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Barefoot Beach, one of best beaches in America, is wild and wonderful

Though it’s easy to reach, Barefoot Beach makes you feel miles away from highways and highrises. It’s one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s southwest coast.

It reopened in November 2023 after severe damage from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022.

We think of Barefoot Beach as a secret beach; because it is a county park it tends to be known mostly by locals. If you want to get away from people, just start walking south. There’s a mile of beach lined with 342 acres of natural land, ending in the swift currents of picturesque Wiggins Pass.

Barefoot Beach took a wallop from Hurricane Ian in 2022. It reopened but not all facilities were immediately available. When we visited in January 2024, there were four portable restrooms, one portable wash station and only parking Lots 2 and 3 open. (Parking Lot 1 plus the Learning Center, restrooms, pavilion, gardens, boardwalks and showers are not accessible.) There is a $10 entrance fee, but when we visited, no one was collecting it.

To reach the Barefoot Beach, you turn south on Barefoot Beach Boulevard from Bonita Beach Road SW. On your first visit, you’ll think you made a mistake because there is a security guard booth here. You will be waved through, however, and you will drive through a Gulf-front neighborhood of multimillion dollar homes. After about a mile and a half, you reach the preserve and the end of the road.

Barefoot Beach is Florida, unspoiled, with sea oats supporting the sand dunes and a coastal hammock of sabal palm, gumbo limbo and sea grape trees.

Across the pass lies Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, a similarly gorgeous beach and park.

Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Stephen Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” named Barefoot to his top 10 beaches in America list for several years, but, fortunately, it remains unspoiled.

He describes it this way: “The surf is gentle with waves generally being measured in inches, and the water is very shallow, making this a great beach for bathing and swimming for families. The sand is fine and contains many small shells.”

Royal terns at Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs
Royal terns at Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Like at many of the Gulf’s spectacular beaches, you may find sand-dollars, shells or spot a bottle-nosed dolphin in the water in the distance.

Gopher tortoises and their burrows are plentiful along the nature trail that runs between the sand dunes and the hammock. (Look under your car when you go to leave for gopher tortoises that might have wandered in.) It’s a good place to see crawl marks left by nesting Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles in the summer.

Barefoot Beach IMG 1589 Barefoot Beach, one of best beaches in America, is wild and wonderful
On a cloudy Friday afternoon, there were few people at Barefoot Beach. Walking the beach was beautiful under a moody sky. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Kayaking is popular on the inland side of Barefoot Beach, with its tidal creeks and mangrove swamps. When full service returns, canoes and kayaks will be rented at the Barefoot Beach concession. There is no launch fee if you bring your own (after admission).

A canoe trip through the estuary guided by a park ranger operates January through April. Reservations are required. Call the Collier County Parks and Recreation office at 239-252-4060 for dates and time. Fee is $10 per person.

A one-mile nature trail weaves through the tropical hammock to Wiggins Pass, but it has not reopened since Hurricane Ian. Here’s a trail map:

Barefoot Beach trail map
Barefoot Beach trail map. Many of these facilities are not open yet because of hurricane damage.

In recent years, a concession has rented beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas as well as food that you can order to be delivered here. Details are at Discover Barefoot Beach. (Note: I doubt it is fully back in operation yet.)

The real attraction, though, is a perfect, unspoiled natural beach lined with a lush profusion of vegetation.

Shells on Barefoot Beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Shells on Barefoot Beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Amenities at Barefoot Beach include (most not yet available after hurricane): drink vending machines, restrooms, a learning center with natural history exhibits, butterfly and cactus gardens, a one-mile walking loop trail, picnic table and pavilion, foot shower, beach wheel-chair, bike racks and a life jacket loaner program.

Barefoot Beach

Barefoot Beach Road off Bonita Beach Road
$10 parking/entrance fee.
Hours: 8 a.m. to sundown
Phone: (239) 591-8596

For more information:

Frequent questions:

Are dogs allowed? No.

What are the hours of Barefoot Beach? 8 a.m. to sunset daily.

Is Barefoot Beach good for shelling? Yes. The best time is at low tide after strong winds or a storm.

Is alcohol permitted? No. Also, glass containers are not permitted, along with grills and fireworks.

An aerial-view video captures the beauty:

What’s near Barefoot Beach?

Everglades Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived since 1936. Now it’s a small but serene spot to enjoy glorious flora, colorful birds, gators and more. It’s located on Old 41 Road right on the Imperial River.

Shangri-la Springs, the site of the original spring in Bonita Springs, has beautiful grounds you are welcome to stroll, an organic restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch and a 1921 hotel with eight updated hotels rooms. It’s just down the street from Everglades Wonder Garden.

The Imperial River offers a kayak trp through old Bonita Springs that is worth discovering for its scenery. If you’re lucky, you may see manatees.

More kayaking options:  Koreshan State Historic Park on the Estero River and the Cocohatchee and Water Turkey Bay from Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.

Barefoot Beach sand dollar (Photo: David Blasco)
Barefoot Beach sand dollar (Photo: David Blasco)

Beach, kayaking and manatees in winter: Lovers Key State Park

Bicycling: A great way to sample beaches is by bike in old Naples.

CampingKoreshan State Historic Park (a really interesting visit on its own)

More great beaches nearby:  Clam Pass Park, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.

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James Jordan

Wednesday 21st of February 2024

2.21.24: a call to Collier County Parks confirmed that the kayak launch is not yet open, with no opening date known.

Bonnie Gross

Wednesday 21st of February 2024

Thanks for the update! I appreciate all your info and input over the years! If you're looking for this kind of kayak, I recently did a great little paddle nearby at Clam Pass Park. Similar to Barefoot Beach, with the addition of the chance to paddle to and stop at the beach at Clam Pass, which is about as pretty a spot as you can find.

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