Whether it's a long walk on a secluded beach, a stand-up paddleboard excursion into warm Gulf of Mexico waters or a sunset watch party, the area's unspoiled beaches provide ideal settings. Oceanfront resorts offer long stretches of beach and easy access to the Gulf of Mexico. In downtown Naples, there are several beach access points. Marco Island, with four miles of beautiful shoreline, offers beachfront resorts only steps away from gentle waves.
If you're staying at off-beach hotels, you'll find many public access beach parks – some with full facilities and others with simple, easily accessible entry points.
For the ultimate beach escape, venture to one of the many nearby island beaches accessible only by boat. You can rent a boat for a day or take one of the many sightseeing boats and shelling tours.
Here are a few natural sandy paradises to enjoy:
At Clam Pass Beach Park, a 35-acre coastal habitat and preserve, your day at the beach comes complete with a ride through a mangrove forest. Here, you ride from the parking lot to the beach on a mini-tram over a boardwalk that winds through a pristine coastal habitat along a three-quarter-mile boardwalk.
Whether you take the tram or enjoy a leisurely stroll, you'll discover a wealth of bird species and other marine life that call this beautiful nature preserve home. Clam Pass is great for paddling and the beach park has a restaurant and watersports rentals.
Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park, north of Naples, is a naturalist's dream come true where you can explore the undeveloped barrier island on your own or by ranger-led programs to learn about the flora and fauna, including the gopher turtle, some of which reside in the upland areas at the preserve.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Naples, one of 17 Collier County sites on the Great Florida Birding Trail's Southern Section, has a mangrove forest and tidal pools, an observation tower and boardwalks. Kayakers can paddle through estuaries and snorkelers can explore the hard bottom reef in the Gulf.
Tigertail Beach Park on Marco Island, also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, has a butterfly garden, tidal lagoon, undulating dunes and boardwalks that allow glimpses of a variety of bird species such as roseate spoonbills, osprey, falcons, bald eagles, least terns, egrets, herons, pelicans and more. Nearby South Beach has a Sabal palm-lined walkway.
Vanderbilt Beach Park, a wonderland of white sands dotted with sea oats, abundant shells and several species of birds, provides convenient public access to the Gulf of Mexico. A covered parking garage is located just outside the park entrance.
Keewaydin Island is an eight-mile-long barrier island located between Naples and Marco Island, accessible only by boat. The beach seems to stretch endlessly on this island, which is only 20 percent developed with private homes.
The remainder is undeveloped land under the stewardship of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. There are boat rentals available from both Naples and Marco Island, and several daily sightseeing boat tours include stops for passengers to collect shells and stroll the sands.
There are several white sand beach islands within Everglades National Park approved for camping. Whether you paddle there in a kayak or take a small boat, you'll find plenty of eco-exploration on the water followed by a night under the stars. Permits for beach island camping are required and may be obtained at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City.