Cayo Costa State Park:_ Cayo Costa, Florida_
Finding beaches in Florida isn't a problem. Finding an island beach off the coast of this popular peninsula that feels like it hasn't already been claimed, on the other hand, may seem like a daunting quest. But just west of North Fort Myers, you'll find Cayo Costa State Park, a 9-mile-long strip of untouched white sand in the warm, clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The protected, northernmost tip of Cayo Costa island is both a reminder of what early Spanish traders must have seen when they first approached these rugged shores and the embodiment of what has kept travelers coming back to the Sunshine State ever since. Pack a lunch (there are no concessions on Cayo Costa) and set up a picnic beneath the mangrove canopies. Bring a rod and reel for world-class tarpon fishing in the gentle surf, and carry a tote bag to carry the beach's other treasures: seashells. Offering some of the best shelling in the world, Cayo Costa's powdery sand shimmers with tiny coquina shells, mosaics of broken tulip shells, fully formed lightning whelks, pastel-colored mollusks and a plethora of other species washed up on shore by gentle, lapping waves. You can get to Cayo Costa by private boat from nearby islands, such as Sanibel or Gasparilla, or hop a ferry from Pine Island, Florida. Tropic Star of Pine Island Inc. offers chartered water taxis for daylong excursions and overnight camping trips.