Bonita Beach and its inland town of Bonita Springs are south of Fort Myers Beach and just north of Vanderbilt Beach and Naples beaches. They bask in the opulent aura of Naples and identify themselves as having closer ties to the upper-crust settlers of Naples than with the somewhat less well-to-do populace of Ft. Myers.
Instead of seeing hotels and resorts on the beach, you'll find a very upscale beach community with a few condominiums and lots of very nice modern beachfront homes nestled among the coconut palms, sea grapes, and other lush tropical foliage.
Bonita Beach is a nice change from the congestion of Fort Myers Beach, and the extra greenery is welcome.
Beach access is fairly generous for such an upscale and comparatively small island. Barefoot Beach at the south end of Bonita Beach is home to an incredible luxury home development suitable for the rich and famous. The homes and condominiums are like palaces. They are beautiful.
A pleasant surprise just south of the huge homes is a beautiful nature preserve and county beach park that is second to none. There's not a lot to do in Bonita Beach as far as culture or nightlife, so for entertainment other than a restaurant meal and a sunset, you'll have to make the short drive to Fort Myers or Naples.
Getting to Bonita Beach
There are three main ways to get to Bonita Beach. From Fort Myers Beach, just follow Estero Blvd going south past Lover's Key and you'll soon find yourself at the north end of Bonita Beach, on Little Hickory Blvd.
From Interstate 75, exit 116 will put you on Bonita Beach Road. Follow it west to the beach.
Finally, from the Vanderbilt Beach area, just follow U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) north to Bonita Beach Road.
Accommodations in Bonita Beach
The vacation condo or beach house is the most likely choice. This isn't a big resort area. When I'm in the area, I usually choose one of the chain hotels in Bonita Springs, just 10 minutes away: Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express. If you're looking for luxury, about 5 miles north of Bonita Springs is the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa. They have a boat that takes you across the bay to your own private beach on Big Hickory Island. Sweet.
For the mom-and-pop experience, try the Bonita Beach Resort Motel near the northern end of the island. They are right on Estero Bay and the Gulf is right across the street.
Beginning on the northern portion of the island where Estero Blvd joins Little Hickory Blvd is Little Hickory Beach Park. It's the northernmost public beach access. Sure, it's squeezed between two condominiums, but it has parking and restrooms and is the best spot to start your walk to the best shelling spots about half-a-mile north.
As you drive south on Hickory Blvd you'll see many beach access points marked with colorful signs. Most have 4 or 5 parking spaces and a boardwalk through sea grape trees to the quiet, mostly residential beach. There are no restrooms on these accesses.
The main public beach access is where Bonita Beach Road joins the island and is right on the county line. Actually there are two separate accesses right next to each other. One is Bonita Public Beach, which is in Lee County, and the other is Barefoot Beach Access, which is in Collier County. The only difference you'll notice is the different parking fees for each park. All the facilities are located on the Lee County side. It's a nice park with modern, clean facilities, picnic tables and a hot dog vendor. It's also right next to Doc's Beach House Restaurant. There are also beach equipment and personal watercraft vendors on the beach.
Heading south, if you follow Barefoot Beach Road about a mile and a half through the Barefoot Beach Preserve luxury housing development you'll arrive at an awesome county beach park which was proclaimed by Dr. Beach to be the #2 beach in the nation in 2014. It has a nature center, restrooms, an extensive shaded boardwalk system, beach vendors, a nature trail and a kayak launch.
The southern end of the beach terminates at Wiggins Pass. You can take the nature trail all the way to Wiggins Pass, then walk back on the beach, or vice versa.
Shelling on Bonita Beach
The beach sand here is mixed with quite a bit of broken shell and there are some shell piles. You'll find lots of nice shells most anywhere, but if you really want the goods, park up at Little Hickory Beach Park and walk about half a mile north. There's a small rock jetty that catches some shells, and at low tide especially there is a wide area of beach covered with nice shells. Don't tell anyone I told you that.
A video I shot of a quiet afternon on Bonita Beach: