Each year a number of print and online magazines publish lists of “Top10” this or that. They could be places to eat, shop or vacation, but the ones I always peruse are the Top 10 Beaches lists. However I must say I am almost always disappointed, especially if the beaches of Southwest Florida are missing or come in last place. Why do we let someone in New York or Los Angeles tell us what the best beaches are in Florida?
I’ve decided to revolt and make a list as seen from the eyes of a local Floridian, but with no special order. Why no order? Because I’ve discovered that we beachgoers have particular reasons for visiting the beaches we love over and over again, and while some may be slightly better than others, it’s still a beach with a view that landlocked northerners would sell their souls to see.
Fort Myers Beach is very similar to the beach of my youth, Clearwater Beach. It has an enormous amount of diversity from the north end at Bowditch Point Park to the south near Big Carlos Pass. In between there’s a fishing pier, beachside eateries, bars and resorts. There is something available for just about any beach lover that’s looking for a Gulfside getaway.
Lovers Key State Park, just south of Fort Myers Beach, is located between Big Carlos Pass and New Pass. It’s a beautiful beach that is accessible via the park entrance and also from a parking area near Big Carlos Pass. I love to fish this beach because of its remoteness. Less beachcombers means more fish. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a drop-off point where the free tram takes beachgoers, but there’s still a lot of unexplored beach for shelling and fishing.
If I just want to relax with a good book and listen to the water lapping on a beach, I can be found at Barefoot Beach. Located at the very northern end of Collier County just off Bonita Beach Road, Barefoot Beach has a combination of remoteness and beauty that’s hard to beat. Bring a beach chair, your cooler and a book.
Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island is my fishing beach. I’ve hit them all at one time or another, but Bowman’s never disappoints. There will be a crowd of beachgoers at the end of the access walkway, but venture to the north or south and you’ll find plenty of space to cast a line for snook, seatrout, jacks and many other species. Go early for the best bite.
Cayo Costa State Park is located in Lee County on Cayo Costa Island and is accessible only by boat. If you’re not a boat owner there are ferry charters available from Pine Island, Captiva and Punta Gorda. If you want to step back in time to the way beaches looked well before all of us arrived, this is your beach. The shelling is top notch, especially after storms have passed, and the fishing is also good. I love hiking and exploring the many trails that run through the island. Here’s an important note. This is a day trip, so don’t miss the return boat if you arrived on the island by ferry.
Way down south in Collier County near Marco Island is Keewaydin Island. It can also only be reached by boat. Don’t own a boat? No problem. Hemingway Water Shuttle departing from Rose Marina can get you and your dog there in style. That’s right, Keewaydin is a dog friendly beach! There’s also plenty to do there with food and drink venders (boats) lined up along the southeastern bayside and lots of beach to roam for shells and fishing.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman, retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association. Capt. Rob also shares his fishing knowledge in a series of fishing classes at Bass Pro Shops.