Southwest Florida Beaches

Southwest Florida Beaches

Southwest Florida is famed for its Gulf beaches, and there are a wide variety to choose from.  Somewhere between Captiva in Lee County and Marco Island in Collier County there is a beach for you.

Turner Beach, Captiva

Turner Beach offers great fishing from the beach and on the rock jetty.  It also is popular with shellers.

Water gets deep quickly and signs warn against swimming because of the swift currents.

Spectacular views of the sunset warrant a visit at dusk, when couples can enjoy a romantic walk along the beach in relative isolation.

Another nice spot for shelling is at Blind Pass Beach on the other side of the bridge before Turner Beach.  Parking is $2 an hour.

DirectionsGo across the Sanibel Causeway to the four-way stop. Turn right on Periwinkle Way.  Turn right on Tarpon Bay Road.  Turn left on Sanibel-Captiva Road.  Follow the road to Blind Pass Bridge.  The beach is on the left after crossing the bridge to Captiva.

Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel

Isolated and picturesque, this is probably the island’s most popular beach.  Great shelling and amenities make it worth the five-minute hike from the parking area to the beach.  Amenities include picnic tables, pay phones, bathrooms, outdoor showers and bike racks.  Beachcombers can walk for several miles on unobstructed, relatively isolated white sand beaches covered with shells.  Parking is $3 via an automated system.

Directions: Go across the Sanibel Causeway to the four-way stop.  Turn right on Periwinkle Way.  Turn right on Tarpon Bay Road.  Turn left on Sanibel-Captiva Road.  Turn left on Bowman’s Beach Road.

Tarpon Bay Road Beach, Sanibel

Plentiful Parking – even for larger vehicles and RV’s – makes this a popular beach.  The parking lot is somewhat of a walk from the beach.  The beach is great for shelling.  Low tides produce great finds for shell collectors, especially after a storm or full moon.  Amenities include restrooms and picnic tbles.  Parking is $2 an hour.

Directions: Go across the Sanibel Causeway to the four-way stop.  Turn right on Periwinkle Way.  Turn left on Tarpon Bay Road and follow it to the end.

Gulfside City Park / Algiers Beach, Sanibel

Located at Gulfside City Park, this beach features a wonderful picnic area shaded by a grove of pine trees.  The beach takes its name from an old steamboat named Algiers that once was pulled ashore to become a house.  Footpaths offer comfortable access to the beach and protect fragile sand dunes.  Amenities include plentiful parking, restrooms and picnic tables.  Parking is $2 an hour.

Directions: Go across the Sanibel Causeway to the four-way stop.  Turn right on Periwinkle Way.  Turn left on Casa Ybel Road.  Turn left on West Gulf Drive.  Turn left on Algiers Lane.

Lighthouse Park Beach, Sanibel

Located on the eastern tip of the island near the historic Sanibel Lighthouse, this is a great family beach.  Along the path to the lighthouse there is a hut where a guide will explain some of the shells and animals found along the beach.  Around the corner from the beach and just beyond the restrooms is a smaller beach with a view of the Sanibel Causeway.  Here you will find a fishing pier and a wheel-chair-accessible boardwalk nature trail that winds through native wetlands.  The Fun Time food wagon usually is parked in the lot until 4 p.m. selling crackers, hot dogs, ice cream and other concessions.  Large shade trees surround the parking area, which has ample space.  Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, a nature trail and a fishing pier.  Parking is $2 an hour.

Directions: Go across the Sanibel Causeway to the four-way stop.  Turn left on Periwinkle Way and follow the road to the end.  Look for beach signs.

Sanibel Causeway Beaches, Sanibel

The long, thin stretch of beach begins begins just before the tollgate and continues along both sides of the causeway.  The beach is a great place to watch the windsurfers, boaters and dolphins during the day, catch a spectacular view of the sunset and stargaze at night.  The sand is hard-packed, so bring a chair to sit on.  Known for its great fishing, anglers line the shore during early morning and evening hours.  Swimming splash along the shallow shoreline.  Beachgoers can drive their cars off the shoulder of the road to the water’s edge and park for free.  Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, and showers.

