Beaches in southwest Florida. This is from Anna Maria island at sunset.

21 Best Beaches In Southwest Florida For Happy Summer Days (2024)

In the sunshine state of Florida, especially in the Southwest, you are absolutely right to expect to find amazing beaches. But what are the best beaches in Southwest Florida, and why are they considered the best ones?

I dug into it, and here is what I found. This article lists the 21 top beaches in Southwest Florida you can visit for incredible sandy, blissful days.

Even better, you can extend your summer bliss to almost any time of year by visiting Florida beaches.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Stunning Beaches In Southwest Florida!

The warm weather, friendly climate, and tropical vibe will welcome you almost anytime here along the Gulf of Mexico, on the barrier islands, or on the mainland.

Wherever you want to visit in this part of Florida, check out the 21 top beaches in Southwest Florida along the sunny amazing coast.

Unfortunately, some of these places are still going through some restoration after Hurricane Ian, but most of them are open after the fall of 2023.

1. Serene Sanibel Island

Some of the best beaches in Southwest Florida you find on Sanibel Island, here seen in warm sunlight from above!

Just outside of Fort Myers, you find Sanibel Island, an easily accessible island via the bridge that connects the island to the mainland.

Here, you find several long stretches of white sand along the outer shore, including one of the most popular beaches in Southwest Florida: the incredible Sanibel Beach.

The beaches on Sanibel Island have been winning awards for being among the best in Florida, and Sanibel has also been ranked the 7th best beach for shelling in the state and has gotten the nickname “the shelling capital of the world.”

The soft sands along this small island can easily be reached by crossing the bridge out here, and then all you need to do is lower your shoulders and breathe.

2. Marco Island

Warm sunlight in the afternoon over the beach on Marco Island, one of the best beach areas in Southwest Florida!

Marco Island is considered a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, situated almost right across from Miami on the western side of the mainland.

In addition to having world-class beaches, Marco Island is also close to top-rated golf courses and is located adjacent to the Everglades National Park on the mainland side.

Marco Island beaches stretch in a lazy S along the island’s western shore, surrounded by a variety of top-rated high-end resorts like the Hilton and the Mariott.

If you choose to go here just for a day, there are plenty of fun things to do apart from lounging on the sands, like dolphin viewings, alligator spotting, kayaking, or fishing. Why not join a top-rated wildlife tour?

Or head over here for one of the annual music or food festivals that attracts people from all over the world.

3. Tigertail Beach

Tigertail Beach is the most famous beach on Marco Island, nicely tucked away on the northwestern shore of Marco Island shores, but still close to restaurants, bars, and beach clubs.

You can splurge across three whole miles of crispy white sand on Tigertail Beach and along the water.

Explore the sand shelling, look for wildlife along the edges, be able to spot fascinating birds, or splash in the tidal pools that form along the sand.

4. Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers beach fishing pier and soft sands in warm sunset light

Outside of Fort Myers town on Estero Island, just on the south side of the mangroves, you will find a wonderful spot called Fort Myers Beach.

Situated on an island, it is connected to the mainland with a bridge and is easy to reach, and the long and thin island has a staggering seven miles of bright white sands to pamper you.

Along Fort Myers beach, you will find a variety of hotels and resorts if you want to stay a while.

Try out the variety of fun activities like stand-up paddling, kayaking, dolphin tours, parasailing, or just enjoying yourself in the surf with or without a mask and snorkel!

5. Captiva Island

Arial photo of the long beaches on Captiva Island in Florida, the United States.

Captiva Island is one of the barrier islands outside Fort Myers on Florida’s southern West coast, with endless white sands stretching along the entire shore of the thin barrier.

This island is a no-car island; you can only move around with golf carts.

As you can not reach North Captiva Island by car, you must find a ferry, a boat, or even an aircraft to get across the Redfish Pass to the north island.

With a vast number of family-friendly activities available, like surfing, fishing, and whale watching, or admire the powerful ocean meeting shore on the beach at sunset.

Captiva Island, also referred to as Alison Hagerup Beach Park, is a perfect destination for a family beach getaway. Captiva Beach is considered a wonderful spot for romantic getaways.

Despite being one of the most popular paradisiacal beach islands in the area, great for shelling in particular, this small barrier island has been able to maintain a particular secluded charm.

6. Gasparilla Island And Boca Grande

Sunset over the Boca Grande Island beach

A little to the north of Fort Myers, connected to the mainland with a bridge, is a small residential community called Boca Grande, or “the big mouth,” on Gasparilla Island.

Boca Grande is renowned for its sugary sandy beaches, blue waters, great fishing, and charming historic downtown. In the area called Gasparilla Island State Park, you can do fun activities like fishing and snorkeling and visit the 1890 lighthouse still standing. 

The whole island is something of a high-end island, accommodation is not cheap, and there is a small fee to even enter the shores.

If you decide to go, you will be able to enjoy not only pristine beaches but also unspoiled Florida history on the Whidden’s Marina, the old downtown, and the beautiful lighthouses.

