We spent Christmas this year in Bonita Springs, Florida. We had never stayed there, just passed signs on the way to Marco from the airport, but Bonita Springs stole a chunk of our heart, and we actually already made plans to head back there! Today, I am so excited to share our Bonita Springs travel guide with you!
Bonita Springs Travel Guide
I’m breaking up our Bonita Springs Travel Guide into a few different sections: how to get there, where we stayed, what we ate, and what we did (though, the last one could be summarized as: BEACH haha)
How to get there
Bonita Springs is located on the Gulf Coast, on the SW side of Florida. We flew into RSW (Southwest Airlines has a direct flight from Michigan!), and rented a car through Turo. Just a side note about Turo – it is a car rental service, but instead of renting cars owned by a company like Enterprise, you’re able to rent cars owned by people. Basically, you can rent some really cool vehicles. Dave rented an Audi R8 for 2 days while we were there – his Christmas present to himself.
^ we were dying laughing while taking that photo ???? Gee thanks, they’re all rentals ????????
We rented a pretty sweet Corvette the first time we used Turo (on our first ever Marco trip!) You might have recognized the Jeep we drove around in – it’s the same Jeep Dave and I rented when we went to Marco this summer! We also already rented another vehicle from the same owner for our next Florida trip!
Where we stayed
We opted to rent a home on the beach, versus a hotel. I generally opt for a hotel when we vacation, since I don’t want to clean sand off the floors and make beds — hey, it’s my vacation, too, right?! While we have stayed in hotels throughout 2020, we found that there are so many services that have to be cut (such as in-room dining, less frequent housekeeping, etc), so being on our own in a stand-alone home was just fine!
Shop my dress here.
Our rental was located right on the beach, near a few area attractions (I’ll talk about them below!), and had the most amazing sunset views.
This is not sponsored, but I will plug the real estate company that handled our rental – everything was amazing, our agent was attentive and very helpful.
Where we ate
We did opt to do Door Dash a few nights, mostly because we couldn’t bear to leave the beach or because it was just easier with the kids. However, we did check out a few local places, and have a new favorite! Additionally, this section of our Bonita Springs Travel Guide could be titled: Margaritas around Bonita ????????????
Coconut Jack’s reminded me a lot of Snook Inn on Marco (which is my favorite FL restaurant), so that’s a high, high compliment! We were seated in a cute patio space, with a living greenery wall, and a gorgeous view of the intercostal. We ate here twice during our stay because the food was so tasty, and the atmosphere was great!
The drinks were fairly strong, but that is not a complaint ???? I had the 1800 margarita, and Mimi had the rum runner!
Both nights we ate at Coconut Jack’s, we spotted a gator in the water below — which was really cool. We took a bottle of their hot sauce and a key lime pie home with us, because YOLO. It was so thick and rich – YUM.
The parking area is very small, and very intimidating (especially in the big Jeep), but they had a super-friendly valet team working. Despite the packed parking lot, tables were still well-spaced and the service was amazing.
You can’t go to SW FL and not eat at Snook. You just can’t. We did a day trip into Marco one afternoon to go shelling. Before we hit Tigertail, we stopped for lunch at Snook. It was fairly empty around 11 when we got there, but was filling up with a wait for seating by the time we left. We sat outside, on the gorgeous patio area, and watched the boats and birds.
Snook’s Coconut Shrimp is the best, and the appetizer is the perfect portion for a light lunch before the beach. And it pairs well with one of their killer margaritas!
Riverwalk at Tin City
I found Riverwalk at Tin City on Instagram, and immediately knew we had to go! It was the cutest little area.
^ shop this photo here.
Downtown Naples is about 15 (20 with traffic) minutes from Bonita Springs, so this was just a hop and a skip away. Tin City is the perfect name for this area. The locally owned shops and restaurants boast colorful walls, lights, and bright signs. The whole area is like one, big photo-op. That said, dinner was good, but it wasn’t great.
^ my dinner, still bagged
^ my dinner, un-bagged
I ordered the Key West Bag n Bake, which was seafood in a parchment paper bag. Aside from the cool presentation, I actually didn’t find it super flavorful. I was hoping for some spice or even some lime.
This may have been the kids’ favorite restaurant, though (next to Snook). The girls all loved the fun names for the food, and inhaled the mac & cheese!
^It has SUCH a cool location though! Always something to look at, and so pretty with the Christmas lights!
