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While sunrises can be an inspiring way to start your day, some of us are not morning people. And if you’re visiting Southwest Florida (Naples-Fort Myers corridor), then you’ve reached the Florida land of gorgeous, awe-inspiring sunsets. And while almost any spot that faces west will provide a glorious feast of beautiful pinks and oranges, these six places are can’t miss. Don’t forget your camera too and use these tips to get amazing sunset photos.
Please note that this area suffered a lot of damage in September 2022 due to Hurricane Ian. This post will be updated as recovery continues.
Best Places to Watch The Sunset in SW Florida
1. Naples Pier
West end of 12th Avenue South, Naples – Website
One of the most popular places in Naples, the Naples Pier shouldn’t be missed on a Southwest Florida visit. Surrounded by a public beach, the pier is a lively spot to watch people of all ages fishing. Weather permitting, swimmers might still be enjoying the beach. Stand-up paddlers enjoy the calm Gulf of Mexico waters around the pier as well.
A concession stand on the pier offers snacks and drinks for those who wish to linger a little longer. Grab a slice of pizza or a sandwich if you’re near dinner time. It was unseasonably cold during our visit so coffee and hot chocolate were a big hit.
There are few seats and seats available and the walk to the end of the pier is approximately 1000 feet, so those with mobility issues may wish to bring their own chairs and consider staying closer to the beach.
Parking is available in a nearby lot or on the street and is either payable in quarters or with a credit card ($2.50/hour or $0.25/6 minutes).
Can’t visit in person or want to relive your experience? Check out the live webcam.
2. Doc’s Beachhouse
27908 Hickory Blvd., Bonita Springs – Website
For those who prefer a restaurant atmosphere, Doc’s Beachhouse has been a Bonita staple for several decades (although it was originally Mr. B’s). But Doc’s Beachhouse is more than just a restaurant — it is an entire beach package in one location.
While there are some tables to sit at near on the beach, the place gets crowded early. There are great views from the upstairs deck if you prefer not to get too sandy. Or bring your own folding chairs and towels and sit on the beach. So grab a spot, order some food and a drink, and wait for the sun to put on its magic show. But remember that Doc’s is a cash-only business, though an ATM machine is conveniently located inside.
This is also the spot where you can rent jet skis, sailboats, paddleboards, kayaks, and more. If you don’t have your own chair, you can rent that too!
PRO TIP: Parking is a nightmare. There are lots of beach access spots along the beach, so find a spot and walk over to Doc’s and save yourself some aggravation. Doc’s offers free valet parking but there is more demand than availability.
3. Fort Myers Beach Pier
10 Old San Carlos Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
Surrounded by restaurants and bars, the feel at the Fort Myers Beach Pier is more lively than some of the other locations on this list. A hotbed of activity, visitors to the Fort Myers Beach Pier will find a mix of clothing and souvenir stores as well as a variety of ice cream and coffee shops. The area adjacent to the Fort Myers Beach Pier, Times Square, has a children’s playground in case you need to keep little ones entertained.
Because the area is located at the bottom of the bridge connecting Fort Myers Beach to the mainland, the streets get congested, especially approaching sunset and dinner times. So be prepared with a little extra dose of patience. Parking areas are available nearby. Lee County public transportation (a trolley – Route 400) is also available for visitors who prefer to avoid having to deal with driving and finding parking.
Here is a live webcam if you can’t experience it in person or want to relive it long after your trip.
PRO TIP: Arrive early or take the trolley to watch the sunset so you don’t have to worry about either parking or drinking and driving!
4. Sanibel Island Lighthouse
112 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel – Website
With this quirky metal lighthouse, Sanibel Island’s Lighthouse provides a laid back spot to enjoy the sunset. While waiting for the sun to set, take advantage of one of the world’s best shelling beaches.
If your plans are to enjoy the sunset in SW Florida, from this spot and your resort or accommodations are not on the islands of Sanibel or Captiva, consider driving out earlier in the day and spending the entire day exploring these two islands. The Sanibel Causeway toll bridge fee is $6 though those with a SunPass (or SunPass equivalent) can use the express lane.
5. Luminary Hotel Rooftop Bar
2200 Edwards Drive, Fort Myers – Website
The Beacon Social Drinkery Rooftop Bar is the perfect spot to watch the sunset in SW Florida if you’re in Fort Myers as opposed to the beach. Opening its doors in October 2020, this new addition to the landscape provides breathtaking views of the surrounding areas. It is the perfect spot to watch the sunset while enjoying a drink and light appetizers. Located on the twelfth floor of the newly opened Luminary Hotel on the waterfront of downtown Fort Myers, it is an ideal spot to watch the sunset.
Overlooking the Caloosahatchee River, guests of this rooftop bar can enjoy craft beers, a wide wine selection, and tempting small plates. Prices are affordable and located within easy walking distance of downtown restaurants, theater, and the departure point for the Key West shuttle. Even better? Book a night at the Luminary Hotel here! You can earn more points for your stay with a Marriott Bonvoy card too.
PRO TIP: For the best view, reserve a table in advance on the outdoor rooftop and time it with the sunset.
6. Lovers Key State Park
8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach – Website
Prefer to enjoy the sunset on the white sand beaches of a state park away from buildings? Then as a state park beach location, Lovers Key State Park is the perfect quiet spot to watch the sunset. Away from most populated areas, it is easy to see why this two-mile stretch of beach makes the lists of best beaches in Florida time and again.
The beach officially closes at sundown, so you can be sure that only those in the know are aware that this is one of the best spots to enjoy the sunset in Southwest Florida.
To enter the park, there is a fee of $8 per vehicle. Those holding an individual annual state park pass ($60) pay $2 per additional passenger. Those holding a family annual state park pass ($120) pay $2 for any passenger over 8 in their vehicles.
OR DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT TO WATCH THE SUNSET IN SW FLORIDA:
Or consider some out of the box ways to enjoy the glorious southwest Florida sunset. Several companies offer these opportunities in Naples, Bonita, and Fort Myers Beach:
Take a Sunset cruise in South Florida!
What better way to enjoy the sunset than sailing on your own sunset cruise? Multiple cruise companies offer both dining and non-dining options. Visitors have a plethora of choices covering private to small and large group options.
Parasail in the Florida Sunset!
A more adventurous way to enjoy the sunset would be to parasail during this glorious time.
Jet ski in the Florida Sunset!
If watching the sun setting from the ski is outside your comfort zone but you prefer to do something a bit more adventurous than watching from the shore, consider a jet ski tour.
If during your Southwest Florida vacation you’ve decided to take a side trip to Key West using the ferry, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful sunset on your return trip to Fort Myers Beach or Marco Island.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be lucky enough to see the elusive green flash (which I have yet to see!) Of course, just about every beautiful beach in Southwest Florida faces the Gulf of Mexico and provides the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset. So grab a towel, a chair, or just a spot to relax and enjoy the feeling of relaxation that overtakes you as you watch the glorious sun disappear over the horizon. The best part? You can do it all over again the next day!
If your journey takes you further north up the Florida Gulf Coast, take in the magical sunsets from the Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg.
Are you a fan of sunsets too?
Annick, The Common Traveler