Bonita Springs – Gateway to the Gulf of Mexico

Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida roughly halfway between Fort Myers and Naples, is the city of Bonita Springs. This quiet beachfront community may not get the same level of national attention as some of its more famous neighbors, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a popular destination for families and retirees looking to relocate to the Sunshine State.

Bonita Springs may be small, but don’t let its size fool you. The city is home to some of the finest beaches in the state, as well as some stunning national parks and nature preserves. Its proximity to the Fort Myers-Cape Coral metropolitan area allows residents to enjoy all the amenities of a bigger city while still maintaining the relaxed, small-town tropical lifestyle that likely brought them to the Sunshine State in the first place.

If you are hearing the siren call of Southwest Florida but are hesitant to dive into one of the area’s larger tourist towns, Bonita Springs may well be the answer you’ve been waiting for. Continue Reading about Bonita Springs >>.

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A ‘Survey’ of Bonita’s History

Bonita Springs history begins not long after the Territory of Florida became the American Union’s 27th state. In the mid-1870s, The US Army Corps of Engineers dispatched teams of surveyors to map the Southern regions of the Florida peninsula. One team pitched camp alongside what would one day become the Imperial River.

The team spent several weeks surveying the region and then finally broke camp. They had marked out the area on the maps, giving it the unlikely name of ‘Survey.’ The nearby river, they called ‘Surveyor’s Creek.’ It was certainly an inauspicious beginning for what would become one of the most beautiful cities on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Over the next few years, a handful of homesteaders would put down roots in Survey, but it would take the arrival of Braxton Comer to turn the area into an ongoing concern. Comer arrived in Survey in the late 1880s. He purchased roughly 6000 acres of land and began construction of a plantation on which he intended to grow coconuts, bananas, and pineapples.

The population of Survey soon doubled, and the rag-tag collection of homesteaders started to become a cohesive community. They built a school and a post office, as well as the Eagle Hotel which would be the first resort in the area to welcome fishermen and other holiday travelers to Surveyor’s Creek.

Survey Blossoms into Bonita Springs

For the next couple of decades, the village of Survey would remain largely unchanged. But a pair of land developers from Tennessee, recognizing the area’s raw potential, would soon set about transforming the little town into a thriving Gulf Coast community.

In 1912, J.H. Ragsdale and his partner Daniel Farnsworth purchased 2400 acres of land in and around Survey. They scouted out the region carefully and began designing their prospective new town. In a clever marketing move they decided to name all the streets and avenues in their development after potential investors. It was a hook they hoped would guarantee support for their project.

Before Ragsdale and Farnsworth went public, they decided to give the town a new name. ‘Survey,’ for all of its local history, was hardly a name to inspire investors or new residents to come on down and relocate.

The new town needed a name that would reflect its freshness as well as its natural beauty. They needed something with sales appeal. After some consideration, they settled on the much more colorful ‘Bonita Springs.’ They also changed the name of Indian Spring Branch to Oak River, and good old Surveyor’s Creek became the Imperial River.

Bonita Takes Shape

By the 1920s, investors had begun to respond to Ragsdale and Farnsworth’s sales pitch. Money was coming into the area and people were moving to the new town. Tourist attractions like the Everglades Wonder Gardens and the Original Shell Factory were attracting visitors, but progress was still slow. It would take the arrival of the Fort Myers-Southern Railroad and the completion of the Tamiami Trail to bring the first steady traffic to Bonita Springs.

Over the next few decades, Bonita Springs remained a small coastal town, little more than a buffer between Fort Myers and Naples. That would change drastically during the 1960s and 70s. The opening of I-75 and the construction of the US-41 Bypass brought greater access to the region. People noticed the quiet little town, and before long Bonita Springs was experiencing its second major settlement boom.

By the turn of the last century, Bonita Springs had become one of Southwest Florida’s fastest-growing areas. In 1999, the residents voted to incorporate, and Bonita Springs officially became Lee County’s newest city.

Today, Bonita Springs is a vibrant and affluent city known for its beautiful beaches, world class golf courses, fine restaurants, and perhaps above all, the enchanting climate.

Year-Round Beach Weather

Bonita Springs has become one of the fastest-growing regions in Southwest Florida, and one of the many reasons people are flocking to this little coastal town is the weather. Bonita, like so much of Southwest Florida, is blessed with a sub-tropical climate. In practical terms, that means there are endless days of sunshine, warm temperatures all year round, and plenty of predictable summer showers. In short, Bonita Springs enjoys perfect beach weather.

While we are on the subject of beaches, Bonita is home to some of the finest that Southwest Florida has to offer. Soft white sands give way to crystal blue waters, proving that Bonita Springs deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful coastal cities on the Gulf Coast.

