The Historic Cottage will be open again soon on Saturdays from 10-12.

Gulf Shore Inn and the Cottage

The Gulf Shore Inn was called the Crescent Beach Casino when it first opened in 1921. Thomas Phillips, an early developer on the island opened the casino and bath house once the new bridge to the island was completed. The place evolved into the Gulf Shore Inn when rooms were added in the 1930s and 1940s. For many years the restaurant and the inn were popular gathering places. In the 80s, the cottage bar was added and the outside area expanded. Before Ian, plans were in place to redesign and renovate the buildings. Nothing was left of the original buildings after the storm. Lucky for us, the property was purchased by Joe Orlandini who plans to rebuild the restaurant and bar.

The Mermaid and the Surf Club

These two bars have a strange and confusing history. The original Mermaid Club was opened in 1949 on the bayside of Estero. For many years, the Mermaid was a popular place for locals to meet and have a drink. Sometime in the 1980s, the Mermaid was sold and became a restaurant and bar called the Beached Whale.

Directly across the street from the Mermaid was another popular watering hole called The Surf Club.  Like the Mermaid, the Surf Club had a long history on the island.  In the 1930s, the Pavese family opened a restaurant directly on the Gulf near the Gulf Shore Inn.  Netties served some of the best Italian Food in the county and was a popular destination for beachgoers.  After being damaged by a couple of storms in the 1950s, the owners decided to relocate their business away from the Gulf.  They built a concrete building on Estero Boulevard, across from the Mermaid.  After a contest to name the business, the Surf Club was chosen.

For the next twenty years, this bar was known as the Surf Club.  Then, when the Mermaid became the Beached Whale, the Surf Club changed owners, and the new owners renamed the bar the Mermaid Club.  Another Surf Club was opened next to the Beached Whale in the old Waffle House building.

Both bars survived for quite a few years until TPI began planning the Margaritaville resort.  The old Surf Club (now the Mermaid Club) was on land that TPI purchased for the resort.  In 2021, the old Surf Club (Mermaid) was torn down to make way for the resort.

​The hurricane damaged the original Mermaid (then the beached whale, and at the time of the storm, the Whale). The owners have reopened with a food truck and are planning to rebuild.

The Reef

One of the first grocery stores on the island was the Coquina Market, located on Estero near the old Topps Grocery.  In the 1930s, the market was a popular beach business noted for its pot pies that were sold on Sundays.

The building then became home to Basillo's Italian Restaurant.  Finally, the Reef moved into the old building. The Reef was a popular restaurant and bar with live music until the building was damaged by Hurricane Charley.

The Pier

One of the most iconic images of post-Ian FMB is the county pier, which was severely damaged in the storm. The original pier was built in 1949 and had been rebuilt several times before Ian took it out, leaving nothing but what looks like a tropical Stonehenge.

The first pier on Fort Myers Beach was not at the county park. It was located at the Winkler Hotel on Pompano Street. This was the first hotel on the island; it opened in 1912, before we even had a bridge. Guests would arrive by boat and use the pier to disembark from the boats. Known for many years as the "Sunshine Pier," this became a gathering place for residents and visitors. The pier was destroyed in the 1944 hurricane. In 1949, the County purchased the land at the north end of the island, and a new pier was built.

Times Square

Entertainment District Damaged

After County Park opened in the 1950s, the area around the pier began to develop into a business district. People would come to the beach and would need to purchase supplies and find food. The area near the pier attracted restaurants, arcades, and gift shops. Eventually, this corridor housed many different businesses that catered to the island's full-time residents. Before the storm, this area was a thriving entertainment district with restaurants, bars, hotels, and marinas offering all kinds of options for residents and visitors alike. This area was hit hard by Hurricane Ian. All the shops and restaurants on the beach near the pier were completely washed away. The other buildings along San Carlos Boulevard were still standing but damaged by the storm surge. Today, a few are open for business. Others are working out of food trucks near the pier. 

Silver Sands Cottages

In 1921, Thomas Phillips opened the Silver Sands Cottages, the first cottage court on the island.  Like the Gulf Shore Grill, the Silver Sands Cottages celebrated their 100th anniversary recently.  The cottages were washed away by the storm surge, leaving nothing more than an empty lot.  TPI has purchased the property, and it will become part of the Margaretaville resort.

Remembering the Lost Icons

Our island community was hit hard when Hurricane Ian came ashore on September 28, 2022. Almost every home on the island was damaged, lives were lost, and our beach town was decimated. Since most of our historic structures were old, many were washed away with the storm surge. The EIHS has been working hard to preserve the history of our island by remembering these sites before it is too late. This page lists only a few of the sites we lost. Our book, Lost Icons of Fort Myers Beach will be published soon and will include vivid descriptions and photos of the icons that were swept away in the storm surge.