ALISON HAGERUP BEACH PARK
14790 Captiva Drive, Captiva
This northern-most public beach on Captiva is as far from the beaten path you can get without having to hop on a boat. The sands here are dotted with thousands of brightly colored shells ripe for the picking. And the locals know that this tucked-away locale is by far the best place on the island to watch an amazing sunset with someone special. The beach park is located at the end of San-Cap Road, directly behind South Seas Plantation. There is a beach parking lot ($10 for two hours) with direct access to Captiva Beach. Amenities include picnic shelters and restrooms.
BONITA BEACH PARK
27954 Hickory Blvd., Bonita Springs
This stunning beachfront park on the southern tip of Bonita Beach offers a variety of amenities including restrooms, showers, a playground, volleyball court, boardwalk, and paddlecraft landing/launch. Sand dunes and coastal vegetation surround a gazebo and eight picnic shelters with grills. This is an ideal spot for sunsets and dolphin spotting.
BOWDITCH POINT REGIONAL PARK
50 Estero Blvd., Estero Island
Bowditch Point Regional Park encompasses the 17-acre northern tip of Estero Island, with 10 acres set aside for restoration and preservation. This serene location offers access to both the Gulf of Mexico and back bay. Walking trails wind through varied environments and offer excellent opportunities for birdwatching as well as views of Estero Bay. Bowditch Point, a designated Great Florida Birding Trail site, boasts 10 free dock slips for boats up to 28 feet in length and a paddlecraft launch. Fishing is not permitted from the docks. Amenities include a boardwalk, fishing, charcoal grills, food/concessions, hiking trails, paddlecraft landing/launch, picnic shelters, restrooms, and showers.
1700 Bowman’s Beach Road, Sanibel Island
Isolated and picturesque, this is one of the most popular beaches on Sanibel Island, though there is plenty of space to stretch out. Great shelling and amenities make it worth the five-minute hike from the parking area to the beach. Adventurous beachcombers can walk for several miles on unobstructed white-sand beaches covered in shells. The shoreline at Bowman’s Beach has experienced little of the intense development seen on the rest of the islands. Amenities include charcoal grills, fishing, fitness stations, hiking trails, paddlecraft landing/launch, picnic shelters, a playground, restrooms, and showers. Courtesy beach wheelchairs are provided upon 24-hour notice to City of Sanibel Police Department Dispatch (239-472-3111).
BUNCHE BEACH PRESERVE
18201 John Morris Road, Fort Myers
Bunche Beach offers the best of both worlds: quietude and recreation. This 718-acre county park is an Old Florida, natural area ranging from a sandy beach to mangrove forests to salt flats. It contains a wide variety of wildlife and flora, offering great photo opportunities and stunning sunsets. Bunche Beach Preserve is a designated Great Florida Birding Trail site, and Bird Patrol Tours (239-533-7275) are regularly offered. The outdoor activity center has two paddlecraft launches, two wildlife viewing and fishing piers, a 310-foot boardwalk, and restrooms. There is no running water and all electric services are provided through solar power. Kayak Excursions (239-297-7011) is a full-service kayak and standup paddleboard company, offering rentals, tours, lessons, and sales on-site with a parking lot for customers. Plan ahead to get here early as there is only enough roadside parking for approximately 100 vehicles.
19931 Sanibel Causeway Road (SR/CR 867), Sanibel
The Sanibel Causeway links Sanibel Island to the mainland via two spoil islands bisecting San Carlos Bay. The two islands provide bay and Gulf access and free parking. Traveling from the mainland toward Sanibel Island, the first island is referred to as Island A while the second is referred to as Island B. Both are popular for fishing, wading/swimming, picnicking, canoeing/kayaking, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. Island A has parking only. Island B offers restrooms, drinking fountains, and a few picnic tables on the gulf side. There are no grills, though visitors are permitted to bring their own for festive gatherings. Leashed pets are welcome.
