Vacation Guide to Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida Beaches

Beaches in Bonita Springs

Dog Beach

If you want to make sure your four legged friends don’t get left out of all the beach fun on your vacation, head to Dog Beach in Bonita Springs. This is the only pet friendly beach in Lee County, and it has dog-focused amenities like dog showers and disposal stations to keep your excursion clean and easy.

This is a wonderful place for your dog to play with other pets in a beautiful beach setting. Dogs are allowed to run free here, but the size of the area can vary greatly depending on the tide. You’ll therefore want to plan your trip accordingly since this spot is a tidal flat.

There are no restrooms at this park but there are portable toilets available. Head to this beach north of Naples where the parking is free, the dogs can run free, and the whole family can enjoy a gorgeous day on the beach. There are only a few Southwest Florida dog friendly beaches, so if you want to bring your pup along for a day at the beach, this one is definitely worth visiting.

Bonita Beach Park

Located between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs, this beachfront park stretches across 2.5 acres complete with a swimming area and a boardwalk. You can find eight picnic shelters here, a gazebo, and idyllic sand dunes and coastal vegetation.

This beach is open year round, so you can add it to your itinerary no matter what season you’re visiting Southwest Florida. There are activities here for the whole family, including a playground and volleyball court along with the opportunity to go parasailing and jet skiing. There is also a canoe and kayak launch if you’re looking to get out on the water for some self-propelled fun as well as jet ski rentals if you feel the need for speed.

Parking costs $2 an hour at this Bonita Springs beach and the beach is open from dawn to dusk.

Little Hickory Island Beach Park

What is the best beach in Southwest Florida for getting away from it all? Opinions on this question differ, but Little Hickory Island Beach Park is a definite contender as far as beaches that offer a sense of seclusion. While there are countless islands that you can explore by boat to find some solitude, this is a wonderful white sand beach that is accessible by car and offers a sense of peace and quiet.

One of the favorite pastimes for visitors here is surf fishing. The beach is clean and wide and offers amenities such as picnic tables, showers, and restrooms.

This beach is also wheelchair accessible thanks to a ramp that runs from the parking lot down to the sand. Open from sunrise to sunset, this beach h

as affordable parking rates at $2 an hour.

Beaches on Captiva Island

North Captiva Beach

Are you looking for the best beaches in Southwest Florida for shells? If so, you’ll want to check out the five miles of beautiful beaches on North Captiva Island. Two-thirds of this pristine white sand beach borders a 700 acre state land preserve that is filled with wildlife and fascinating coastal plants.

If you’re burnt out from shopping, crowded beaches, and tiki bars, head to North Captiva Island. You can walk along the beach for miles without seeing any hint of civilization. Along the shoreline, you’ll come across many colorful and rare shells that washed in with the tide. While many of the other good shelling beaches have tourists flocking to them to find the best shells, the beaches of North Captiva Island get a significantly smaller amount of foot traffic.

There are a number of different ways you can access this beach from the island. There are many private residences along the beach, so make sure you don’t end up accidentally trespassing through private property.

Beaches in Fort Myers

Bunche Beach

Located on San Carlos Bay, this is a 715 acre pristine, natural tidal wetland. You can explore the mangrove forest, sandy beaches, and salt flat while being surrounded by the fascinating wildlife of Southwest Florida.

This beach is open year round from dawn to dusk. Consider renting a canoe, kayak, or fishing gear to really spend some time enjoying the pleasant, peaceful water.

Check out our Southwest Florida beaches map to explore all the possibilities when it comes to planning a day of fun in the sun.

Bowditch Point Regional Park

If you’re looking for beaches near Southwest Florida International Airport, you’ll definitely want to check out Bowditch Point Regional Park.

At Bowditch Point Regional Park on Fort Myers Beach, you can enjoy panoramic beach views, access a swimming beach, and walk the trails of this 17.5 acre nature preserve and recreation area.

Whether you want to go kayaking, canoeing, birding, or swimming, this is a convenient location to enjoy some family-friendly fun. You can easily take a trolley up to the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach where you can enjoy a village deck, a boardwalk, a picnic area, and a bathhouse year round from dawn to dusk.

Lovers Key State Park

The group of islands collectively known as Lover’s Key State Park are some of the most pristine barrier islands in Southwest Florida. These islands help to protect Florida’s gulf coast during storms and were formed by tides and waves.

You can find some of the most beautiful beaches in the world at Lover’s Key State park. With the Gulf of Mexico as the backdrop, you can enjoy more than two miles of sugar-sand beaches here.

Whether you want to snorkel, shell, or simply sit on the beach and enjoy the sounds of the waves, this is a spot you’ll want to check out.

While you’re here, you might even spot some dolphins offshore hunting for fish and playing. If you feel inspired to join in, you can catch snook, redfish, trout, and tarpon here. It’s also quite popular to cash netting for mullet on the bay side.

In the bayside estuaries, you’ll find that this ecologically rich area attracts 40 different species of birds, West Indian manatees, and bottlenose dolphins.

Lynn Hall Memorial Park

Located in the heart of Fort Myers Beach, this spot offers many recreational activities such as picnic shelters, a playground, a fishing pier, and a bathhouse.

Open from dawn to 11 pm year round, this is a family-friendly beach that isn’t far from delicious restaurants and awesome shops. However, this beach is on the smaller side and parking can be limited. If you’d like to avoid driving around looking for parking for too long, it’s recommended that you show up before 10 am to make it easier to grab a spot.

Beaches in Naples

Barefoot Beach

When it comes to Southwest Florida beaches, sometimes it feels like you have to choose between beaches that are overrun with tourists and quieter beaches that are a bit of a trip to get to. Barefoot Beach offers you the best of both worlds. When you’re on Barefoot Beach, you feel like you’re light years away from the sprawling development of civilization, but it’s actually only 15 minutes west of I-75.

