- A. J. Samuels
As part of Florida’s aptly-named Paradise Coast, Naples has white sandy beaches and pristine waters. Outside of the sand and surf, the city’s proximity to outdoor adventure and rustic fishing villages makes for a to-do list that will that outlast any spring break trip. Here are our picks for the top things to do in Naples.
Naples beach and pier
Naples’s 100-year-old pier juts into the Gulf of Mexico, serving as the perfect fishing spot. Poles can be rented from outfitters and the city offers license-free fishing, making the pier a hangout for local anglers and tourists alike. At sunset, the spot becomes filled with amateur photographers looking for a shot of the sun dipping below the gulf, or the dolphins that frequent the area. Grab a salty snack from the café and stroll along the nearby beach, taking in the stunning views of the gulf and the surrounding waterfront homes.
Naples Pier, 25 12th Ave S, Naples, FL, USA +239 213 3062
35 miles south of Naples lies Everglades City, launching point for both Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands. To the east of this quaint fishing town, the Everglades are prime for a kayak tour or airboat ride to see the bevy of reptiles and birds. On the gulf side of Everglades City lies an intricate waterway of small islands (Ten Thousand Islands) known for some of the state’s best fishing. A trip to the swampy city of 500 would not be complete without a taste of gulf seafood. The rustic City Seafood is dockside and serves fried seafood and gator – a Florida specialty.
Everglades National Park, FL, USA +305 242 7700
City Seafood, 702 Begonia St, Everglades, FL, USA +239 695 4700
Part of Naples’ revival in the last 20 years has been an emphasis on local restaurants. Affluent residents that eat out multiple times a week have also fostered a dining scene recognized as one of the best in southwest Florida. Campiello is a Tuscany-inspired restaurant that represents luxury in food and setting. A beautiful interior includes a glass atrium ceiling, while two outdoor courtyards host a lively crowd and after-dinner drinks. Campiello’s open kitchen turns out wood-fired pizzas, homemade pastas, and some of the best entrees in the city, including a delicious grilled veal chop.
Campiello, 1177 3rd St S, Naples, FL, USA +239 435 1166
As the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island has a more secluded atmosphere than Naples, while still carrying luxury resorts and restaurants. A 15-mile drive from Naples brings visitors to the long stretches of beach and incredible views of Marco. Enjoy shelling or sunbathing at South Marco Beach or the 32-acre Tigertail Beach. Those staying on the island will want to take advantage of boat tours to nearby Keewaydin Island, a pristine and secluded destination. Both amenities and calm beach getaways find a home in Marco.
Local art scene
The city’s 100-plus galleries and art museums make Naples one of the best small towns for art in the country. Downtown Naples is home to ‘Gallery Row’ along Third Street South, a collection of shops containing everything from Florida landscapes to modern European art. Naples’s Baker Museum displays the city’s commitment to art and a surprising range of items. Modern and contemporary pieces are curated by a knowledgeable staff. Both the permanent collection and temporary exhibits are world class. Enjoy lunch outside in the courtyard, which contains some of the museum’s sculpture collection.
Baker Museum, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd, Naples, FL +239 597 1111
Gordon River Greenway
Those preferring a short venture into the Florida wilderness will appreciate the Gordon River Greenway. The nature preserve in the heart of Naples is frequented by bikers, runners, and dog-walkers looking for a quiet jaunt into nature. The elevated walkways look onto natural Florida vegetation and wildlife. Visitors are rewarded with observation decks perfect for birding or catching a glimpse of animals scurrying below. The greenway is a great way to escape the city, and walking or running along the trail is often a daily ritual for residents.
Naples’s shopping centers are specially curated for the city’s affluent, meaning extravagant stores such as Louis Vuitton beside high-end boutiques. Downtown, the revitalized Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South house restaurants galleries, and specialty shops among Mediterranean architecture. Gallery Row (see above) makes for good window shopping or purchasing souvenirs to bring home. In North Naples, the Waterside Shops is a luxury shopping center containing high-end chains. Those looking for stores like Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Burberry will be satiated by Waterside. Visitors tired of the sun and sand can escape to the air-conditioned confines of luxury shopping.
Waterside Shops, 5415 Tamiami Trail N, Naples, FL, USA +239 598 1605
Fishing village of Goodland
Filled with more fishermen and crab traps than hotels, Goodland is a local alternative to Naples. Located on the southeast corner of Marco Island, the small city is laid-back and sleepy during the week, and host to one of the area’s biggest parties on the weekends. Stan’s Idle Hour is a waterside dive that draws a crowd of locals and bikers for its year-round Sunday outdoor concert. Patrons sit at wooden picnic tables, sip beer, and eat fried fish while bands play on the outdoor stage. Tasty rum punches and tropical mixed drinks are also on the menu, creating a rowdy scene at home in a Jimmy Buffet song.
Stan’s Idle Hour, 221 Goodland Dr, Goodland, FL, USA +239 394 3041
Luxury beach resorts
Staying at one of Naples’s waterfront resorts is well worth a splurge. Experiencing beautiful stretches of beach while being showered in luxury is a hallmark of the city. The Naples Grande is a secluded option with incredible views of the gulf. Five miles from downtown Naples, guests can either take a short tram to the beach or sunbathe from their gulf-side patios. A poolside bar and restaurant, complete with local fish, highlight the Grande. For a spot mere steps from the beach, the Edgewater Beach Hotel is also one of the city’s favorites.
Loungers and sunbathers may not be keen to stray from the beach, but the Naples Zoo is a top attraction in southwest Florida. It combines both botanical gardens and zoo, offering a tropical setting for animal viewing. The Naples Zoo is small and intimate compared to other venues, creating an easy walk for families spending an afternoon outside of the resort. The primate viewing is the highlight, as monkeys are housed on an island compound, and guided boat tours take visitors close to the animals. Feedings and zookeeper excursions also make the zoo a top spot in Naples.
Naples Zoo, 1590 Goodlette Rd, Naples, FL, USA +239 262 5409