11 Top Southwest Florida Beaches to Vacation (2023)

Southwest Florida Beaches Graphic

Looking for some of the best beaches in the United States? South Florida is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! But which beaches along the Gulf of Mexico are the best of the best for your next trip?  

In this article, I’ll talk about each of the top Southwest Florida beaches and what makes each one special.

Top Beach in Southwest Florida: My Pick

Our pick is Anna Marie Island Beach because of its relaxed feel and many options for outdoor recreation and wildlife observation.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 Stars — with more than 3,000 reviews!

I’ll start with a quick reference table of these beaches in the southwest of Florida.

Beach HighlightsGoogle Reviews
Anna Maria Island Beach -Limited development for small-town feel
-Experiencing nature and wildlife observation
4.5 of 5 stars
/530+ Reviews
Lovers Key State Park-Secluded spot to see manatees and dolphins4.5 of 5 stars
/190+ Reviews
Clam Pass Park-Scenic boardwalk and guided nature walks
-Beautiful beaches and 35 acres of coastal habitat
-15 minute drive from downtown Naples
4.5 of 5 stars
/2,240+ Reviews
Tigertail Beach Park -Tidal lagoon that’s perfect for kayaking
-Amazing beach for shelling (hundreds of varieties like whelks, olive shells, and scallops)
4.5 of 5 stars
/2,010+ Reviews
Gasparilla Island State Park-the historic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
-Fishing, swimming, and snorkeling
-Picnic spots and quiet relaxation
5 of 5 stars
/2,400+ Reviews
Siesta Key-Luxury resorts
-15 minute drive to downtown Sarasota
-Volleyball, tennis, and picnic areas near beach
5 of 5 stars
/20,000+ Reviews
Stump Pass Beach State Park-Secluded swimming beach with warm water all year (perfect spot in winter)5 of 5 stars
/2,790+ Reviews
Barefoot Beach Preserve -345 acre natural park
-Nature boardwalk and canoe tours
4.5 of 5 stars
/2,550+ Reviews
Alison Hagerup Beach Park-Breathtaking views of Florida sunsets
-Lots of dolphin sightings
4 of 5 Stars
/480+ Reviews
Bowman’s Beach -Located on Sanibel Island.
-Numerous amenities: hiking trails, playground for kids, paddle craft landing/launch, picnic pavilion, clean restrooms, showers, charcoal grills, and fitness station.
4.5 of 5 stars
/4,320+ Reviews
Fort Meyers Beach-Popular beach hub with lots of activities
-Nautical tiki cruises, offshore sailing schools, fishing pier
4.5 of 5 stars
/1,400+ Reviews

Quick Info Southwest Florida Beaches

Take a trip down to the stunning Southwest Florida coast! The area is  perfect for Spring Break and Summer Vacation. Or someone flying south for the Winter months.   

Siesta Key, Fort Myers Beach, and the beaches within Anna Maria Island are some of the most popular spots! 

These popular beaches all sit along the Gulf coast. But each of the beaches of Southwest Florida has its own atmosphere and amenities! 

But finding the best coastal oasis to enjoy calm waters and plenty of sunshine is your ultimate goal. If this sounds like you, it’s time to see which SW FL beach might be the best fit.

1. Anna Maria Island Beach 

An aerial view of a fishing pier on Holmes Beach in Anna Maria Island Florida

This tiny slice of paradise was once “Florida’s Best Kept Secret.” But in recent years has grown to be one of the Sunshine State’s most popular destinations. 

Anna Maria Island Beach is near the south end of the Tampa Bay.  

One of the best things about Anna Maria Island are the strict construction laws. These have limited the number and type of buildings.

This makes the entire island a great spot for nature lovers! You’ll be able observe native animals and marine life. 

Many visitors enjoy kayaking through the mangrove forests! Or you can peddle bicycles through the historic district. There, you can see boutiques, landmarks, or grab a bite at one of the delicious cafes. 

Location: 101 Elm Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216

2. Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park beach is a secluded gem along Florida’s Gulf Coast! 

Although it’s within the city limit of Fort Myers Beach, it’s about 7 miles from the actual shore. This means there’s enough distance to keep away the large crowds. 

Developers planned to build luxury condominiums on the site at first. But the land was donated to the people of Florida so that the area could be forever preserved and enjoyed!

Lovers Key State Park is the perfect spot to:

  •  enjoy native species like: manatees, dolphins & bald eagles 
  • walk along a nature trail
  • or relax on the sugar-sand shores.

 The beach preserve also has great amenities like:

  •  picnic tables
  • a boat ramp
  • and clean public restrooms. 

Location: 8700 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

3. Clam Pass Park

North of Naples Beach lies Clam Pass Park! This park provides over 35 acres of coastal habitat along the Outer Clam Bay. 

Clam Pass Park provides easy access to a beautiful beach via a scenic boardwalk. 

Other amenities at this family-friendly beach include: 

  • clean restrooms 
  • a parking booth attendant\
  • bike racks
  • a foot shower
  • a life jacket loaner program
  • beach wheelchairs 
  • and even guided nature walks from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida

This is a very popular beach access point that can get busy. Luckily there is a large parking area that charges only $10 per vehicle. 

Location: 465 Seagate Dr, Naples, FL 34103

4. Tigertail Beach Park 

The gorgeous turquoise water and the sugar-white sand make Tigertail Beach special.  

Tigertail Beach is on Marco Island which is one of the most popular islands in Florida! Marco Island is south of the undeveloped barrier island called Keewaydin Island. 

