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WTR's Ultimate Guide to Exploring Southwest Florida's Beaches

Written by Kendra Conard


Posted on December 28 2023

Welcome to Southwest Florida, where the warm Gulf waters embrace sandy shores and barrier islands, creating a paradise for beach lovers, sunseekers, and boaters.


Cape Coral: Start your exploration in this waterfront wonderland known for serene canals and Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach. Enjoy kayaking, take a boat tour, or relax by the water. It offers The Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill nearby—a tropical oasis with live music and waterfront dining. For an added adventure, consider renting a kayak or paddleboard from Cape Coral Kayaking, or indulge in the excitement of a boat tour with Big Tiki Tours departing from The Boathouse.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands: Famous for shell-strewn beaches, these islands are a haven for beachcombers. Embark on a journey to the historic Sanibel Lighthouse, a resilient symbol that withstood Hurricane Ian's impact, showcasing the island's spirit of rebuilding. Enhance your island exploration by renting a golf cart from Billy's Rentals for effortless cruising. Indulge in beachside dining delights at The Mucky Duck or The Green Flash, where culinary experiences mirror the island's coastal charm.

For those seeking aquatic thrills, YOLO Watersports offers jet ski rentals, providing an exhilarating way to experience the Gulf waters. If you're traveling with kids, the Sanibel Sea School offers a unique and engaging educational option. Additionally, explore the amenities of Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa, where you can obtain a pass for their inviting pool. Enjoy the convenience of access to the beach just across the street.

Don't miss the chance to explore the beauty of South Seas Island Resort, a sprawling paradise that encapsulates the essence of island luxury and relaxation. Whether you're lounging by the pool, enjoying the beach, or savoring delectable meals, Sanibel and Captiva Islands offer a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered.

Boca Grande: A paradise for anglers and beach lovers, Boca Grande also boasts historical charm. In addition to the Gasparilla Island State Park, savor a meal at The Pink Elephant, an iconic restaurant offering Gulf views and delicious seafood. Enhance your Boca Grande experience with a golf cart rental from Gasparilla Adventures, allowing you to explore the island with flexibility.

Naples: Naples boasts an array of beaches, including Vanderbilt Beach, Lowdermilk Park and Clam Pass Park—each offering distinct experiences. Consider Naples Beach Water Sports for parasailing adventures or jet ski rentals. Known for upscale ambiance and white sandy beaches, Naples offers sophisticated dining. For a break from waterfront venues, try The Continental for a modern twist on classic dishes in a chic setting.

Fort Myers Beach: Experience the lively atmosphere of Fort Myers Beach. When you're ready for a change from waterfront dining, head to Yucatan's, a local favorite known as the "Best Beach Bar" and a unique lively atmosphere with live music and swing chairs.  Explore The Pink Shell, DiamondHead, and Lighthouse Resort, all open after the impact of Hurricane Ian. Celebrate the recent opening of Margaritaville, a brand-new resort contributing to the area's revitalization. Support local businesses for watersport rentals, such as Estero Island Parasail for parasailing or Wind and Water Sports for jet ski rentals.

Bonita Beach: Nestled between Fort Myers Beach and Naples, Bonita Beach offers a relaxed atmosphere. Visit Doc's Beach House, a local favorite that opened 14 months after Hurricane Ian. Experience the vibrant atmosphere of Coconut Jack's, adding to the diverse culinary scene. For those seeking water adventures, contact Bonita Jet Ski & Parasail.

Venice Beach: Known as the "shark tooth capital of the world," Venice Beach offers a unique coastal experience. Join a shark tooth hunting tour or try your luck on your own with sand sifters. After beachcombing, dine at Sharky's on the Pier, a waterfront restaurant featuring fresh seafood and stunning views. Venice Beach offers a unique coastal experience, so bring a mesh bag for collecting shark teeth and beach essentials. 

Siesta Key Beach: Renowned for its powdery white sand, Siesta Key Beach consistently earns the title of the best beach in the country. Siesta Key remains a well-kept secret, surprising many with its undiscovered charm.. The stunning contrast of white sand against the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico is awe-inspiring on its own. However, the true magic lies in the serenity of the surroundings, the relaxed ambiance of the beach town, and the convenience of accessing Sarasota's vibrant nightlife. For a culinary adventure away from the water, visit Indigenous, a farm-to-table restaurant in Sarasota known for its innovative cuisine. This unique combination makes Siesta Key a destination that truly stands out and is well worth the journey.

On-Water Dining Experiences:

The Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill (Cape Coral and Fort Myers): Enjoy the tropical atmosphere and waterfront dining. To elevate your dining experience, check out The Nauti Mermaid Dockside Bar & Grill in Cape Coral, offering a laid-back setting with live music.

High Tide Social House (Cape Coral): Located at Tarpon Point, this gem offers amazing food, live music, and breathtaking views. Another option for a unique culinary experience is Fathoms Restaurant & Bar, located in Cape Harbour.

Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille (Fort Myers Beach): Dive into Caribbean and Southern flavors. For a different taste, try Yucatan Beach Stand Bar & Grill, known for its beachy vibe and diverse menu.

Gramma Dot's (Sanibel): A charming waterfront spot. To explore more flavors on Sanibel, visit Traders Gulf Coast Grill & Gifts, offering a diverse menu and a delightful gift shop.

Tarpon Lodge Restaurant (Boca Grande): Dine in a historic setting. For an alternative, try The Temptation Restaurant, offering a mix of Caribbean and Southern-inspired dishes in a relaxed setting.

The Turtle Club (Naples): Indulge in fine dining right on the beach. To switch things up, explore Sea Salt – Naples, a chic restaurant known for its extensive seafood menu and innovative dishes.

Sharkey's (Venice Beach): Enjoy the beachy atmosphere. For a different vibe, check out Café Venice Restaurant & Wine Bar, a local favorite offering a diverse menu in a historic setting.

The Cottage (Siesta Key): Indulge in the lively and vibrant atmosphere of The Cottage, situated in the heart of Siesta Key Village. Their mantra, "Be social, eat local," perfectly captures the essence of this beloved eatery. For laid-back vibes, don't miss Daiquiri Deck in South Siesta Key, offering simple yet delicious meals and unbeatable views. 

As you embark on your Southwest Florida adventure, savor the variety of experiences that extend beyond the water's edge. From beach bliss to on-land delights, the region's diverse culinary and cultural offerings are ready to captivate your senses. Embrace the Florida lifestyle and create lasting memories in this coastal paradise, where every hidden gem tells a story of resilience, renewal, and the warm hospitality of Southwest Florida.