Rent a bike or a golf cart to get around, have lunch at the elegant Gasparilla Inn, and visit the rustic Kappys Market when you are done with the white sandy beaches.

7. Bonita Springs

Wooden boardwalk shaded by green trees down to the white sandy beach Bonita Beach in Florida

The name Bonita Springs sounds like something of a freshwater oasis, but Bonita Springs is a Gulf Coast area in southwestern Florida between Naples and Fort Myers.

Bordered by a messy chain of bridge-connected islets, Bonita Springs is well known for its beautiful beaches and parks.

Home to several stunning coastal gems like the Bonita Beach Park and Little Hickory Beach Park with soft, cozy dunes, Bonita Springs is an amazing place to wind down with infinite sea views.

Or go on adventures with jet skis, kayaking, parasailing, and hiking, or visit the Wonder Gardens with hundreds of wildlife rescues to meet.

8. Bonita Beach Park

The entrance sign to the dog park in Bonita Beach in Florida, the United States!

Bonita Beach Park (beautiful beach in Spanish) is a fitting name for these sands a little south of Lovers Key. It is a great place if you love both chilling on the stunning white sands and being a little active.

On Bonita Beach, you find a volleyball court, picnic shelters, and a playground, so there is something for sun lovers of all ages to do when they need to “move that body” a little bit.

The beach is a mix of sand and shell, delicate and soft, and there are also top-notch amenities like changing rooms, restrooms, showers here, and parking spaces nearby.

Skilled lifeguards patrol the beach, so you can feel completely safe in the surf.

9. Clam Pass Park Beach

White painted wooden boardwalk down to white sands on Clam Pass Park Beach in Florida

Just north of Naples is Clam Pass Park, a public beach with nice amenities, close to public parking spaces ($10, and free tram to the beach), and super clean and maintained white sands!

From the beach, you have unsurpassed views not only of the bluish-green sea but also up and down the coast, which gives you an infinite airy feeling. The beach is open until sunset daily year-round.

Bring your own sun parasol, and spend your dollars at the tiki bar for a refreshing drink instead.

You can also embark on guided nature walks around Clam Pass Park, stroll the wooden boardwalks, or head out to sea with a small catamaran!

10. Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park probably attracts at least one particular segment of sun lovers just through its name.

It is also home to both the Lovers Key State Park Beach to the north and Lovers Key Beach along the west side.

Lovers can definitely visit without being disappointed, enjoying both the park, picnicking, or one of the designated lovers’ beaches for either relaxation or adventure.

There are wonderful camping areas, the parks are pet friendly, and you can opt for a boat tour with Island Bay Charters to venture off to some of the natural wonders nearby, like the Dry Tortuga National Park or the Everglades National Park.

11. Bowmans Beach

Bowmans Beach is one of the best beaches in Southwest Florida

Bowmans Beach Park is an amazingly picturesque park on Sanibel Island with trails alongside the soft sands and great amenities, and people love to go shelling here.

Just a five-minute walk from the beach parking area ($5 per hour), it is super accessible, still tranquil, and dog-friendly as long as your best friend is on a leash.

This beach is popular among “beachcombers” looking for shells and other sea treasures, as well as for its hiking trails, picnic areas, and gorgeous sunsets.

Bring your lunch and snacks, as the nearest restaurant is about three miles away.

You can also enjoy saltwater fishing from shore on Bowmans Beach, but unless you are a Florida resident, you need to get a fishing license.

12. Siesta Key

Siesta Key, further north between Fort Myers and Tampa, is best known for being a stunning quartz beach with paradise waters, as well as great amenities while still having a laidback and quiet vibe.

A versatile beach destination, Siesta Key is perfect for romantic couple trips, as well as family outings and groups of friends.

It is a haven for anyone looking for fun activities like paddleboarding, jet skiing, or kayaking. You can easily rent a paddleboard here.

13. Cayo Costa State Park

Cayo Costa State Park is a secluded nature oasis protecting the Charlot Harbor, boasting nine acres of lush forest and nine miles of pristine beaches. You can bring your pawed best friend here.

The only way to get to Cayo Costa State Park is by ferry or a private boat, and once you set foot on shore (which you can do from 8 am until sunset, $2).

You will enjoy true virgin beaches untouched by any development; this area is still like a secluded paradise.

Enjoy everything from swimming, shelling, snorkeling, bird-watching, or hiking or biking along the trails in Cayo Costa.

There are a variety of shore birds, and you can also get lucky and spot sea turtles, porpoises, or manatees.

14. Anna Maria Island

Sunrise over Anna Maria Beach in Southwest Florida

Anna Maria Island is a barrier island just outside of Tampa, boasting an old charming wooden pier, cafes, galleries, and a variety of shops to enjoy when you visit, in addition to the stunning beaches.

You can drive to Anna Maria Island, and you can also use Uber, Lyft, or the free island trolley to get around.

The three main beaches here are Anna Maria Bayfront Park, Coquina Beach, and Manatee Public Beach.

The one private beach on the island is called Bean Point and is known to be one of the most exclusive areas on the island.

