At the northernmost end of Naples, the breezy shores of Delnor-Wiggins State Park entice thousands of beachgoers on summer days – especially on weekends. On weekdays and early mornings and evenings, people who like a stroll on the beach have it all to themselves. One of the best places along this coast to find massive beds of seashells swept in with the tides, it’s also an excellent birding spot, especially near Wiggins Pass. An easy nature trail – with an observation tower rising over the mangroves – sits at the far end of the farthest parking area. Add in a walk on the shoreline, and you can start your day off right.
Length: 0.8 mile or more
Lat-Long: 26.286711, -81.830422
Type: loop / round-trip
Fees / Permits: $6 per vehicle
Bug factor: low
Restroom: at the parking area / trailhead
Most visitors head for the near shore. Keep going to the end of the road, where the nature trail starts. The park is open daily from 8 AM to sunset.
Following I-75 through Naples, exit at CR 846 / Immokalee Rd. Head west for 4.6 miles, crossing US 41. The street name becomes Bluebill Ave. Continue straight ahead for another 0.6 mile to the park gate. It’s about a mile driving inside the park to the parking lot at the north end.
The Observation Tower Trail at Delnor-Wiggins is a 0.3-mile boardwalk through a tangled coastal tropical forest. Starting near the picnic pavilion, the boardwalk winds its way through these dense woods, leading to an tall tower from which you get a sweeping view of Wiggins Pass and the Gulf of Mexico, with lots of mangroves way down below. Along the way, the habitat transitions from a cabbage palm hammock into red mangrove swamp and back again. Coming to a decision point, turn right and head out towards the sea beneath a canopy of sea grapes.
Walking to the end of this trail, you reach the beach and the pass itself, where currents prevent you from swimming. But the far shoreline is a delight to behold, looking much like a deserted tropical island lined with cabbage palms that are slowly teetering over into the water as erosion of the pass takes its toll. Follow the shoreline until you can’t anymore – it’s all about the tides and whether they’ll let you around the bend to a little point of sand where boaters sometimes drop anchor. Many birds gather at the pass – terns and seagulls, stilts and sandpipers. This is the farthest point from where visitors come to crowd the beaches on the weekends. I visited on a weekday morning, and all was still.
As you come back along the pass, stay close to the water and continue past where you entered the beach. You’ll notice that once you get beyond the sweep of where the water rushing through the pass affects the shoreline, there are lengthy beds of seashells running perpendicular to the sea. These are deep, too – dig in! As I did, you might find tulip shells or the elusive alphabet cone. Black skimmers and seagulls line up along the water’s edge to rest, and will part as you draw near, settling farther down the beach. Coconuts bob up on shore and nestle into the sand, probably refugees from Naples Beach or Sanibel Island.
Look for the crossover leading up into the sea grapes along the dune ridge above. It’s the first place you can get back to the parking area where the nature trail started to complete a 0.8 mile walk of nature trail and beachfront. If conditions are lovely for more walking on the beach and you continue the full length of the beach up to the south end of the park and back, you can add 2 more miles to your exploration of this shoreline.