Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park offers kayaking, surf fishing and a spectacular beach
Note: Due to Hurricane Ian, the park is currently closed (as of Dec. 4.) Please visit Florida State Park’s Storm Updates page for additional information.
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.
The beach at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park resources
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park kayak, canoe and SUP rental: A range of watercraft are available including SUPs starting at $30 for a half hour, kayaks starting at $41 for singles, canoes starting at $52 and guided kayak tours, which must be booked in advance.
Greatest asset: Variety. Delnor-Wiggins State Park 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.
Pets: Not on the beach
NOTE: See our updated Florida Red Tide Report.
Location: From I-75, take Exit 111 (Immokolee Road) and drive six miles west to the entrance.
11135 Gulf Driver North
Naples, FL 34108
What’s near Delnor-Wiggins State Park?
- Barefoot Beach Preserve has been ranked the second best beach in America.
- Kayaking or canoeing: Koreshan State Historic Park on the Estero River and the Imperial River in Bonita Springs both offer excellent routes.
- 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 (and it’s a really interesting visit on its own.)
- Another great beach nearby: Clam Pass Park,
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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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.