Bonita Springs Is a Nature Lover's Playground in Southwest Florida

Here are our favorite ways to explore this lush beach town filled with gorgeous mystical marshlands and mangrove forests.

Woman exploring forest, Bonita Springs, Florida
Photo: Getty Images / Lena Mirisola

Southwest Florida is a treasure trove of natural wonders. Its scenic coastal cities and barrier islands are some of Southerners favorite places to get away for a beach vacation, whether they're interested in deep sea fishing, shell hunting, or spending a long day relaxing in the sand. From sunny Fort Myers and Naples to remote Sanibel and Captiva, visitors have plenty to choose from when deciding on a destination. For nature lovers, Bonita Springs, located almost perfectly between Fort Myers and Naples, is a dream. Home to several state parks and natural preserves, not only does Bonita Springs offer beautiful beaches to explore but it also features mystical marshlands, forests, and rivers. Here are our favorite ways to explore Bonita Springs.

Scenic View Of Sea Against Sky Bonita Springs
Getty Images / Barbara Reichardt / EyeEm

Plan a Beach Day

With its prime location on Florida's southwest coast, every trip to Bonita Springs should start with a day at Bonita Beach. The 2.5-mile beach is lined with natural vegetation, giving it the appeal of a remote escape, while still offering all the modern-day conveniences of more tourist-heavy shores. At Bonita Beach Park, located on the southern tip of Bonita Beach, you'll find restrooms, covered picnic tables and grills, and a sand volleyball court. Spend a long day birding, beachcombing, or just relaxing on Bonita Beach. For those who want to bring their furry friends along, head to Bonita Beach Dog Park, a dog-friendly, off-leash tidal flat where pups can roam freely and frolic in the shallow waters. When it's time to pack it up for the day, you can even give your four-legged companion a quick rinse at provided doggie showers.

Kayakers at Lovers Key State Park
Getty Images / Hanneke Luijting

Explore the Glory of Nature at a State Park

A big part of what makes Bonita Springs such an unforgettable beach destination are its mystical mangrove forests, unusual shell mounds, and remote landscapes, all of which can be found at Mound Key Archaeological State Park and Lovers Key State Park. Start your adventure at Lovers Key, a collection of barrier islands with two miles of sandy beach. A popular spot for romantic getaways and even weddings, the park also includes five miles of multi-use trails that offer the chance to see butterflies flitting between flowers, egrets and herons wade and fish along backwaters, and even gopher tortoises munching on vegetation. From Lovers Key, rent a kayak and make the short 2.5-mile paddle to Mound Key Archaeological Park, which is only accessible via waterways. On the way, don't be surprised if you spot manatees, stingrays, jumping mullet, and a symphony of coastal birds. Once you make it to Mound Key, hike the one mile trail that takes you over two massive mounds and includes interpretive kiosks detailing the park's thousands of years old history and original inhabitants, the Calusa Native Americans.

Go for a Stroll at Riverside Park

At the center of town lies Riverside Park, a sprawling greenspace that's popular for picnics, gatherings, and special events year-round. It's also a hub for arts and culture. The Bandshell hosts regular live music performances. Six Artist Cottages serve as studios for members of Bonita Springs's art community. They create everything from seashell art to ceramics and paintings. There's also a butterfly garden, fountain, and veteran's memorial to check out.

Hit the Links at Bonita Fairways Golf Course

Unleash your competitive spirit or tag along for the golf cart ride and scenic views at Bonita Fairways, the town's only public golf course. The 18-hole executive course is set on a beautiful nature preserve dotted with lakes that offer both a challenge to seasoned golfers and something pretty to look at for everyone else.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side at Wonder Gardens

Longtime Floridians know Wonder Gardens as one of the last holdouts of Old Florida. The animal and botanical attraction opened in 1936, featuring the natural flora and fauna of Florida with help from a few international tropical species. Today, the park continues its original mission and is home to more than 300 rescued and non-releasable animals, ranging from turtles and parakeets to golden pheasants and alligators, all set in a gorgeous botanical garden.

Search for Treasure at Flamingo Island Flea Market

You could spend an entire day perusing the 600-plus booths at Flamingo Island Flea Market and still not have time to see it all. The massive indoor flea market hosts vendors from all over the world who sell everything from vintage décor and apparel to houseplants and handmade pottery. In between hours of treasure hunting, you can stop for a bite to eat at one of two onsite restaurants: Freddie's Pizza & Subs or Corona Cantina. From November to April, there's live music, and special events happen throughout the year.

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa

Live the Resort Life

Kick back and relax at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa, an award-winning tropical resort that's ideal for both family trips and romantic getaways. Water is a main attraction at most Florida destinations, and with five waterslides, four pools, a lazy river, and access to a secluded private island, Coconut Point more than has that covered. Contemporary coastal-inspired rooms feature floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors to let in the famous Florida sunshine and provide sweeping views of Estero Bay and the coastline.

Make the Most of Mealtime

Fish House Restaurant has been Bonita Springs's go-to spot for fresh seafood since 1994. Beginning at 11 a.m., the waterfront restaurants' outdoor patio and boat dock are humming with activity as boaters pull up for a bite to eat and beachgoers find some shade and a meal between hours of catching rays and waves. The massive menu offers just about anything you can dream up, but for a true taste of the area, order fresh Gulf grouper—deep-fried in a basket, broiled and stuffed with crab meat, or tucked into a taco. Down-home breakfast and lunch are best at Old 41. Try the giant Belgian waffles or a Philly cheesesteak omelet, which pays homage to the owner's hometown. For more nostalgic eats, head to Dolly's Produce Patch & Eatery, where you should definitely order whatever's on the daily special board and always finish with a slice of the restaurant's legendary pie. The fillings are seemingly endless and every flavor's better than the last. Reserve a table at Angelina's Ristorante for fine Italian dining. Housemade pastas, a huge wine list, and a specialty Sea Salt Baked Snapper for Two are all ready to make your night.

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