Top Beaches of Southwest Florida

The warm weather and sparkling white sand beaches of Florida’s southwest coast (AKA “Paradise Coast”) make it the ideal place for visitors from around the world. With its mix of relaxed and fast-paced activities make it a place for everyone. With over 140 miles of coastline, it is also home to some of Florida’s most beautiful places. From Venice, south to Marco Island, join in exploring the top beaches of southwest Florida.

Venice Beach

1600 Harbor Beach Drive South

Bring the family, including your fur babies, to beautiful Venice Beach. Know for its relaxing vibe, and stellar beachombing, the area has something for your whole gang.

The beach is ideal for shell collectors, a lucky few may even fine a fossilized shark tooth! If shopping is more your style, Venice Beach is just a stone’s throw from historic Downtown’s many shops and restaurants.

Venice Beach’s updated fishing pier is open to anglers and sightseers at no charge. Bring your own equipment or rent fishing gear from the pier concession stand. If you don’t feel like catching fish (including juvenile sharks!) you’re sure to catch an amazing sunset.

This easy-access beach has plenty of free and metered parking for cars and RVs (but no overnight parking).

Learn more about this historic and interesting area here.

Brohard Beach Paw Park

1600 Harbor Drive South

Bring your four-legged friends to Venice’s only off-leash dog beach. This family friendly spot is a hit with local canines and humans.

Designated fenced park areas are available for large and small dogs. However, the beach is off-leash so dogs can run and play freely in the sand and water. The beach is spacious enough for humans, and maybe a few pampered pups, to bring their beach chairs.

There are freshwater stations for rinsing off after your play time in the sand and surf. Be sure to practice safe sun for you and your pet with our info here.

Insider tip: Parking is limited. Plan to arrive early to score a spot.

Sanibel Island

Come to Sanibel Island to experience some of the most unique barrier islands in the United States. While most barrier islands run north/south along the coast, Sanibel islands rune east-to-west. This makes for award-winning shelling beaches and pristine white sands.

Join visitors from around the world who come here to collect fossils and shells (picking-up live shelled-creatures is not allowed). Biking is also popular on this laid-back island. You can bring your own or rent a bike from several concessions on the island.

Check out the historic Sanibel Lighthouse at the eastern end of the island (110 Periwinkle Way). Access the fishing pier and a boardwalk trail through the wetland ecosystem. There is plenty of metered parking at this beautiful beach.

Gulf Side City Park

Algiers Lane

Make a relaxing stop at mid-island Gulf Side City Park. Here you can park your bike or car and hit the white sand for a picnic or a dip in the Gulf. Head just down the road to Tarpon Beach (2475 West Gulf Drive). This spot has short-term RV and oversized vehicle parking just a short walk from the beach.

Bowman’s Beach

Bowman Beach Road, off Sanibel Captiva Road

Bring your lunch to grill at Bowman’s Beach – the only Sanibel beach that offers barbecue grills. This quiet spot is perfect for relaxing and enjoying quality time on the sand. Rental chairs and umbrellas are available. Visitors can also explore the nature and fitness trails, or launch your or kayak or canoe.

Families will enjoy the kid’s playground and picnic tables. Bowman’s Beach is a shell collector’s dream – just make sure you’re not taking any living shells.

Insider tip: Arrive early to get a metered parking spot and be prepared to pay $5 per hour. Be prepared for a long walk to the shore. Bring water shoes to avoid the shells lining the water’s edge.

Blind Pass Beach

6491-6499 Sanibel Captiva Road

Come experience two sides of paradise! Blind Pass spans both Sanibel and Captiva islands offering almost 3,00 feet of Gulf front. The area is also known as “Middle Beach” because of its location between the two islands.

Both sides of this Gulf-front park offer parking, beach access, canoe and kayak launches, unpaved trails, and fishing. Swimming is not permitted due to the fast-moving currents.

Bring your pets too! Leashed dogs are welcome on the Sanibel side only.

Insider tip: There are no facilities on the Sanibel side of this beach. Find everything else you need to plan your escape to Sanibel here.

Estero Island

Fort Myers Beach

Check out the inviting vibe of old Florida along Estero Island’s Fort Myers Beach. From resorts to mom and pop motels this seven mile stretch of paradise has something for everyone!

Beach goers will love the wide white sandy beach. There are plenty of rental concessions for chairs, umbrellas, and even equipment. The inviting, calm Gulf will make you want to hop on a jet ski and head out into the sunset!

Rather stay on dry land? Learn about the history of the area at the historic Mound House museum and archaeology center. Check out the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center to learn about local marine life. Explore the trails of Matanzas Pass Preserve Nature Sanctuary.

You won’t go hungry on this barrier island, with dozens of restaurants, bars, and ice cream parlors to choose from.

Looking to take your pet pal to the beach? Dogs are allowed on Fort Myers Beach, as long as they are leashed.

Map-out your adventures on Fort Myers Beach by clicking here.

Lovers Key State Park

8700 Estero Boulevard, Fort Myers

Experience Florida’s natural beauty at this top beach of southwest Florida.  Getting to Lovers Key used to be only for the dedicated boaters, making it a very exclusive beach. (Some say it gets its name from romantic visitors who would use the secluded spot for quality private time). Now the park is easily accessible to everyone by boardwalk or tram.