Directions: On both sides of the causeway to Sanibel.

Bunche Beach, between Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach

Fairly well-known to the locals, few tourists find their way to this beach, who instead opt for the more popular beaches along Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel.  Lee County paid $6.38 million for 727 acres that make up the Bunche Beach Area.  Per the county parks ordinance, domesticated animals are prohibited on park property with the following exceptions:  service animals, police dogs or horses on duty.  Buche Beach offers passive activities.  There is a small unpaved parking lot.  There are no restrooms.

Directions: Take Summerlin Road west toward Sanibel.  Turn left on John Morris Road and follow it to the end. 

Bowditch Point Park, Fort Myers Beach

This peaceful, 17-acre park with ample, native vegetation fronts both the bay and the Gulf, providing beautiful views of nearby barrier islands.  There are no concessions, but several restaurants and bars are nearby.  Amenities include restrooms, showers, changing rooms, picnic tables, grills, hiking paths, benches, bike racks, a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk to the beach and a beautiful courtyard pavilion that can be rented for weddings and private parties.  For years the park featured only handicap parking, but 78 spots were added last year.  It costs 75 cents an hour or $3 a dat.  Or park free at the Main Street Park and Ride parking lot just north of the bridge and take the trolley (25-cent fare), which runs every 15 minute.

Directions: Take San Carlos Boulevard south and cross Matanzas Pass Bridge onto Fort Myers Beach.  Turn right at the foot of the bridge onto Estero Boulevard and follow the road to the end.

Lynn Hall Memorial Park, Fort Myers Beach

A great family beach, Lynn Hall Memorial Park at Fort Myers Beach also is a favorite of teen-agers and young people.  The Fort Myers Beach Pier is great for fishing and bird watching.  Pelicans frequent the area and perch atop pilings, anxiously awaiting an angler’s catch.  Amenities include the pier, a playground, picnic tables, benches, restrooms, showers, concessions, water fountains, change and soda machines, pay lockers and an information kiosk.  Shops and restaurants are nearby in the recently renovated Times Square – now a pedestrian area with lights, trees and outdoors tables.  Parking is fairly plentiful in the park’s lot.  Cost is 75 cents an hour.  Get there before 11 a.m. to get a spot.

Directions: Take San Carlos Boulevard south and cross Matanzas Pass Bridge onto Fort Myers Beach.  Turn right at the foot of the bridge onto Estero Boulevard.  Turn left into the parking lot.

Assorted Public Beach Access Points, along Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach

The accesses are peaceful, often isolated, public areas of the beach, great for enjoying the serene atmosphere.  Some are within a short of cafes and restaurants.  Shelling can be decent on the right day.  Parking is free, although some have very few spaces.

Directions: While driving along Estero Boulevard look for small, white, fabric signs on the Gulf side of the road denoting beach access points.

Lovers Key State Park, Black Island, Lovers Key, Inner Key and Long Key

A great beach for nature lovers, there are acres of trails to explore, miles of mangrove-lined estuaries to canoe and secluded beaches to enjoy.  Many Species of waterowl call the park home and sightings of the endangered manatee are frequent along the shore and in nearby waterways.  The park also offers some of the area’s best fishing.  Amenities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, a pavilion, concessions, hiking trails and canoe rentals.  Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are on a leash.  Parking is plentiful and costs $4 a car with two to eight passengers or $2 for a driver alone.  Walk-ins are charged $1.  A free tram will take visitors from the parking lot to the south side of the beach.  Hours are 8 a.m. to sunset.

Directions: Take Estero Boulevard south and cross Big Carlos Pass onto Black Island.  Sign is on the right.

Little Hickory Island Beach Park, Bonita Beach

A shelly, wide, white sand beach with a feeling of seclusion is the main attraction.  Surf fishing is a favorite pastime.  Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables and showers.  Parking is 75 cents an hour.  A ramp runs from the parking lot to the sand, allowing wheelchair access.

