County
Major unincorporated communities
Communities listed have a population greater than 30,000 according to the 2000 census.
- Lehigh Acres, Lee County
- North Fort Myers, Lee County
- Port Charlotte, Charlotte County
- South Fort Myers, Lee County
- Florida Suncoast
- Conservancy of Southwest Florida
- Southwest Florida College
- Southwest Florida International Airport
- "Southwest Florida Travel Guide - Vacation Resource & Coupons!". Southwest Florida Travel.
- "Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council". Archived from the original on May 11, 2006. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- "Education in Southwest Florida | SWFL Economic Development Alliance".
- "THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Southwest Gulf Coast 2019 - Must See Attractions in Southwest Gulf Coast, FL | TripAdvisor". tripadvisor.ca.
- "SFIA (RSW) Total Passengers" (PDF). flylcpa.com. Retrieved March 26, 2010.[dead link]
- "Activity Report 2009" (PDF). srq-airport.com. Retrieved March 26, 2010.[permanent dead link]
- "Freight". Seminole Gulf Railway. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
- "Your Vacation Guide to Southwest Florida". Visit Florida.
- "Commission on Colleges". Sacscoc.org. Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved March 31, 2013.
- Southwest Florida travel guide from Wikivoyage