Bonita Springs FL Homes & Real Estate
Splash your way down the beautiful white-sand shores and explore all that Bonita Springs has to offer. From fishing and golfing to shopping and dining, you’ll find something for everyone in this Southwest Florida vacation spot.
Bonita Springs is named for a medicinal spring on Old Highway 41 that the local Indians believed could heal the sick. Today, Bonita Springs is a beautiful, natural area of Southwest Florida and is called Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico because its sugar-white, sand beaches and calm Gulf waters are easily accessible from Interstate 75. It’s located near Estero and is nestled between Fort Myers to the north and Naples to the south. Bonita Springs’ warm tropical climes are ideal for year-round outdoor living with options of boating and fishing calm waters, walking miles of pristine beaches, pedaling a bicycle and teeing it up on a golf course.
Honestly, it’s hard to decide on the best Bonita Springs beach because they are all beautiful in their own right. Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park and Bonita Beach are expansive white-sand beaches laced with beachfront cottages and lush tropical greenery. There are 10 public beach access points with parking and it’s usually easy to find your own piece of solitude although for those looking for recreation, it’s easy to find Jet Ski, standup paddleboard, kayak and sail boat rentals. For those who travel with Fido, Bonita Beach has a dog beach with off-leash beach access. Little Hickory Island Beach Park makes you feel as though you’ve traveled a far way to get there when in fact, you walked a short distance from the parking lot. The beach is wide and perfect for sun worshipping and surf fishing. Another Bonita Springs beach to consider is Lovers Key State Park with its 2.5-mile stretch of Gulf beach. It’s been listed as a top beach in Florida by the Travel Channel. Note that there is a fee to park at Bonita Springs beaches and entrance fee into the state park.
Bonita Springs has been inhabited for at least 8,000 years based on archaeological finds. Shell mound building can be dated back at least 4,000 years ago. For centuries, the Calusa Indians were well-established and their population numbered in the thousands until Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon initially set foot in what is now called Florida in 1513. In 1521 he and the Spanish conquistadors battled the Calusas for years, and Ponce de Leon was eventually felled by a Calusa arrow in 1523. Although the Spanish were not able to establish a settlement in this part of Florida, they brought with them diseases that eventually led to the extinction of the Calusa people in the 18th century.
Modern-day Bonita Springs dates back to the 1870s when government surveyors in a remote part of Southwest Florida pitched camp near a medicinal spring which the local Indians believed could heal the sick. The site became known as Survey and the stream running from it, Surveyor’s Creek, after the crew left. By the 1880s, the area’s population more than doubled when Braxton B. Comer bought 6,000 acres of land around Survey to operate a large plantation growing bananas, coconuts and pineapples.
In the 1920s when developer Barron Collier built the Tamiami Trail (U.S. Highway 41 which connects Tampa to Miami) and railroad, this changed Bonita Springs’ history and brought a new wave of prosperity to the town, which incorporated for the first time in 1925, and again in the late 1990s. Developers decided the name Survey lacked sales and tourist appeal, so they rechristened it Bonita Springs.
New attractions helped bring more people to vacation in Bonita Springs. At Everglades Wonder Gardens, Bill and Lester Piper exhibited panthers, bears, alligators, and other native Florida animals and supplied rare animals to the Chicago Zoo. Their family continues the tradition of wildlife fascination today.
Canadians Harold and Mildred Crant saw the millions of shells lying, free for the taking, knee-deep in brilliantly colored heaps along the beaches and opened the Shell Factory to sell the crafts they manufactured from them. The factory burned down in the early ‘40s but was later rebuilt in North Fort Myers.
During the same era, the town came to be known for its tomato fields, which produced red, juicy fruit both spring and fall. Little Hickory Island, today home of the waterfront Bonita Beach community, developed as a commercial fishing village.
What are things to do in Bonita Springs, Florida?