Once you’re on Barefoot Beach, you can head south if you’re looking to get away from people. Here you’ll find a mile of beach that borders 342 acres of natural land. At the end, you’ll find Wiggins Pass, across which there is another similarly gorgeous beach and park known as Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.

Barefoot Beach has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in The United States because of the beautiful small shells, the fine sand, the gentle waves, the wildlife, and the overall vibe.

Clam Pass Park

This beach park is both close to the city but also hidden away. Located about six miles north of Naples, this park features beautiful mangroves, serene white-sand beaches, and a 3,000-foot boardwalk. While here, you’ll find picnicking areas, a snack bar, beach rental spots, and much more.

Delnor-Wiggins State Recreation Area

Located on a barrier island near Naples, Delnor-Wiggins State Recreation Area is a popular destination with one of the most pristine stretches of beaches on the planet. Here, you can enjoy expansive and peaceful views of the Gulf of Mexico from a true tropical paradise.

Whether you feel like hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, shelling, fishing, or sunbathing, Delnor-Wiggins should make it onto your itinerary this vacation. However, plan ahead because high visitation leaves the park frequently closing between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm on the weekends. However, you can still walk into the park during this time by parking across the bridge at Collier County’s Conner Park.

Horizon Way Beach

You can access this beach from Horizon Way. Residents of Naples with a beach pass can park here for free, while visitors can pay for metered parking. This beach is sort of off-the-beaten path and doesn’t attract nearly as many visitors as some of the more popular beaches.

If you’re looking to explore some hidden gems in the area, check out this Naples beach on your trip.

Lowdermilk Park

This is a popular family beach with two sand volleyball courts, two playgrounds, a duck pond, and picnic tables. There is also easy beach access for wheelchairs and strollers thanks to a wheelchair ramp.

If you visit Lowdermilk Park in the morning, you can even take yoga classes right on the beach with instructors from a local yoga studio.

Via Miramar Beach

This is a nice, clean, white-sand beach located in Naples. It can be a struggle to find parking during peak times, so it’s recommended that you park elsewhere and walk. If you’re looking for a lovely place to watch the sunset in Naples, consider checking out Via Miramar Beach.

Naples Municipal Beach

One of the most popular attractions for visitors to Naples is the Naples Municipal Beach and Fishing Pier. Built as a freight and passenger dock in 1888, the pier continues to be a landmark in the community after its renovation.

The fishing pier extends 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The beach itself is ten miles long and offers opportunities to play volleyball, watch wildlife, picnic, and watch a magnificent Gult of Mexico sunset.

North Gulfshore Boulevard Beach

You can access this beach from the North Gulf Shore Beach Access, which is a quaint walkway located between the condos of North Gulf Shore Boulevard and Seagate. There are only a handful of beach access points in this upscale beachfront neighborhood.

This beach is open from 8 am to sun down and doesn’t have any facilities. There is parking available, but you will need to either have a Beach Parking Permit or pay a $6 parking fee.

Vanderbilt Beach

Located in a prime spot near upscale hotels, Vanderbilt Beach Park is one of the most popular beach accesses in the area. Here you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous, wide, wide-sand beaches conveniently located in the popular North Naples area. If you want to avoid driving around looking for parking, you’ll want to arrive before 10 am during the peak season between January and March.

Vedado Way Beach

You can access a small public beach that is quiet and clean from Vedado Way. Located on a barrier island in Naples, this is a no frills beach that offers showers but can be difficult to park at during peak times.

Beaches on Sanibel Island

Bowmans Beach

This is probably the most popular beach on all of Sanibel Island. The five minute hike from the parking lot to the beach will be well worth your time and energy, as it will give you access to great shelling and miles of unobstructed white sand beaches. While the rest of Sanibel Island has been intensely developed, Bowmans Beach remains much closer to its original natural state.

You can use a Lee County Annual Parking Sticker to park here or you can pay a fee of $5 per hour. You can saltwater fish from the shore here, but you’ll need a Saltwater Fishing License. To further explore the beaches of this gorgeous island, check out our Sanibel Island map of beaches.

Gulfside City Park – Algiers Beach

This is a wonderful spot to have a picnic just off Casa Ybel Road on Sanibel Island. You can easily and comfortably access the beach via boardwalks and utilize the barbecue grills offered onsite. This beach is open 24 hours a day and is family friendly and pet friendly.

If you’re looking for Southwest Florida beaches without red tide, you’ll be glad to know that popular destinations like Sanibel, Captiva, Fort Myers, Naples, and Marco Island are all free and clear of this toxic phenomena.

Sanibel Causeway Beaches

There are two very popular beaches located on the islands that link Sanibel Island to the mainland. The islands are referred to as Causeway A and Causeway B, both of which offer the opportunity to swim, fish, windsurf, shell, kiteboard, canoe, kayak, picnic, and more.

The larger of the two islands is Causeway B. Here you will find amenities such as restroom facilities, picnic tables, and drinking fountains. You can bring your pets with you as long as you keep them on leash and the parking is free.

Sanibel Lighthouse Beach

Located on the easternmost tip of Sanibel Island, Lighthouse Beach Park is a 32 acre park that offers picnic areas, a fishing pier, and showers. This scenic spot is a great place to watch wildlife, shell, walk nice trails, and visit a historic lighthouse.

Tarpon Bay Beach

This beach offers great opportunities for shelling and enjoying the gorgeous water and white sands. Be warned that the parking area can fill up quickly, though, and the beach can get a bit crowded during peak times.

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