Directions: Take Estero Boulevard south across Big Hickory Pass to Bonita Beach.  Turn right on Hickory Boulevard.

Bonita Beach Park, Bonita Beach

Bonita Beach features a beautiful ocean view within walking distance of several beach-style restaurants.  Surf fishing is a popular pastime.  Amenities include a wheel-chair-accessible bathhouse, concessions, picnic tables and volleyball courts.  Parking is 75 cents an hour and includes spaces for those with handicaps. Yearly parking stickers may be bought for $40 here from 1 to 3 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays.

Directions: Take Hickory Boulevard south.  The beach entrance is on the right before the road curves east and becomes Bonita Beach Road.

Barefoot Beach Park / Barefoot Beach State Preserve, Bonita Springs

Two parks were merged into one megapark – 356 acres of beaches and woodland trail system meandering through tropical hammock and mangrove swamp.  A learning center features exhibits on sea turtles and shorebirds and offers occasional lectures on subjects such as shelling and fossil collecting.  Amenities include restrooms with diaper

Directions: Take US 41 south to Bonita Beach Road.  Turn right and follow Bonita Beach Road west to the Lely Barefoot Beach guardhouse. Turn left.  

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Naples

White sand beaches with nearby mangrove forests and tidal creeks create a nature lover’s paradise at this state park.  The 166 acres feature beaches lined with sea oats and cabbage palms, woodland trails and a shaded picnic area.  A boardwalk leads to the pass – a natural outlet for the Cocohatchee River – which offers a view of the waterway and a place to fish.  An observation tower allows for a bird’s eye view.  Other amenities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables and nature trails.  The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.  Lifeguards are on duty.  Parking is plentiful.  Admission is $4 for up to 8 people in a car.  For a single person in a car, it’s $2.  Admission on foot or bike is $1. Age 6 and younger, no charge.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south to 111th Avenue.  Turn right on 111th Avenue.  After the bridge, the road becomes Bluebill Avenue.  The beach is at the end of the road.

Vanderbilt Beach, Naples

This beach is just down the street from Wiggins Pass and a short distance from several restaurants.  Park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset.  There are 152 parking spaces.  Parking is $3.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south to Vanderbilt Beach Road.  Turn right and follow the road west to the end.  The beach is at the end of the road.

Clam Pass County Park, Naples

The 35-acre park features a mangrove forest, tidal bay, coastal dunes and 3,200 linear feet of beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  A 20-minute walk from the parking area over a boardwalk provides access to the beach.  A tram service runs every six minutes, taking visitors to the beach.  A concession rents kayaks, canoes, sailboards and beach equipment.  Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, showers, nature trails and an observation tower.  A beach wheelchair is available.  A lifeguard is on duty.  There are 182 parking spaces available. Parking is $3 a day.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south to Seagate Drive.  Turn right and follow the road west.  The beach is next to Naples Registry Resort.

Assorted Public Beach Access Points, along Gulf Shore Boulevard in Naples

Along the boulevard – behind numerous homes overlooking the ocean – is the beach, which extends from Seagate Drive south past Naples Pier and into Port Royal.  Look for parking spaces off the boulevard. Bring food; there are no concessions.  There are no restrooms. Parking is limited. Parking is $3 a day or by beach parking permit.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south to Park Shore Drive.  Turn right and head west to Gulf Shore Boulevard.

Lowdermilk Park Beach, Naples

A playground on the beach, this park offers something for everyone.  The beach is across the street from sandwich shops and restaurants.  Amenities include restrooms, showers, concessions, picnic tables, a playground and volleyball courts.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south to Banyan Boulevard. Turn right. Parking is at Banyan and Gulf Shore boulevards.

