Last updated on March 27th, 2017 at 03:30 pm

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park offers kayaking, surf fishing and a spectacular beach

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
The pass at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is where the Cocohatchee River flows into the Gulf. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

We came to kayak the mangrove-lined waterways of Wiggins Pass and the Cocohatchee River in Naples. What we learned, however, is that while the kayaking is pleasant enough, the beach at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is what’s truly special here.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park makes a great destination because you can enjoy so many recreational activities in one place –  a good  kayaking spot, outstanding surf-fishing and a one-mile-long powdery-white sand beach with clear water, shells and shaded picnic tables nearby.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Kayaking among the mangroves at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The beach at Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Sea star in clear water at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

While the mangrove-area paddling was pretty typical of lots of places in Florida, we thought the beach at Delnor-Wiggins was exceptional.

You can walk for a mile with very clear water full of creatures. We found live shells, sea stars and watched a small ray scoot along the shore. Beaches don’t come any prettier in South Florida.

Live shell at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.
Live shell at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: David Blasco)

Near the pass, swimming is prohibited and surf-fishing rules. We watched fishermen throw a cast net into what looked like a dark cloud just off the beach and pull out dozens of big mullet. Park info says fishermen commonly land snook, red drum and sea trout.

The beach is a rare Gulf Coast spot where snorkeling is popular. We didn’t try it, but the park’s information indicates there is a hard bottom reef that runs parallel to the beach near parking areas one and two. It’s in about 8 or 10 feet of water.

A boardwalk trail at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
A boardwalk trail at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

All along the beach, there are picnic tables a little ways from the beach, tucked among shade of trees. These make appealing places for a picnic or to relax out of the sun.

Beach concessions are located in parking lot four, where you can get basic burgers and snacks as well as rent beach umbrellas, floats and beach toys.

An observation deck and short boardwalk are located in coastal hammock at the north end of the park.

Kayaking options around Wiggins Pass

Wiggins Pass divides Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park from Barefoot Beach Preserve to the north. On both sides, there are spectacular beaches and the mouth of the pass is lined with white sandbars. Delnor-Wiggins Park preserves 166 acres of undisturbed barrier island.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Spectacular beach at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Just inland from the pass, there are clusters of mangrove islands on both the north and south sides, and they make great places to explore by kayak. The area attracts a variety of birdlife – we saw osprey, kingfishers and a many types of herons and egrets. (Better birders could probably spot more species, including the black-whiskered vireo, which apparently is abundant.)

Fisherman with a cast net pulled in dozens of mullet at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.
Fisherman with a cast net pull in dozens of mullet at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

While we paddled Water Turkey Bay, which forms the eastern border of Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, we saw two dolphins – common in the area, we have read.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park has a large boat ramp on Water Turkey Bay where you can put in your own kayak (or power boat) or rent them.

If you start paddling from the boat ramp, you can paddle across Water Turkey Bay and find a channel that takes you on a narrow route through the mangroves for about a mile, bringing you to the Cocohatchee River and, eventually, a route back to the pass.

A perfect beach day at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, but the beach is not crowded. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

We did this three-mile loop, except we put in at the other end, Cocohatchee Park, Vanderbilt Drive between 111th Avenue & Bonita Beach Road. Launching here is $4. (This is a route included in Nigel Foster’s helpful “Guide to Sea Kayaking in Southern Florida” book.)

Ospreys at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Ospreys at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Another alternative for paddlers would to explore the mangrove islands on the north side of the pass, the waterway east of Barefoot Beach known as the Wiggins Pass Estuarine Area. Barefoot Beach has marked a kayak trail through the mangroves, which is mapped here.

Take a look at Google map’s satellite view to see the various kayaking options.

Paddlers are discouraged from paddling in the pass because of motorboat traffic and strong currents. It’s safer to the hug the shoreline and to cross the river where the water widens well east of pass.

Boat rental: $38 per for one person kayak; $58 per half day for a double kayak. SUPs are $27 an hour and canoes $35 for two hours.) (Prices as of as of spring 2017.)

Greatest asset: Variety. Delnor-Wiggins has the powdery white sand and clear water of the best Gulf Coast beaches, and it is one of the most pristine beaches in southeast Florida. It also has some snorkeling opportunities and good fishing at the pass.

Parking: The state park has lots of parking, though it can fill up on holiday afternoons.

Fees: Admission is $6 per vehicle with up to eight people per vehicle.

Alcohol: No

Pets: Not on the beach

Location: From I-75, take Exit 111 (Immokolee Road) and drive six miles west to the entrance.

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

11135 Gulf Driver North
Naples, FL 34108

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park official website

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