Lighthouse Park Beach Sanibel
DETAILS: This beach is a real family affair. Although the beach is long, it is not too wide. Medium sand quality, good shelling. Clear view of the Gulf, with large shade trees by the parking area to chill under.
There is a little shell-and-animal-guide hut en route to the historic lighthouse/restroom area. It offers information on objects you will find.
The nature trail is wheelchair-accessible, and the fishing pier has been remodeled. it offers great fishing and a fantastic view.
Around the corner from the beach and just beyond the restrooms, you will find a smaller beach. You can see the Sanibel Causeway pretty well from there - making it for a nice Kodak moment.
The Fun Time food truck is usually parked in the lot until 4 pm, selling beverages, crackers, hot dogs and ice cream. Paid parking is fairly plentiful. Fine for expired parking is $35. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the pier.
Gulfside City Park/Algiers Beach, Sanibel
DETAILS: It"s called Algiers by the locals because of the old steamboat of the same name that once was pulled ashore to be turned into a home. 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
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 swings by occasionally.
Bowman's Beach, Sanibel
DETAILS: This is not South-Beach or Fort Lauderdale Beach, but this is probably the island"s most popular beach. Medium sand quality; great shelling.
It"s a little hike from the parking lot to the beach. Amenities include picnic tables, a pay phone, restrooms and bike racks. Bring your own food/drinks; it is kind of isolated, but that is what is great about it. $3 to park via an automated system.
Turner Beach, Captiva
DETAILS: Water gets deep quickly here and there can be a strong undertow. Our best advice: Move farther down the beach away from strong currents at the bridge. Good fishing at the beach and on the rock jetty there. Great place for romantic Florida sunsets.
Parking is 75 cents an hour; about 20 spots are available. Good sand quality and a nice beach thanks to the 1996 re-nourishment project.
Bars and restaurants are across the street nearby. A really nice spot for shelling is at Blind Pass beach just before this one, on the other side of the bridge. Parking is 75 cents an hour there as well. It is also accessible by just walking across the bridge.
Sanibel Causeway Beach, Sanibel
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.
Bring a chair. Water is shallow. Fishing is good. Restrooms are available.
Bunche Beach, between Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach
DETAILS: This bay beach is not exactly perfect for swimming. But what draws people here is that it is not commercialized and not closely watched. Dogs are popular here, although they are 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 free of charge. This is a good beach for catching rays. No restrooms, sorry.
Bowditch Point Regional Park, Fort Myers Beach
DETAILS: If people like an unspoiled, uncrowded, wide sandy beach with lots of native vegetation, check out this nature preserve park at the northern end of the 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 a beautiful courtyard pavilion, which can be rented for weddings and private parties.
No concession stands. 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 the Times Square area and walk. 75 cents per hour parking.
Lynn Hall Memorial Park, Fort Myers Beach
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, a fishing pier, picnic huts, benches, an information kiosk and loads of shops and restaurants around at the recently modernized Times Square, now a pedestrian mall with stylish street lights, trees and outdoor tables.
The restrooms score high, and workers keep the park clean. Water fountains have ice-cold water. There also are change and soda vending 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
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 with beverages and food. 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
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 out there as well. Manatee sightings are frequent. Picnic tables are available at the beach.
Bring your own food/drinks. Canoeing is allowed in the inland waterways. No motorized craft are permitted. Hours: 8 am to sunset.
A free tram will take visitors from the parking area 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
DETAILS: Little Hickory Island has beach access all along Hickory Boulevard behind the beautiful homes overlooking the gulf. There is room for several cars at each access. 75 Cent per hour parking.
Bonita Beach Park
DETAILS: Beautiful ocean view and high sand quality. Food concession stands or several beach restaurants are within easy walking distance. Parking is 75 cents per hour.
There are handicap spaces and wheelchair access restrooms. The park is located at the end of Bonita Beach Road. Yearly parking stickers may be purchased for $40 each at this location on Monday and Saturday only between1 pm and 3 pm