Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway to the soft sands of the gulf coast or follow amazing food celebrations around the country, heading to Fort Myers Beach for the annual Shrimp Festival is a perfect reason to get away.

This trip was hosted by The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel.

"If you're a food person and you go around looking for the best of the best food, then you're in the right place to eat shrimp" - Darby Doerzbacher, Fort Myers Beach Lions Club 1st Vice President

Well, I'm a food person, and I go around the world looking for the best of the best. So, I set my sights on the annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival to see if their Pink Gulf Shrimp were really worth the festivities.

The coast of Fort Myers Beach and the surrounding islands has been the launching point for the shrimp boats of southwest Florida since the industry began booming in the 1950s when entrepreneuring shrimpers started bringing in the nocturnal shrimp by the boatload. The iconic boats line up along the docks where you can still sit and watch them in action today, waiting to head out and bring in their legendary 'Pink Gold.'

Check out the eats at the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival

Famous for their sweet flavor and big bodies, the shrimp harvested off the coast of Fort Myers Beach was dubbed the region's "Pink Gold" since the 1950s. And for good reason; These shrimp are the quintessential wild caught pink jumbo shrimp that seafood enthusiasts have come crave around the globe, and brought the shrimpers at the time a good living.

Foodie finds at the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival

The now famous beach destination still houses the shrimping boats and even offers working waterfront tours to curious visitors. And of course, is the destination for the annual Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival, celebrating 61 years with festivities from parades to pageants.

Kicking off the shrimp eating contest at the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival

Oddly, though, the Shrimp Festival started with fried chicken…

Starting in 1959, the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club has been kicking off the shrimp season by hosting a weekend festival. It started with selling fried chicken to the public, but then quickly transformed into the iconic Gulf Pink Shrimp celebration, and has been a driving fundraiser for the club.

Crab cake sandwiches at the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Seafood Festival

The Fort Myers Beach Lions Club supplies the best-of-the-best hand selected shrimp, according to Lion Darby Doerzbacher, and is the first booth at the beginning of the food court with the shrimp boil platter. For $15, you get a heaping mountain of jumbo pink shrimp, slaw and of course, cocktail sauce. The Lions Club sell about 1100 to 1200 pounds of shrimp each year at the weekend-long festival, with the funds going to support a variety of programs like guide dogs, eye surgeries, scholarships, and providing glasses.

For more information on the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club please click here.

Face painting and other family activities at the Fort Myers Shrimp Festival

Annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival Events:

  • 5k & Kids Run
  • Shrimp Eating Contest
  • Parade
  • Shrimp Boil
  • Pageant
  • Art Fair
  • Food Expo
Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival platter

What to eat at the Shrimp Festival

Like all good festivals, the variety of fair food is thematic - and in this case delicious.

  • Pink jumbo shrimp filled platters from the Lions Club with slaw and cocktail sauce.
  • A variety of fried shrimp (no really, sample them all)
  • Crab cake sandwiches
  • fried grouper
  • Gyros
  • Crawfish,
  • Fried octopus
  • Kabobs
  • Hot sausages topped with peppers and onions
  • Hamburgers
  • And of course, giant lemonades and funnel cakes were present as well.
Grouper sandwich at the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival

So, what makes Gulf Pink Shrimp the best?

"Everything," said Doerzbacher with a smile. She explained that due to the proximity to the boats, they have the best selection of quality wild caught pink gulf shrimp you could ever enjoy.

And with that, I made my $15 donation and contentedly enjoyed my platter of Pink Gulf Shrimp.

A wooden bird at the Arts and crafts fair Shrimp Festival
Visiting the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival - this guide explains it all

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