Adventurers will be happy with the options here, including guided kayak tours, or hiking the trails. Looking to relax? You won’t be disappointed. The miles of white sand beach are perfect for resting or combing the shore for shells.

Get in tune with nature as you look-out for dolphin, flying fish, and birds who make this special ecosystem their home.

Insider tips: Parking is $8. per vehicle and there are many spaces. Wear comfortable walking shoes as the parking lot is approximately two blocks from the tram. There is a small concession stand on the Gulf side, but it’s not a bad idea to bring plenty of water and sun screen to get your adventures started.

Bonita Beach

Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park

505 Barefoot Beach Boulevard

Explore southwest Florida’s last undeveloped barrier island. Barefoot Beach is 342 acres of unspoiled, plush surroundings that give visitors a glimpse into the Sunshine State’s interesting past.

Barefoot Beach offers plenty to see and do. From the white sand beach on the Gulf to the inland side’s tidal creeks and mangrove swamp. There are nature trails and you can speak with rangers and guides to learn more about the environment and wildlife that inhabit southwest Florida.

Check out the one mile nature trail, or hit up the concession stand to get snacks or rent beach equipment.

There is an $8 entry fee per vehicle parking (over 350 spaces are available). Visitors with mobility issues will find beach wheelchairs available for use.

Bonita Dog Beach

Hickory Boulevard, south of McLaughlin Boulevard

Bonita’s dog beach is the perfect spot for a fun time with your four-legged family members. It’s almost hard to tell who is having a better time here – the tail-wagging pups or their loyal humans!

Geting to this beach is easyy thanks to a nearby pay parking lot. You and your pup won’t want to leave this beach, but when you do there is a fresh water rinse-off station for you and your critters.

Insider tip: Visit at low tide to  make it easier for small dogs and humans carrying beach gear to wade through the water near the entrance canal.

Naples

Clam Pass County Park

465 Seagate Drive at Crayton Road

Get in touch with nature at Clam Pass County Park. This 35 acre coastal habitat park is home to a mangrove forest, coastal dunes, and over 3,000 feet of Gulf beach.

From the minute you hite the boardwalk through the mangrove forest it’s a special experience. At 3/4 mile it’s a great opportunity to get some steps in! Or you can opt to take the free tram that runs from the parking area to the beach throughout the day.

Hit the sand and relax on a rented beach chair, or stroll along the shell-filled shore. Visitors seeking a more active adventure can rent catamarans and kayaks from concessions on the beach. A beach wheelchair is available to visitors needing access on the sand.

Get all the info to plan your perfect Clam Pass experience here.

Naples Pier

25 12th Avenue South

Get in touch with Florida’s history at the 600 foot Naples Pier. Established in 1888 as a passenger and freight dock for ships from around the world. Now, the pier is a departure point for fun and adventure along the pristine Gulf beach.

Looking for a good catch? Bring your fishing pole or your camera – you might catch some great fish, or at least a fantastic view from the pier. As of March 2020 the westernmost end of the pier is closed for reconstruction following Hurricane Irma in 2017. Construction is expected to resume in summer.

Seeking the perfect sunset? Naples Pier is a top southwest Florida beach destination for sunset gazing. Insider tip: Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunset to find a paid parking spot and make your way to the pier.

After you watch the amazing sun set head over to enjoy one of the many area restaurants or bars. 12the Avenue has plenty of places to choose from, ranging from casual to upscale. Get all the info to plan your Naples are visit here.

Marco Island

Tigertail Beach

Hernando Drive, Marco Island

The island haven of Marco Island is at the end of the line of Florida’s Gulf Coast Beaches (not including the Keys!). The mixture of resorts, posh shops and eateries, and one of the Gulf Coasts amazing beaches make for a special destination. This 31 acre beach offers everything under-the-sun.

Tigertail Beach is nestled among Marco’s high-rise condos and resorts on Hernando Drive. Park in the 210 space lot and stroll one of five boardwalks to the calm, wind-swept dunes.

The views of the Gulf shore are dotted with covered rental cabanas, making for an inviting day on the sugary white sand. Relaxation is never boring at this popular beach.

Active beachgoers can join in a game of volleyball, or enjoy the beach equipment rentals and concessions. Nature lovers will be excited by the butterfly garden and a variety of birds that make stops here year round.

Beach wheelchairs are available for visitors with mobility concerns upon request.

Southwest Florida Treasures

Florida’s top southwest beaches offer a variety of unique experiences for all visitors. Whether you’re looking to collect seashells or new memories with loved ones, southwest Florida has a wealth of treasures for you.

For more exciting locations to explore, click here.

Written by Jacqui May

Jacqui May has a background in nonprofit project management and writing. She is currently a freelance consultant, Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and writer. She enjoys working with diverse organizations to connect them with resources, and make a difference in the community.

Jacqui is a straight ally and several of her close family and friends identify as lgbtq. She volunteers with organizations serving veterans, developmentally disabled adults, the homeless, and low-income community members.

Originally from New York City, she is a long-time Floridian and has extensively explored the Sunshine State. Jacqui loves history and believes that everyone has a story worth listening to.


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