This South Florida gem something special. It features:  

  • luxury resort hotels
  • boat marinas
  • champion golf courses
  • and a network of inland waterways

This area has amazing shell finds too for shell hunters. You can find whelks, olive shells, scallops, and hundreds of other varieties. 

Tigertail Beach also has a gorgeous tidal lagoon where you can get kayak rentals (or bring your own)!  This makes it the perfect place to explore local wildlife like horseshoe crabs and needlefish!

Location: 430 Hernando Dr, Marco Island, FL 34145

5. Gasparilla Island State Park

Gasparilla Island State Park has pristine beaches and blue-green waters.  The park is in Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, which  part of a chain of lovely Gulf Coast barrier islands. 

This charming and secluded state park offers a ton of fun activities such as:

  •  world-class fishing
  • swimming
  • snorkeling

The crowning jewel of the park is the historic Port Boca Grande Lighthouse! Built in 1890, the lighthouse safely guided ships into the Charlotte Harbor. 

You can also find helpful amenities such as picnic areas and plenty of low-cost parking areas. 

Hours: Gasparilla Island State Park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. 

Location: 880 Belcher Rd, Boca Grande, FL 33921

6. Siesta Key

Siesta Key is a vacation paradise with its white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and luxury amenities!  This is one of the top Florida beaches along the west coast and a must-visit. 

Since Siesta Key is so close to downtown Sarasota, it’s a great option if you are staying in the city and making a day trip.

Siesta Key is a great beach for any trip.

  •  A family vacation
  • Romantic couples getaway
  • Nature lovers looking to get in touch with some of Florida’s most unique inhabitants

You’ll find plenty of your typical beach activities like  swimming, sunbathing, and water sports! 

Also, you can find tennis courts, volleyball courts, and picnic shelters within a short walk from the beaches.

Location: 41 Beach Rd, Sarasota, FL 34242

7. Stump Pass Beach State Park

Stump Pass Beach State Park is a hidden white sand beach that has a warm water temperature all year long. Because of the warm waters, it’s the perfect place for visiting during the winter months. 

And unlike the hot spot Siesta Key, you can drive an hour south to this mile-long, secluded swimming beach.

Along with the swimming, popular activities at Stump Pass Beach State Park are:

  •  shelling
  • kayaking
  • and hiking

If you want extra insight into the area, you can schedule a ranger-led nature hike! 

Some common wildlife on this great beach are: West Indian manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, and least terns. 

Location: 900 Gulf Blvd, Englewood, FL 34223

8. Barefoot Beach Preserve 

Barefoot Beach Preserve is an undeveloped barrier island that’s perfect for a return to nature!

This beach is on the border of Collier County and south of Bonita Springs and Bonita Beach Park. It’s also next to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (another great option to explore)!

Barefoot Beach Preserve is a 345-acre natural beach. As such, it’s home to many native Florida species of animals like: 

  • Land-dwelling gopher tortoise 
  • A variety of sea turtles that nest on the beach between May and October

When it comes to activities and amenities, Barefoot Beach Preserve is well-equipped. Visitors will find: 

  • a mile-long nature boardwalk
  • canoe tours 
  • a concessions stand
  • rental equipment
  • clean public restrooms 
  • and picnic pavilions. 

Parking. The beach preserve also provides three parking lots for visitors. Enjoy the natural surroundings without worrying about finding a parking spot!

Location: 505 Barefoot Beach Boulevard, Naples, FL 34134

9. Alison Hagerup Beach Park

Alison Hagerup Beach Park is on Captiva Island and nicknamed  “Captiva’s Most Romantic Beach.” This is because of its beautiful sunsets and plentiful dolphin sightings. 

The Beach Park is named after Alison Hagerup, who worked for the Captiva Erosion Prevention District. 

Alison and was crucial in beach re-nourishment projects and preservation of the beaches. And she is a big reason why the beach park has remained beautiful for so many years. 

Parking is in short supply at the beach, so be sure to get there early to avoid the crowds. Additionally, visitors must  to keep off sand dunes. This rule is necessary to preserve the natural habitats, such as nesting shorebirds and sea turtles.

10. Bowman’s Beach 

A Man and Woman rowing on Paddle Boards off the Florida Coast in Ocean

10. Bowman’s Beach

Bowman’s Beach is one of the most popular beaches on Sanibel Island. This spot has long stretches of shell-filled sugar sand and beautiful gulf waters. 

Located south of Captiva Island and Alison Hagerup Beach Park is Bowman’s Beach. Sanibel is a sister island of Captiva Island.

The abundant amenities make it easy to spend the entire day enjoying Bowman’s beach. Amenities include:

  • charcoal grills
  • fishing spots
  • fitness stations 
  • hiking trails
  • paddle craft landing/launch
  • pavilion
  • kid’s playground
  • clean restrooms and showers

Location: 1700 Bowmans Beach Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957

11. Fort Myers Beach 

Fort Myers Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Southwest Florida!  The waters are calm and warm, perfect for swimming. And the beach is next to Times Square, which is a popular spot with plenty of shops and restaurants.  

This beach is on Estero Island like Lovers Key State Park. But Fort Myers Beach is on the north side of the island where the San Carlos Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. 

Fort Myers Beach is a little more populated than Lovers Key State Park. Especially during the summer months. 

There are many things to do on Fort Myers. Some of the most popular destinations and activities include:  

Location: 950 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

Summary to Southwest Florida Beaches

Southwest Florida’s beaches are a great place to spend a vacation! 

You can find secluded nature preserves with an lots of wild species to make friends with! Or there’s also those populous beaches with plenty of nightlife and activities nearby.

 This part of the Sunshine State has something for everyone!  

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