Naples Municipal Beach and Pier, Naples

Naples Municipal Beach offers a white sand beach and a fishing pier stretching into the Gulf of Mexico.  Subdued lighting makes a great setting for an evening stroll.  The Naples pier is larger then the one on Fort Myers Beach.  The pier never closes.  Amenities include restrooms, showers, concessions and picnic tables.  There is a snack bar and bait shop on the pier.  Parking is metered – and limited.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south until it dead-ends into Ninth Street South.  Follow Ninth Street South to Ninth Avenue South. Turn right.  Follow Ninth Avenue South to Gulf Shore Boulevard South.  Turn left.  The pier is at 12th Avenue South.

Tigertail Beach, Marco Island

Tigertail Beach offers 32 acres of natural resources and beachside amenities.  Five boardwalks lead from the parking area to the beaches.  Amenities include restrooms; showers; concessions; picnic tables; kayak, paddleboat and beach equipment rentals; and a playground. Parking is plentiful – 190 spaces.  Parking is $3 a day.

Directions: Take U.S. 41 south to State Road 951 (Isle of Capri Road). Turn right.  Follow 951 south across the toll bridge onto Marco Island, where it becomes Collier Boulevard.  Turn right on Tigertail Court.  Turn left on Hernando Drive.  The beach is at the end.

South Marco Island Beach, Marco Island

This wide, expansive beach offers sand and a place to fish and swim.  Be sure to pack drinks and snacks, as there are no concessions.  There are no amenities.  The beach is open from 8 a.m. to sundown.  Parking is across the street and somewhat limited.  Parking is $3 a day.

Directions: Taker SR 951 south across the toll bridge into Marco Island, where it becomes Collier Boulevard.  Follow Collier Boulevard around the curve, where it becomes North Collier Boulevard.  Take North Collier Boulevard south past San Marco Drive, where the road becomes South Collier Boulevard.  Follow South Collier Boulevard south.  The beach is on the right nestled between he Apollo and Cape Marco condominiums.

Lee County Beach Facts

Tolls

There is a $3 toll to cross the Sanibel Causeway onto Sanibel and Capitva Islands.  A toll transponder – which allows for a cheaper toll and no monetary exchange at the tollgate – can be purchased at LeeWay Service Center, 1366 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers. Call (239)931-0100.

Parking

Sanibel parking is $2 an hour.  Parking stickers are available.  Call (239)472-3111.  On Captiva, parking is metered.  On Fort Myers Beach, parking is free at the accesses and in the lot just before the bridge.  On Bonita Beach, accesses are metered.

Public Transit

From mid-December through Easter, a 25-cent trolley is available to Bowditch Point Park, Lynn Hall Memorial Park, Lovers Key State Recreation Area, Little Hickory Island Beach Park and Bonita Beach Park from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m..  Call LeeTran at (239)275-8726.

Pets

Not permitted on Lee County-owned beaches – including the Sanibel Causeway, Captiva and some areas of Fort Myers Beach.  Legal on Sanibel beaches, if leashed.  On Fort Myers Beach pets may be on the same beach as long as they are on a leash.  Keep them away from country-controlled park and beach areas.  Pets are allowed in the park area of Loves Key, but not in the water or on the beach.

Alcohol

Prohibited on Lee County-controlled beaches.  Allowed on Fort Myers Beach in front of bars and hotels that sell it.  Be careful not to stray far from the hotel area with alcohol because law enforcement is stringent.  Alcohol is allowed on Sanibel beaches at all hours during the summer, but it is unlawful to have alcohol on the beaches one hour after sunset through one hour one hour before sunrise between Dec. 15 and May 15.

Collier County Beach Facts

Parking

Collier County residents or property owners can get free beach parking stickers by going to any county park with a community center or to the City Hall at 735 Eighth St. S., downtown Naples.  Nonresidents must pay $3 a day to park at county beaches.  At city beaches metered parking is 25 cents for 20 minutes – quarters only.

Hours

Most are open 8 a.m. to sunset.

Pets

Illegal on all beaches

Lifeguards

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Recreation Area in Naples, (239)597-6196, has a lifeguard on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Clam Pass County Park, (239)597-3232, also has a lifeguard on duty.  Other beaches do not have lifeguards.

Alcohol

Prohibited on all Collier County beaches.