I’ve lived on the Florida gulf coast my entire life, so I know a thing or two about enjoying the beach. While I grew up in the Clearwater-St. Petersburg area, I have come to love the beaches of southwest Florida. This area sees a ton of tourists (especially from the Midwest), so I thought it was time to share a few of my beachy adventures and tips to make your Florida family vacation a breeze.
Though, a few quick tips! Pack a bag that has everything you need. Sometimes I end up parking far away from the sand, and it would be too much of a walk in the Florida heat to make a few trips. I always have water, sunscreen, lip balm, an extra towel, and a few Wet-Nap wipes. I like to bring along wipes to keep clean in between snacks, frolicking in the waves, and laying out. I found Wet-Nap antibacterial hand wipes in the napkin aisle at my local Walmart. If you can’t find them there, look near the toiletry items in the health and beauty department. The wipes are softer than before, stronger, and the wipes moisturizes with aloe. I find that refreshing feeling SO important when you are enjoying a fun day in the sun…especially during the summertime.
I also love to use large picnic blankets or waterproof mats at the beach. Try to bring along something similar so you’re not laying on a towel.
Five Favorite Southwest Florida Beaches
1. Captiva Island. This is my all time favorite spot. I don’t get the chance to enjoy it as much as I’d like to, but it is totally worth the drive if you’re heading south. Captiva is just past Sanibel, and the beach is phenomenal. The area is small and parking is scarce, but the sand and shells are must sees! You could stay at South Seas Resort if you wanted to stay on the island, or you could just make a day trip out of it. The Bubble Room is tacky tourist goodness, and The Mucky Duck is the best place to put your feet in the sand and watch a sunset.
Check out Blind Pass and look for shells among the rocky shore. Or just enjoy a calm afternoon in the surf.
2. Sanibel Island. Sanibel is Florida’s premier shelling destination, and I can see why. The coastline lends itself to shells meanandering along the shore, and tourists flock to try to find a junonia. While I have never found a prized shell (just a few colorful scallops here and there), the quest continues!
Walk the shore near the Sanibel Lighthouse or adventure on the causeway. The view from the causeway is just as spectacular–especially if you’re there for a sunset.
Nothing but blue skies and clear water!
3. Ft. Myers Beach. This is kind of more my speed since there are more beach bars and restaurants. Sanibel and Captiva are beautiful, but the party stops at sunset. In Ft. Myers, there is plenty to do both during the day and at night. This is why my beach bag is loaded with easy to use wipes! When you spend a day on the beach, you want to freshen up before you hit a restaurant or grab a cool brew.
I like to have a drink at the Smokin’ Oyster Brewery and The Beached Whale. There’s plenty to see and do. You could stop by the pier and listen to live music at many of the restaurants nearby. The Lani Kai has a few bars and is certainly the “spring break” destination of the area. I’ve never had a bad day at Ft. Myers Beach!
4. Bonita Beach. If you’re looking for a smaller slice of sand and a laid-back family atmosphere, Bonita Beach is your place. The parking lot nearby is small, so some days I have to wait for a spot, however the view is worth it!
Order some fried seafood at Doc’s and have a seat to enjoy the show. The sunsets are the best part of Florida’s gulf coast, and they are why I am not a huge fan of beaches on the Atlantic. Miami and Ft. Lauderdale may be nice, but they don’t have these views!
5. Naples. I don’t head this far south usually, but the views are still spectacular. Stroll 5th Avenue, walk the pier, or hop on a boat and get a tour of the city.
We spotted this amazing view from a boat that gave us a tour of Port Royal (home to many millionaires!) and surrounding areas. We saw dolphins and enjoyed a breezy ride!
So, those are my top five. I live in nearby Cape Coral which also has a small beach and pier area. Honestly, anywhere I can put my toes in the sand and enjoy the sunshine is fine with me.
Do you have a favorite beach? What’s your favorite beach essential?
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