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Barefoot Beach, ‘second best beach in America,’ is wild and wonderful

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.

Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park is located at the end of Barefoot Beach Road off of Bonita Beach Road —  15 minutes west of I-75. To reach the park, you wind through a residential community of million-dollar homes.

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 Wiggins Pass.

Note: Following Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022, Collier County Parks lists Barefoot Beach among the parks that have NOT reopened (as of Dec. 4.) Here’s the updated list.

This 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 it 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.

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

Kayaking is popular on the inland side of Barefoot Beach, with its tidal creeks and mangrove swamps. Canoes can be rented at the Barefoot Beach concession and there is no launch fee if you bring your own.

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. Here’s a trail map:

Barefoot Beach trail map
Barefoot Beach trail map

In recent years, a concession has opened that rents beach chairs, umbrellas and cabanas as well as food that you can order to be delivered here. Details are at Discover Barefoot Beach. (Note: Closed Monday and Tuesday.)

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: 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

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?

Kayaking or canoeing:  Koreshan State Historic Park on the Estero River, the Imperial River in Bonita Springs, 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

Walkway to Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs
Walkway to Barefoot Beach, Bonita Springs. (Photo: David Blasco)

NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.

Notes from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning a trip, especially to areas hard hit by hurricanes.

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