My father-in-law was adamant we go to Mel’s, and I am so glad he campaigned so hard for it! Everyone really enjoyed their meals, especially the kids.
This was set up like an old-school diner, so it was a little cheesy, but in a cute way. The girls all wanted one of their famous milkshakes, while the over 30 crowd opted for margaritas. Insanely inexpensive margaritas, might I add. The price-point of Mel’s Diner puts it as the most inexpensive place we ate at, while still having a great meal!
I really don’t even want to link to this restaurant, but I will as a warning. We drove into Naples for dinner at Burntwood Tavern, which is located in the Mercato shops (higher-end shopping area), so I had fairly high expectations. However, the server did not put in 2 of our meals (mine and one of the girls’ cousins). The server did not apologize, and didn’t even speak to me, he spoke to my father-in-law, telling him that my meal would not be out. The kids meal came out very shortly, but mine did not arrive until half the table was done eating.
While waiting for my meal, I ordered a drink twice, and it never came. When it finally did arrive (after my meal arrived, and the third time I ordered it), it was not the right drink. We never saw the server again until he came and set the bill down in front of me. He did comp my meal, which I appreciated.
But the quality of service was a huge turn off, and there are many, MANY more restaurants in the area to dine at!
This is kind of embarrassing, but Doc’s was right down the beach from us… like, we could see it from our yard, but we never ate there! Mostly because it was right at the public beach and water-rentals, so it was always very crowded.
^ see all those lights? That’s Doc’s!
Dave and I walked by it every night on our evening beach walk, and it looked so cute. It’s on the top of our list for next time!
What we did
We had 11 days to play in Bonita Springs, which is the longest family trip we have taken!
Most days, we were out to the beach around 10:30, and hung out until about 3. We had 2 cold days, but otherwise, you could find us by the beach!
Shop our beach outfits here.
^Shop this look here.
^ we made a sand turtle one afternoon on the beach! Shop the girls’ striped suits here.
The sunsets were gorgeous, so we had a 5:30 ritual of sitting on the beach or in the screened-in room and watching the sky before heading out to dinner. The red tide levels were high, and while it wasn’t constant, there would be pockets of air you’d walk into, and we would suddenly all start coughing and my eyes would sting and water. A few locals told us it was fairly common, and as soon as we were out of those “pockets of air”, everything was fine again.
The sand was gorgeous; white and sugary! However, the beach right in front of our rental was covered in shells! The first day, the girls actually made a path, so we could walk without stepping on the hard shells.
The first 3 days, I spent wondering why Bonita Springs was labeled as one of the best shelling spots in Florida. And then I spent the rest of our vacation frantically collecting a million shells ???? It absolutely turned out to be amazing shelling.
^ You can shop our shell bags here!
I made a habit of waking up at 6:30 daily, so I could walk the beach with the tide still low. I found so many angel wings (a fairly rare shell because it’s so fragile) and even a few sand dollars on my morning walks!
^ me, walking on the sandbar at low tide. Just look at that sunrise!
Marco Island – Tigertail
I mentioned above that we took a day trip into Marco to go shelling. It was about a 45 minute drive from our rental across the bridge onto Marco Island. We parked at Tigertail Beach Park, and started our beach hike!
^ Shout out to my sister-in-law, rocking her first ever “beach hike” on Tigertail!
Dave and I are usually on Tigertail bright and early, so this was a lot busier than we had ever seen it, but once we walked a ways, we got to those big, open stretches of beach that stole my heart the first time I was there. We had also never caught the end of Sand Dollar Spit at low tide. We were rewarded:
Again, we did hit a few areas where the red tide made us all cough nonstop for 30 seconds, but the beauty of the day, and seeing all the girls get excited about finding sand dollars and starfish was worth it!
The girls’ big request was to go play mini golf. On the main strip of road through Bonita Springs, there’s a cute safari-themed mini-golf course! It wasn’t super busy, but we did have a group of people in front of us and behind us.
The girls had fun, and I think 4 of us got a hole in one on various holes! Woo hoo! At the end of the round, the gentleman working the counter gave each of the girls a little prize duck, which made Addy’s night for sure!
^ being a responsible adult, obviously ????
It was a little different spending Christmas away from home, and admittedly, it didn’t feel much like Christmas. However, those 11 days in paradise were exactly what we needed to end 2020 the same way it started: together, happy, and hopeful. I can see this becoming a new family tradition for us ????