We escaped to sunny south Florida for Spring Break and stumbled upon a beautiful little beach- the Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve, just south of Ft. Myers in Bonita Springs. We spent the day at Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve playing in the ocean, shell collecting, hiking and enjoying the amazing wildlife this wonderfully secluded park has to offer. With 342 acres of undeveloped coastline, Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve lets you peek at what the southwest Florida coast was like before it became a tourist and snowbird mecca. Even in the middle of spring break, Barefoot Beach was quiet and serene.Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve is located in the back of a neighborhood filled with grand coastal mansions. When I first pulled onto the street that leads to the preserve, I thought for sure my phone directions were leading me astray as the imposing gated entrance did not seem like it was leading to a public park. But a sign on the side of the entrance said visitors to the preserve were free to drive through. I don’t think I have ever seen a neighborhood of such amazing homes. After a mile or so of McMansion gawking, we arrived at the preserve. There is an $8 parking fee, which is a steal because this park is awesome. Since it was only about 8:30 AM, we easily found a parking spot in the small lot and set out to explore.
Secluded Shoreline at Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve
After walking the boardwalk to the shore, we practically had the beach to ourselves. I took a quick jog while Maya and Garrett searched for shells and played in the sand. The sand was powdery white and the waves were mild and we played around for a couple of hours on the deserted beach. Park volunteers give scheduled talks in a covered patio area, and we were lucky enough to catch a presentation about Lake Okeechobee and fresh water discharge and its effect on coastal plant and wildlife. Next to the patio is a public bathroom and small snack bar. Park volunteers also told us about a short nature trail just down the road so we set off to check it out. Click here for a map of the park.
Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve Wildlife
Our first stop was to see the Gopher Tortoise Hotel. This small hill was covered with burrows of the resident Gopher Tortoise. There are signs throughout Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve alerting visitors to the presence of these large tortoises since they sometime crawl under cars and get run over. There are also signs warning visitors to not put tortoises in the water as they can not swim. Ugh. I hate to think about why those signs are up. Later on along the trail, we came upon one of them. I had never seen a gopher tortoise before and they are fascinating creatures! Just down the road from the Gopher Tortoise Hotel, there is a parking lot for both a canoe launch and the Saylor nature trail. Since we were on foot, we set off down the trail. Before we even were out of the lot, we came upon an osprey nesting platform with both a male and female osprey standing watch. The male eventually flew off while mom was feeding the nestlings. We spent a while listening to at least one osprey chick moving around in the nest. Every once in a while you would see a part of the chick’s wing lift up over the nest and then finally a little head poked up to look around which was a highlight of our trip!Saylor Trail is only a mile long, but it is a beautiful coastal nature trail that ends at Wiggins Pass where we were able to find amazing shells and see tiny conch scurrying around the shoreline. Between the birds, the shells, and the beautiful beach to ourselves, it is hard to imagine that this stunning shoreline still exists in such a populated area. It’s one of my new favorite places in Florida!If you are looking for a less touristy, more natural beach where you can see amazing wildlife, collect beautiful shells and enjoy peace and solitude, Barefoot Beach Nature Preserve has it all. I CAN NOT wait until we can get back.
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