CAPE CORAL YACHT CLUB
5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral
Located on the shores of the Caloosahatchee River, this public beach is part of the popular Yacht Club Community Park. It is a happening family destination featuring picnic shelters, barbecue grills, restrooms, showers, a fishing pier, playground, heated swimming pool, marina, docks, and a restaurant. Free beach wheelchairs are available at the public pool.
GASPARILLA ISLAND STATE PARK
880 Belcher Road, Boca Grande
Separated from the mainland by Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, Gasparilla Island is part of a chain of Gulf Coast barrier islands. It also falls into both Lee and Charlotte counties.
The centerpiece of Gasparilla is the restored Port Boca Grande Lighthouse built in 1890. Swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and nature study are popular activities that can be accessed from five parking lots. Shelling is particularly good in the winter months. Two picnic areas (located at the Range Light and the Boca Grande Lighthouse parking lots) offer pavilions for shade and scenic views of the surrounding water. The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse houses a museum and is open to the public. The park is located on the south end of Gasparilla Island.
26082 Hickory Blvd., Bonita Springs
Little Hickory Island Park is in an isolated location just off Little Hickory Island with family-style restrooms, shelters, picnic tables, paddlecraft landing/launching, and an expansive Gulf view.
LOVERS KEY STATE PARK
8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
Lovers Key is an idyllic destination to visit no matter the season—and it’s easy to reach with a wide range of activities. With 1,616 acres providing 2.5 miles of undeveloped beachfront and back bays, Lovers Key is a group of four barrier islands situated between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs. You can make it a simple trip to the beach or go hiking or biking along 4.5 miles of trails, fishing, picnicking, birding, kayaking, paddleboarding, and geocaching. A popular way to reach the beach is via the park tram that loops every 15 minutes from the parking area inside the main park entrance to the shoreline. Near the covered tram shelter at the beach, there is a shower house and gazebo. The south beach features Hurricane Charley’s Hideaway, a bamboo-covered snack shack. Lovers Key Adventures (239-765-7788) sells sundries and rents out beach chairs and umbrellas, bicycles, pedal boats, and paddlecrafts. A boat ramp is located in the park for direct access to Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The on-site bait shop sells live and frozen bait. Note: Construction is underway for a welcome center that is anticipated to open in January 2021. During construction, a portion of parking lot No. 3 will be closed. At certain times, road access to the kayak launch will be closed, however, pedestrian access and hand portage of kayaks will remain open.
LYNN HALL MEMORIAL PARK
950 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers
Lynn Hall Memorial Park is located on Fort Myers Beach, north of the foot of Matanzas Pass Bridge, next to the bustling Times Square district. This lively Gulf-front park is conveniently located adjacent to shopping and restaurants. It features a licensed fishing pier (the iconic Fort Myers Beach Pier) with a bait shop, pole rentals, a gift shop, picnic shelters, outdoor rinse-off showers, restrooms with changing facilities, and a playground.
SANIBEL LIGHTHOUSE BEACH PARK
1 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island
Located on Sanibel Island’s southern tip, the 1884 lighthouse makes this family beach a picturesque location for shelling. It provides a clear view of the Gulf and plenty of large shade trees. You can enjoy a picnic, strolling on the beach, swimming in the ocean, fishing from the pier, sailing, or windsurfing. Around the corner from the beach and just beyond the restrooms is a smaller beach with a view of the Sanibel Causeway. Courtesy beach wheelchairs are provided upon 24-hour notice to City of Sanibel Police Department Dispatch (239-472-3111).
17200 Captiva Drive, Sanibel Island
Located just past the bridge to Captiva, Turner Beach is an ideal place for sunsets. This area has great fishing from the beach and the rock jetty. Swimmers should stay away from the bridge area due to deep, strong water and the threat of undertow. There are bars and restaurants nearby. Amenities include paddlecraft landing/launching and restrooms.