Unspoiled beach is in Bonita Springs near Naples
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.
Barefoot Beach took a wallop. It reopened but not all facilities were immediately available. As of Jan. 19 when we visited, 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.) When we visited, no one was collecting the $10 entrance fee.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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 back in operation yet.)
The real attraction, though, is a perfect, unspoiled natural beach lined with a lush profusion of vegetation.
For more information:
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 Road off Bonita Beach Road
$10 parking/entrance fee.
Hours: 8 a.m. to sundown
Phone: (239) 591-8596
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.
Beach, kayaking and manatees in winter: Lovers Key State Park
Bicycling: A great way to sample beaches is by bike in old Naples.
Camping: Koreshan State Historic Park (a really interesting visit on its own)
NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.