This weekend we took our family to Bowman’s Beach on the West end of Sanibel. This protected Sanibel beach has no development in sight, providing remote and natural landscape views. With only native vegetation, white sand and the Gulf of Mexico, you get a feel for ‘big sky’ as the low horizon expands in all directions.
Immediately behind the beach are protected salt water bayous that serve as hatcheries for local game fish and rookeries for our shore birds. The parking lot is on the far side of the bayous and requires a 5 minute nature walk through hammock, boardwalk bridge and beach scrub to reach the beach. The Bowman’s Beach extends for miles and we enjoy walks in solitude as most beach goers stay close to beach entrance.
It is the remote nature of this beach that must have attracted the Naturists. When I was a kid growing up in Southwest Florida, Bowman’s Beach was infamous as the ‘Nude Beach’ and was the subject of adolescent jokes. I came here many times with my parents in the early ’80s and, at that time, the Naturists would gather a good hike North from the beach entrance. Folks knew where the Naturists hung out. You just avoided their encampment if nudity bothered you.
Since that time, Sanibel has cracked down on the ‘clothing-optional’ beach and I’ve never heard anyone mention nude beaches on Sanibel. Bowman’s Beach does bear one small ‘sign’ of it’s past. It is the only Sanibel beach I’ve seen with a ‘No Nude Sunbathing’ sign posted.
Bowman’s Beach Amenities
Bowman’s Beach has great amenities for Sanibel Island beach visitors including bathrooms, outdoor showers, and changing rooms. Scattered throughout the park are picnic tables (both covered and uncovered) and BBQ Grills (this is the only beach on Sanibel with grills). Also at the park is a small playground, fitness and nature trails. There is also a kayak/canoe launch for exploring the bayous. There are several oversized parking spots for vehicles 20 feet and over.
Bowman’s Beach is one of the most popular of Sanibel Island beaches and parking can be a problem on holidays and at the height of tourist season. On those days it is important to arrive early.