BEACHES IN FORT MYERS AND SOURROUND
DIRECTIONS: Across the Sanibel Causeway to the 4-way stop, left on Periwinkle Way; go all the way to the east end of the island. Look for beach signs.
DETAILS: A real family affair. Although the beach is long, people won't find too much width. Medium sand quality, good shelling. Clear view of the Gulf, with large shade trees by the parking area to chill under.
There's a little shell-and-animal-guide hut en route to the historic lighthouse/bathroom area. It offers explanations of objects you'll find.
The nature trail is wheelchair-accessible, and the fishing pier has been remodeled. Check it out.
Around the corner from the beach and just beyond the bathrooms, people will find a smaller beach. They can see the Sanibel Causeway pretty well from there - nice Kodak moment.
The Fun Time food wagon is usually parked in the lot until 4 pm, selling crackers, hot dogs and ice cream. Paid parking is fairly plentiful. Fine is $35. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the pier.
Gulfside City Park/Algiers Beach, Sanibel
DIRECTIONS: Across Sanibel Causeway, right at 4-way on Periwinkle Way, left on to Casa Ybel Road to West Gulf Road. Turn left on Algiers Lane.
DETAILS: It's called Algiers by the locals because of the old steamboat of the same name that once was pulled ashore to be a house. It's a wonderful spot for picnics.
Tables are shaded by a grove of trees. Boardwalks offer a comfortable access to the beach.
This beach is a well-kept secret, hard to find but worth it. Offers restrooms, paid parking.
Tarpon Bay Road Beach, Sanibel
DIRECTIONS: Right on Periwinkle Way, left on Tarpon Bay Road.
DETAILS: Features lots of parking - even for large vehicles - although the lot is a tad far from the beach.
High sand quality, good shelling. New restrooms. An ice cream truck occasionally swings by.
Bowman's Beach, Sanibel
DIRECTIONS: Right on Periwinkle Way to Tarpon Bay Road. Turn right, head north to Sanibel-Captiva Road. From this road, turn left to Bowman Beach Road.
DETAILS: No South Beach or Fort Lauderdale, but this is probably the island's most popular beach. Medium sand quality; great shelling.
It's a hike to the beach from car. Amenities include picnic tables, a pay phone, bathrooms and bike racks. Bring own food/drinks; it's kind of isolated, but that's what's great about it. $3 to park via an automated system.
Turner Beach, Captiva
DIRECTIONS: Sanibel-Captiva Road to Blind Pass. It's just after the bridge to Captiva, on the left.
DETAILS: Water gets deep quickly and there can be a strong undertow. Best advice: Move farther down the beach away from strong currents by the bridge. Good fishing from the beach and on the rock jetty there. Great place for sunsets, romantics.
Parking is 75 cents an hour; about 20 spots. Good sand quality and a nice beach thanks to 1996 renourishment project.
Bars and restaurants are across the street nearby. A really nice spot for shelling is at Blind Pass beach just before this one, other side of the bridge. Parking is 75 cents an hour there as well, or accessible by walking across the bridge.
Sanibel Causeway Beach, Sanibel
DIRECTIONS: Either side of causeway.
DETAILS: The long, thin stretch of beach starts just before the toll gate and continues along the causeway. It's fun to watch the windsurfers, boats and dolphins, but don't expect a nice, soft beach to sit on.
Take a chair. Water's shallow. Fishing's good. Bathrooms are available.
Bunche Beach, between Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach
DIRECTIONS: Take Summerlin Road toward Sanibel, turn left on John Morris Road at the Circle K. Follow to end.
DETAILS: This bay beach is no good for swimming. What draws people here is that it's uncommercial and not closely watched. Dogs are popular here, although they're not allowed on county property.
Most of the property is private and has been used for years by the public. The county does own the small lot, where parking is hassle-free and cost-free. A good beach for catching rays without aggravation. No bathrooms.
Bowditch Point Regional Park, Fort Myers Beach
DIRECTIONS: Take Matanzas Pass Bridge onto Fort Myers Beach. Turn right at foot of bridge, follow Estero Boulevard to the end.
DETAILS: If people like an unspoiled, uncrowded, wide sandy beach with lots of native vegetation, check out Lee County's passive park at the north end of Estero Island.
The peaceful 17-acre park fronts both the bay and the Gulf. Amenities include restrooms, showers, changing rooms, picnic tables, grills, hiking paths, benches, bike racks, a handicap-accessible boardwalk to the beach and beautiful courtyard pavilion, which can be rented for weddings and private parties.
No concessions. Free admission. Six handicapped parking spots available.
A trolley (25-cent fare) runs every 15 minutes. Park free at Main Street Park and Ride lot, just north of Matanzas Pass Bridge. Or park in Times Square area and walk. 75 cents per hour parking.
Lynn Hall Memorial Park, Fort Myers Beach
DIRECTIONS: Turn right at foot of Matanzas Pass Bridge. Left off North Estero Boulevard.
DETAILS: A family affair, plus lots of teens. The parking lot is huge. Cost for parking is 75 cents for hour.
Get there before 11 am to get a spot. Features a playground for the kids, fishing pier, picnic huts, benches, information kiosk and loads of shops and restaurants around at the newly improved Times Square, now a pedestrian mall with lights, trees and outdoor tables.
The bathrooms score high, and workers keep the park clean. Water fountains have ice-cold water. There also are change and soda machines and paid lockers. Free admission.
Parking lot open 24 hours. Fine for not paying: $18.
Assorted Beach Access at various points along Estero Boulevard, Fort Myers Beach
DIRECTIONS: People should keep their eyes open and they'll see white fabric signs denoting beach access points. Parking is free, although some have no parking.
DETAILS: These are great places to enjoy the beach - and peace and quiet. Sand quality usually is high. They're often isolated, so bring a cooler. Some are within a short walk to cafes. Shelling can be decent on the right day.
Lover's Key/Carl Johnson State Recreation Area - Black Island, Inner Key and Lover's Key
DIRECTIONS: Follow Estero Boulevard south, cross over to Black Island. Sign is on right.
DETAILS: $4 a car with two to eight passengers, $2 for just a driver, and $1 for walk-ins. Fishing is allowed under the boardwalks and at the northern end of the park which borders Big Carlos Pass.
There are acres to explore on nature trails. The beach is pristine and the water is clear. It's a family affair, but singles looking for a nice beach and less of a meat-market mentality hang there as well. Manatee sightings are frequent. Picnic tables are available on the beach.
Bring your own food/drinks. Canoeing is allowed in the inland waterways. No motorized craft are permitted. Hours: 8 am to sunset.
From the parking area a free tram will take visitors over to the south side of the beach. There is a picnic area along the beach. Dogs are allowed in the park as long as they are on a leash. Call 463-4588.
Little Hickory Island Beach Park
DIRECTIONS: Head southeast down Estero Boulevard. It's on the right at Hickory Boulevard between condominiums.
DETAILS: Little Hickory Island has access positioned all along Hickory Boulevard behind nice homes overlooking the gulf. There is room for several cars at each access. 75 per hour for parking.
Bonita Beach Park
DIRECTIONS: Follow Estero Boulevard southeast. It's on the right, just before Collier County.
DETAILS: Beautiful ocean view and high sand quality. Food concession or several beach restaurants are within easy walking distance. Parking is 75 cents per hour.
There are handicap spaces and wheelchair access bathrooms. It is located at the end of Bonita Beach Road. Yearly parking stickers may be bought for $40 each at this location on Monday and Saturday only 1 pm to 3 pm
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