Once again, two Naples area beaches make the Top 10 Beaches in the U.S. for 2015!
Barefoot Beach Preserve in Bonita Springs (it’s actually in the northwest corner of Collier County) is ranked #2 and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park just south of Barefoot in Naples ranked #9.
Florida Governor Rick Scott recently announced a record-breaking quarter in Florida tourism. So far in 2015, 28.4 million visitors traveled to Florida, and our beaches are top destination. We’re not known as the Sunshine State for nothing.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection reports that Florida attracted 98.9 million visitors in 2014, and more than 27 million people visited Florida’s state parks and trails from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, generating nearly $2.1 billion in direct economic impact from parks and trails. Money like that ensures that our natural areas and wildlife have a fighting chance. Our tourists are a vital component in Florida’s beauty and allure, and we thank you for that!
TIP: A Collier County Beach Parking Pass is good for Barefoot, but not for Delnor-Wiggins, since the latter is a state park requiring an $8 entry fee. If you’re staying at one of our vacation rentals (and we have a number of nice holiday houses in Naples Park off of Delnor-Wiggins and popular Vanderbilt Beach, an award-winner in its own right), you can obtain a beach parking pass good for all beach parking in Collier County. It’s a convenient option, especially if you’re staying for a week or more.
Barefoot Beach is more than 1.5 miles of some of the most pristine sections of beach you’ll find in the U.S. The waters are calm, turquoise, and postcard perfect. The preserve, some 342 acres, is one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s southwest coast, according to Collier County officials.
From Naples, you would have to drive up Hwy. 41 to Bonita Beach Road and head west. Just past Coconut Jack’s restaurant, you’ll take a left (there will be park signs) onto Barefoot Beach Blvd. and drive south through upscale seaside developments for a while until you reach the gate house for the preserve. Please keep a watchful eye out for gopher tortoises, a protected species in Florida, especially when parking and backing out of parking spaces. In addition to tortoises, Barefoot is also a nesting area in the summer months for endangered loggerhead sea turtles.
Amenities are located around Parking Lot #1. Of course, the further south you go, the more solitude – and great shelling – you’ll find. Even if you plan on parking further into the park, stop by the Learning Center at the first parking lot next to the Ranger Station to learn about this fragile ecosystem and learn tips on shelling and other activities. Nature walks and talks are available and sponsored by a great group of caring citizens, Friends of Barefoot Beach Preserve.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Delnor-Wiggins is a gorgeous home to numerous shorebirds and wildlife. It’s an anchor spot on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Top beach activities include snorkeling and scuba diving the hard bottom reef parallel to the beach (close to Area 2), hiking, bird-watching, fishing, picnicking, and shelling. It’s also a popular boating spot, especially for those adventurers wishing to explore natural estuaries of the Cocohatchee River which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. Guided tours of the beach and the surrounding nature preserve are available. Call the Ranger Station for more information and to sign up for each program.
Delnor-Wiggins has 5 parking lots, trails and boardwalks, picnic tables, grills, bicycle racks, and bathhouses. At the north end of the state park is a picnic pavilion, an observation tower, and boardwalk access to Wiggins Pass.
Since Barefoot and Delnor-Wiggins are separated only by the pass, you’ll also find much of the same marine and coastal wildlife. Shelling is also top notch. Hit the pass for great fishing, but forget swimming there. The currents are hazardous. Swim along the beach.
Accessing Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is easy. It’s located in North Naples 6 miles west of I-75 at Exit 111 (also called Immokalee Road). Leashed pets are allowed in the park, but not on the beaches. Service animals are welcome in all areas and buildings of the park, as required by law.
The annual Top 10 Beach List for 2015 is produced by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” a professor at Florida International University. Each year, Dr. Beach ranks the top 10 beaches using 50 criteria, including beach material, water temperature, sand softness, smell, trash and litter, safety record and algae in the water, according to state officials.