Boating – Bonita Springs’ location on the Gulf of Mexico makes it easily accessible to various waterways including more than 30 miles of Intercoastal Waterways including Big Hickory Bay, Estero Bay, Estero River, Fish Trap Bay, the Imperial River and Spring Creek. Estero Bay was dedicated in 1966 as Florida’s first aquatic preserve. There are plenty of marinas and boat ramps for those who bring their boats to Bonita Springs. Cruise along an expansive mangrove forest or sail to the beach at Lovers Key State Park. If you don’t have your own boat, several vendors rent a variety of boats ranging from leisurely pontoon boats to snazzy sailboats. Or, book a dolphin or sunset cruise with a guide or tour company.
Canoeing, Kayaking and Standup Paddle boarding –Bonita Springs is located on the Gulf of Mexico and offers miles of open-water and protected paddling trails easily accessible and satisfying for novice to experienced paddlers. There are plenty of canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard vendors who rent and offer guided tours for those who don’t have their own boats. Popular guided trips are around Mound Key and the Imperial River which is located in inland Bonita Springs.
Fishing – Located on the water, Bonita Springs a fantastic destination with access to backcountry, near-shore and offshore fishing. Fish grass flats, around mangrove islands or surf cast off a beach. A variety of fish species can be caught in these Florida waters including and depending on the time of year they include snook, snapper, grouper, Spanish mackerel and the challenging tarpon. For those who don’t have their own boats can hire a fishing guide who can help you catch fish.
Golf – Because of Bonita Springs’ favorable climate, there are more than 20 golf courses available to play. Some are private but many are open to the public and include some of the best in the world and designed by some of golf’s legends.
Shopping – Boutiques and galleries are perfect shops to find one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs. Enjoy The Promenade at Bonita Bay, an outdoor mall, for fine retail stores, luxe salons, delicious restaurants and unique boutiques. Located in nearby Estero is Coconut Point, an outdoor mall, featuring more than 140 stores plus lush condominiums, tasty eateries, and movie theater.
What are the best points of interest in Bonita Springs?
Bonita Springs Historical Museum – The Bonita Springs Historical Society is housed in the Liles Hotel which was built in the 1920s. Exhibits are located on the first floor and tell the area’s history. A bedroom is decorated as it may have been during the 1930s. On the second floor is a history resource center available to the public.
Bonita Springs Art League – This is a popular cultural destination for Bonita Springs visitors where they can enjoy guided exhibition tours, artist workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts and public celebrations.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – Each summer, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk attracts visitors from around the world who want to catch a glimpse of the Corkscrew “Super” Ghost Orchid which is the largest ghost orchid discovered. Winter visitors flock to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk to see some of the nearly 200 species of birds that either migrate or live in the Sanctuary. Winter migratory birds include painted buntings and pine warblers. Year-round, visitors may see anhinga, egrets or limpkins.
Koreshan State Park – This park was once home to one of Florida’s most unusual pioneers, Cyrus Reed Teed who settled in Estero in 1894 to build the “New Jerusalem” for his new faith called Koreshanity, brought followers with him. Called Koreshan Unity, the colony believed the universe was within a giant, hollow sphere. In 1961 the final members of the colony deeded the land to the state establishing the state park. Visitors can see 11 historic structures dating back to the 1882 – 1920 and exotic vegetation from around the globe. The state park is popular for boating, fishing, hiking and picnicking. Take a self-guided tour of the area or join a state park guided walk.
Mound Key Archaeological State Park – Rising more than 30 feet above Estero Bay is Mound Key, home to shell mounds created by Calusa Indians. The entire island is a historic site. Archeologists believe Mound Key was a ceremonial center for Calusa during the 1500s when the Spanish first attempted to colonize this part of Florida. Mound Key is only accessible by boat and does not have any facilities. A hiking trail less than a mile leads over shell mounds created by Calusa with the tallest being 33 feet. Guided paddling tours of Mound Key are offered by the College of Life Foundation.
Everglades Wonder Gardens – Step inside one of Florida’s original roadside attractions established in 1936 along the new Tamiami Trail. Three generations of the Piper family owned and operated Everglades Wonder Gardens showcasing Southwest Florida’s amazing animals and beautiful botanicals from its inception through 2013. Today, the Bonita Wonder Gardens Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, owns and operates this Bonita Springs attraction that is home to rescued birds and reptiles that huddle in old-growth plants.
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