Leave No Trace Principles at the Beach

By Laurén Ettinger

Spending a day on a pristine white sand beach with crystal clear warm Gulf of Mexico water is a highlight of any trip to southwest Florida. Our beautiful coastline needs your help though to stay a beautiful natural place. By following the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, you’ll be sure to leave it better than you found it!

Leave No Trace Principles at the Beach. Must Do Visitor Guides Southwest Florida Travel. A handy guide on how to minimize your impact while at the beach so the Naples, Fort Myers, and Sarasota Florida coastline will stay a beautiful natural place.
Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Developed by the Center for Outdoor Ethics, the Leave No Trace principles were originally intended as a guide for backcountry recreation but have been adapted to fit all outdoor activities. With your perfect beach day in mind, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to minimize your impact while at the beach.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

There are many ways you can plan ahead for your beach visit to ensure you leave no trace. If possible, avoid visiting during times of high use where large crowds will have a greater impact. Reduce your carbon footprint (and the parking headache) by carpooling, walking, biking, or utilizing public transportation to reach the beach. Pack your beach bag with reef safe sun care products, a reusable water bottle, and minimally packaged snacks. If you bring food or drinks that create garbage, make sure to store them in a secure pouch in your bag so they do not end up littering the beach or the ocean. Unpackage any new beach supplies (sand toys, chairs, umbrellas) before hitting the beach to avoid accidentally leaving paper tags, plastic wrap, or plastic tags at the beach. 

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

While probably not relevant for most beach visits, if you do intend to camp while visiting southwest Florida, make sure to make a reservation at an established campground. When walking down to the beach, follow already existing paths to avoid damaging fragile sand dunes or trampling important bird and turtle nesting habitats. If you dig large holes, make sure to fill them in entirely as these can become fatal obstacles for baby turtles trying to reach the sea.

Dispose of Waste Properly

This one is easy–pack in and pack out whatever you may need for your beach day! Any trash that you created, should go home with you to be disposed of properly. If visiting a dog beach, make sure to bring enough bags for your furry friend’s business and pick it up to be thrown in a waste bin. 

Leave What You Find

This one can be a bit tough at the beach with so many beautiful treasures to be found! We personally recommended that you leave all rocks, plants, and shells on the beach for others to enjoy. If you do decide to bring home a beach souvenir, make sure it is not inhabited, not still alive, and only take one or two. Removing natural items from the beach means other visitors will not be able to enjoy them, take a picture and leave it behind for others!

Minimize Campfire Impacts

Campfires are not allowed on the beaches of Sarasota, Fort Myers, or Naples, Florida. If camping at a designated campsite, follow their rules for campfire safety and only build fires in established fire rings.

Respect Wildlife

Watch animals from a distance, do not follow or approach them. Make sure to not feed seagulls or other sea birds as this damages their health, makes them a nuisance for others, and changes their natural feeding behaviors. If visiting a dog beach, keep your pet under your control and do not allow them to chase wildlife. 

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Last but not least, be a kind neighbor to others visiting the beach! Keep music at a low volume, do not smoke cigarettes, and generally be courteous to those around you. 

With these seven principles in mind, you’ll be sure to have a fabulous day at the beach while ensuring its pristine beauty for future visitors. For a more in-depth education on the Leave No Trace Principles, visit the LNT website.

Must Do Visitor Guides Leave No Trace Principles at the Beach. How to minimize your impact while at southwest Florida's Beaches. MustDo.com

Written by: Laurén Ettinger | Author Website

Laurén Ettinger runs the travel and vanlife blog Flit Float Fly Away where she shares travel tips and stories from life on the road with her dog. She is the Assistant Editor at Siesta Publications for Must Do Visitor Guides where she manages social media, writes blog articles, and assists in editing print and online copy. Laurén also works as a freelance copy editor and proofreader. She holds a M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Global Studies from Appalachian State University. Follow her adventures on instagram or her blog www.flitfloatflyaway.com