Some of the area’s most popular beaches include:

  • Bonita Springs Public Beach – Conveniently located to central Bonita Springs and open to the public this beach is perfect for an afternoon of parasailing, jet skiing, or just relaxing in the sun.
  • Little Hickory Island Beach Park – Nestled on the Gulf of Mexico, Little Hickory is as much public beach as public park. Locals and visitors love the park as much for the swimming and boating as they do for the recreation facilities and beautiful picnic areas.
  • Barefoot Beach – Barefoot Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Lee County. It’s the perfect place for strolling along the coast and collecting shells. It also offers prime sightseeing opportunities for nature lovers anxious to catch a glimpse of playful dolphins, manatees and sea turtles, all in their natural habitat.
  • Dog Beach – As you might have guessed Dog Beach is animal-friendly. It’s the beach of choice for anyone who wants to spend the day playing in the surf with their fur buddies and provides ample opportunities for you and your pooch to make new friends.

Picking Out Your New Neighborhood

Bonita Springs is something of a late bloomer, especially when compared with neighboring Fort Myers and Naples. That is really a rather substantial point in its favor for people looking to relocate to South Florida.

Bonita’s neighborhoods, as well as its commercial districts, all feature an abundance of new construction. For new residents, that means homes that are up-to-date regarding state and local building codes, which eliminates one of the more common headaches you could encounter when moving to a new city.

Though Bonita Springs is a younger city, it already has a large number of master-planned housing developments, subdivisions, and naturally occurring neighborhoods. A brief look at a select few should give you a better feel for the city and its residential areas:

  • Arlington Park – Built in the late 1980s, Arlington Park is conveniently located off Old 41, close to Bonita Beach and the bustling downtown district. It is a non-gated community offering condo living with all the modern amenities.
  • Barefoot Bay – Built between 2002 and 2006, Barefoot Bay is one of the more exclusive gated communities in Bonita Springs. Close to Bonita Beach, many of Barefoot Bay’s homes offer private docks and direct access to the gulf. This is luxury living in Florida, at its finest.
  • Bonita Bay – Bonita Bay is one of the area’s oldest master-planned communities and has been designed to blend harmoniously with its natural surroundings. The more than 3000 homes held within Bonita Bay are a robust mix of single-family homes, condos, and villas. Residents have access to three on-site parks, as well as all of the local beaches and attractions.
  • El Dorado Acres – This is a prime example of one of Bonita Springs’ naturally occurring neighborhoods. Homes have been built over several decades, giving this community a unique flavor all its own. It is a non-gated community comprised of single-family homes, and as such it is a great fit for young families relocating to the Gulf Coast.
  • Forest Mere Townhouse Community – Located in East Bonita Springs, Forest Mere offers affordable two-story townhouses close to the heart of the city. Residents have access to local parks and playing fields, as well as the thriving downtown commercial district.
  • Quail Creek Country Club – One of Bonita’s premier country clubs, Quail Creek features two golf courses designed by Arthur Hills. Residents also have access to racquetball courts, fitness and wellness centers, and award-winning dining at the club’s Cypress and Wine Rooms.
  • Rosemary Park – This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Bonita Springs, with homes dating all the way back to the late 1950s. It is a family-friendly community and is conveniently located close to several schools including Bonita Springs and Three Oaks Elementary.
  • Seasons at Bonita – Seasons at Bonita is a resort-style gated community, consisting primarily of single-family homes. Residents enjoy access to the community’s open-air clubhouse, pools, tennis courts, and fitness center.
  • Vanderbilt Lakes – Vanderbilt Lakes is a gated community located close to both Barefoot Beach and Bonita Beach. Originally built in the 1980s, homes in Vanderbilt range from modest villas to large estates. There is also a selection of 2- and 3-bedroom condos available in a few of the community’s subdivisions.

Bonita Springs by the Numbers

Bonita Springs has grown into one of the most desirable relocation destinations on Florida’s celebrated Gulf Coast. But how does it stack up against its neighbors when we drill down into the statistics? Let’s take a closer look at the data:

  • As of 2021, Bonita Springs has a population of 64,115 permanent residents.
  • The median household income is $70,249.
  • The average cost of a home in Bonita Springs is $396,240.
  • The median age of Bonita’s residents is 59 years.
  • The unemployment rate is 3.8% (below national and state averages).
  • Cost of living is approximately 13.8% higher than the national average.
  • Residents benefit from lower-than-average property taxes, and they have no state income tax.

The Gateway to the Gulf is Calling You

Bonita Springs is one of the loveliest, most welcoming cities on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It offers quiet coastal living, free of the hustle and bustle of some of Southwest Florida’s larger and better-known relocation destinations. From its pristine beaches to its vibrant downtown districts, Bonita Springs has a lot to offer families as well as retirees looking for a safe and serene home in the Sunshine State. That siren song you are hearing is probably coming from Bonita Springs, the Gateway to the Gulf, and it is calling you down to enjoy your next adventure.