Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Feature Stories

Free Parking at Bonita Beach on Little Hickory Island

Bonita Beach Little Hickory Island

Parking at Lee County beaches isn’t incredibly expensive - but on those days when you just want to take a quick jaunt down a Gulf of Mexico shoreline, and save a few bucks in the process, head on out to Bonita Springs.

Bonita Springs is the northernmost city on the west coast of Florida to qualify as having a bona fide tropical climate, with a mean January temperature f 65 °F. By way of comparison, Fort Myers Beach, directly to the north, has a January mean of 64 °F -- giving it a subtropical climate. What a difference one degree makes.

Bonita Beach is located on Little Hickory Island, a barrier island that lies between the Gulf of Mexico and Estero Bay. Hickory Boulevard connects Estero Boulevard and Bonita Beach Road. As you drive the length of the road, pay attention for colorful Beach Access signs. Access lots 2 through 9 have limited space available, usually enough to fit 6 or 8 cars, and the parking is free. In this day and age, getting something for nothing is a rarity...especially something as valuable as the peace of mind a few minutes of walking a southwest Florida tideline can bring.

Tropical palms and seagrapes line the beach. Vacation homes nestle into the background. High-rise condominiums reach for the sky in the distance. Waves crash and a seaside mist fills the ocean breeze, merging with the delicate scent of salt-tolerant flowers, as affluent vacationers walk the coast hand in hand.

The shelling is better than you’d expect, especially along this stretch of beach, away from the main parking areas. Nearby Sanibel gets all the public recognition, but my recent trip to Bonita Beach sent me home with sand dollars, coral, oyster shells, giant Atlantic cockles, Atlantic bay scallops, Atlantic calico scallops, buttercup lucines, jingle shells, kitten paws, lettered olives, shark eyes, ladder horn snails and slipper snails...all found in less than 20 minutes.

Bonita Beach is the Gateway to the Gulf, a great place to get away from it all and the price to park even makes sense to an old beach bum like me...but get there early in season, the free spots don’t last long.

Writing and video by Eric Taubert.

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