The Guide: Best Beaches

COLLIER COUNTY

 

Barefoot Beach
Where it is: West end of Bonita Beach Road
Why we love it: There’s lots of wildlife to be seen on this barrier island, including gopher tortoises, butterflies and a variety of birds. A mile-long shaded nature trail offers a respite from the sun—and the drive in offers eye candy in the form of magnificent beachfront homes.
Ease of parking: Good. Three parking areas ensure lots of places to park, and you can park along the road if the spots fill up. (Be sure to check for gopher tortoises under your car when you leave!) The fee is $8 per car; free with a Collier County beach parking sticker.

 Delnor-Wiggins Pass
Where it is: West end of Immokalee Road in North Naples
Why we love it: There’s nothing like a barbecue on the beach, and Delnor-Wiggins is the place to go to do just that. Nab a charcoal grill in a tree-shaded picnic area (don’t worry—there are plenty of them!) and host your own toes-in-the-sand shindig.
Ease of parking: Good. The fee is $6 per car for as long as you stay.

Vanderbilt Beach
Where it is: West end of Vanderbilt Beach Road in North Naples
Insider’s scoop: Vanderbilt is one of Naples’ most popular beaches thanks to its prime North Naples location. Finding some sand to yourself can be hard to come by, particularly during season, but its walking-distance proximity to restaurants and bars makes it worth the crunch after a long day in the sunshine.
Ease of parking: Fair; better when you arrive early in the day. The new parking garage handles a capacity of 375 cars—a major improvement. The fee is $8 per car; free with a Collier County beach parking sticker.

Clam Pass
Where it is: West end of Pine Ridge Road in North Naples (adjacent to the Naples Grande)
Why we love it: The trip to the beach is almost as enjoyable as the destination. A three-quarter-mile boardwalk winds through a mangrove forest and a tidal bay area teeming with marine life and birds. Walk it for an up-close view, or take the free golf cart trolley. Once on the beach, you’ll find restrooms, a beach bar with snacks and drinks, and plenty of rental options, including towels, chairs, umbrellas, aqua bikes, canoes and windsurfers.
Ease of parking: Good. The fee is $8 per car; free with a Collier County beach parking sticker.

Lowdermilk Park
Where it is: The northern end of Naples Beach, at Banyan and Gulf Shore boulevards
Why we love it: Picnics have never been better than at Lowdermilk, thanks to its picturesque landscaped park area with a beach view. Sand volleyball courts, two playgrounds, a duck pond, concession stand and restrooms with showers make it a great place for impromptu get-togethers with family of all ages.
Ease of parking: Not good. Parking is metered at 25 cents per six minutes (pay with coins or MasterCard or Visa); free in designated areas with a Collier County beach parking sticker.

Naples Beach and Pier
Where it is: West end of 12th Avenue South in downtown Naples
Why we love it: Whether it’s for fishing, a game of sand volleyball or to glimpse a little bit of history, the recently renovated Naples Pier is a must-see for visitors and locals alike. If you’re in the mood for a stroll, there are great views on both sides of the sand, thanks to impressive real estate on both north and south sides of the pier.
Ease of parking: Fair. Parking is metered at 25 cents per six minutes (pay with coins or MasterCard or Visa); free in designated areas with a Collier County beach parking sticker. You can also opt to receive a text when your space is about to expire and extend your meter via your phone.

 

LEE COUNTY

 

Bonita Beach
Where it is: Along Estero Boulevard from Bonita Beach Road northward
Insider’s scoop: There’s plenty of family-friendly activities at this beach, including a playground, covered picnic areas and jet ski rentals. Pack your own snacks, and skip a visit to nearby Doc’s Beach House—what it offers in prime location, it seriously lacks in service and quality.
Ease of parking: Fair; better when you arrive early in the day. There’s a large parking lot, but it fills up quickly. If you can’t find a spot in the lot, 10 smaller public beach access points offer free but limited parking at intervals along Estero Boulevard.

Lover’s Key
Where it is: Estero Boulevard north of Big Hickory Island
Why we love it: For years only accessible by boat, Lover’s Key is the place to go if you’re feeling adventurous. Biking and hiking trails, guided kayak tours through the estuary, fishing, paddleboarding and canoeing are popular options here, and shelling is abundant, as well.
Insider’s scoop: If you’re coming with a small group, park at the north gate and walk south to the trails and beaches. There is a $2-per-person donation box as you walk in from the north. If you park within the entrance to the park, which is further south, the cost is $8 per car.
Ease of parking: Good.