15. Naples Beach

Naples Beach, outside of Naples, Florida, stretches for miles and miles with white sands right on top of where the Everglades National Park starts, from where it stretches all the way south and around the tip of Florida and towards Miami.

Naples Beach is known for its incredible sands but also its historic pier, which is an iconic landmark in the area.

The pier is a great spot for fishing but also an excellent place to be when the sun sets over Southwest Florida into the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the day.

You are allowed to bring your favorite drinks to Naples Beach, as long as you don’t enjoy them in glass-glasses, to keep everybody safe from harm. So go ahead and enjoy a “glass” of bubbles to accompany the sunset.

Inside Naples, Florida, you also find the Big Cypress National Reserve, so if you are staying a while and love to explore nature, you might want to spend a day out here in the wilderness.

16. Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda Beach on Manasota Key, a barrier key outside of Englewood that shields the mangrove on the inside, is a sandy paradise.

There is a short bridge over from the mainland, and once you get your feet on the sand, you are close to the top-rated Sea Oats Beach Club, restaurants, and a variety of accommodations if you want to stay the weekend.

Punta Gorda is well-known as a great place to visit for avid fishing enthusiasts as well as shoppers, sun worshippers, and boaters.

You can do the Punta Gorda Harbor Walk, a less than three-mile trail you can explore walking, running, or even with your bike to get active after a long day on the beach.

17. San Carlos Bay

Situated just at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, San Carlos Bay is an area called the “Old Florida,” a living ecosystem with everything from Mangrove forests to salt flats and stunning beaches.

This a great area for beach lovers who enjoy exploring nature and the variety of wildlife, and there are amazing photo-ops in this area for avid photographers.

San Carlos Bay is also a starting point for the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail if you like to get up close and personal with the Florida mangrove wildlife.

18. Longboat Key

Longboat Key, south of Tampa, is a narrow islet with calm waters in Sarasota Bay on the inside and the Mexico Gulf along its sandy beaches for you to relish on the outside.

Along the shoreline, you find a variety of hotels, beach clubs, bars, and restaurants nearby.

On Longboat Key, although super narrow, you also find the Harborside golf course, where you can play with wonderful views of the ocean.

The Key is also known for luxury shopping and its cultural attractions, like the Ringling Museum of Art, botanical gardens, and jungle gardens, as well as the Longboat Key Turtle Watch.

19. Stump Pass Beach State Park

Although not far from the mainland, this barrier reef key is like a secluded and remote place perfect for relaxing, swimming, fishing, and beach combing.

In Stump Pass Beach State Park, shelling here is best during the winter months, but you can find interesting things year-round.

For other activities, this is the perfect place to explore kayaking, hiking, wildlife spotting, and scuba diving if you love to observe the underwater world a bit more than snorkeling allows for.

With some luck, you might just run into a manatee outside the shore of Stump Pass Beach State Park.

20. Pine Island

Pine Island is hardly more than half an hour away from Fort Meyers, but the ambiance could not be more different!

This secluded island has a tranquil atmosphere, with wonderful waterways perfect for canoeing and kayaking in the Pine Island Aquatic Reserve, in addition to great fishing spots. 

You find a few nice places to eat in the small community of Pine Island, like the Waterfront Restaurant and Marina, and there are some hotels as well if you want to stay the night.

As this island was one of the hardest-hit places during Hurricane Ian, there is still some restoration work going on here in the summer of 2023. Do your research to check if what you want to do is open for business.

21. North Naples

North Naples is as it sounds, north of Naples Town, and the beach stretches north-south along the shoreline with crystal blue waters on one side and incredible wetlands on the other!

The most famous and one of the best beaches in Southwest Florida is Barefoot Beach, with the Barefoot Beach Club, which is scheduled to reopen in 2024 after Hurricane Ian’s destruction.

Normally Barefoot Beach is a wonderful place to spend a day on the beach, where you can often spot dolphins, pelicans, and tortillas.

You find rentals for parasols and chairs, and there are showers and restrooms available, as well as a small beach cafe with light meals.

FAQs Beaches Southwest Florida

So many beaches to choose from!

No wonder there are a few extra questions. I will try to answer the most frequently asked ones!

What is the best month to see dolphins in Florida?

From late spring to the end of summer, female dolphins from other areas flock to Destin when mating season rolls around.

As such, this time of year is perfect for dolphin watching.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Southwest Florida Beaches

March through May, in the dry season, before it is too hot and crowded, is the best time to visit the beaches in Southwest Florida!

Wrap-Up Best Beaches In Southwest Florida

There are so many small, paradisiacal, white sandy beach coves and incredible stretches of warm white sands in Florida, too many to present in a short blog post.

But now you have an overview of the most popular beaches in Southwest Florida, as well as some national parks, islands, and activities to do there for your next wonderful summer getaway!

Mind you, there are great beaches all across Florida; don’t forget about the stunning shores up north around Panama City, facing the Gulf of Mexico.

Your next winter destination, when you are craving a friendly sun, soft sand, and amazingly clear waters, you know where to go.

Related blog posts:

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