Naples may be best known for its city beaches, but a few others stay neatly tucked into urban fringe corners.
One cannot necessarily say that Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is “hidden” or “secret.” Just try getting in the gate on a warm, sunny day in mid-March to discover that's not true. And after its recent mention in Dr. Beach's list of top 10 American beaches, its popularity promises only to grow.
But the beach's charm lies in its lightly developed facilities and naturally maintained beach and vegetation. Fishermen, beach-lovers, shell collectors, paddlers and cyclists particularly like the recreational opportunities at this 166-acre coastal state park.
Boardwalks cross dunes and native vegetation en route to beautiful sand and water at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
The park’s 0.3-mile nature trail boardwalk takes a self-guided tour of its mangroves and hardwood hammock habitat. Signs identify gumbo limbo trees, wild coffee shrubs, sea grape trees, palms and other native vegetation.
The trail leads to a four-landing observation tower and a small garden dedicated to the couple who donated the coastal parcel of land. This area overlooks the water, where Wiggins Pass separates the park from Barefoot Beach on the other side.
Here fishermen congregate to nab fish as they flush from the Cocohatchee River through the pass.
Water Turkey Bay has a boat ramp from which boaters and paddlers can access both the river and Gulf of Mexico.
Naples Beach Adventures operates a mobile concession out of parking lot #4. (There are five lots all together.) It rents canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards and also leads guided tours for a minimum of three people daily.
The concessions stand also sells burgers, sandwiches, ice cream, beverages and beach essentials such as sunscreen, sand pails and shovels, beach towels and shelling guides.
The shelling at Delnor-Wiggins is some of the best you'll find in Naples. Taking live shells, however, is prohibited.
At the beach, visitors watch for birds, swim (away from the pass where the current is dangerous), snorkel the hard-bottom reef that runs parallel to shore and set up picnics at tree shaded tables.
As summer approaches, attention turns to the loggerhead sea turtles that dig nests in the sand by night beginning in June.
The park rangers, who do a weekly interpretive program every Thursday at 9 a.m. about facets of the local flora and fauna, schedule sea turtle programs. They talk about the sea turtle's life cycle and incredible biology and history.
The program often ends with a walk to a nearby sea turtle nest that the rangers have staked off for protection.
Participants learn about the 100 or so hatchlings that will dig their way out of the nest after about 55 days of incubation. The first such program will take place in 2015 on Thursday, June 4.
Interested parties should monitor the park’s website or call for more information about the ranger programs. Other topics include mangrove or native plant walks.