Not to be confused with Italy’s Naples, Naples, Florida is a beautiful, luxurious town on the Gulf Coast just south of Fort Myers Beach. Many neighborhoods of Naples are gated golfing communities, while some of the younger crowd live in apartment buildings or rent single family homes. Naples downtown is where the rich and famous hang out, with high-end shopping, restaurants, and other stores. Naples’s beaches are calm, clear, and warm, and you might be able to spot a dolphin or two off the famous pier.
Trying to figure out where to stay in southwest Florida can get intimidating with so many small towns and neighborhoods tucked away.
Downtown Naples is the charming area between Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South. You can browse exquisite shops and galleries, dine at fine restaurants, attend local festivals or events, or meet friends for a coffee to watch tourists and locals alike don their best outfits for a night out. Stroll down the iconically named Fifth Avenue South, lined with lit-up palm trees for a romantic evening out.
Some of the businesses in the area include clothing boutiques, architecture and design consultants, legal offices, bank and financial services, fine jewelry and other gift shops, and restaurants. There’s one hotel on Fifth Avenue South, the Inn on Fifth.
Naples Park (North Naples)
Naples Park is a neighborhood of single family houses in North Naples, just north of Naples Downtown. This is one of the most popular places to rent during the high season due to the proximity to the beach. Naples Park runs from 91st Ave N to 111th Ave N between the beach and Tamiami Trail N.
There are two main beaches in this area: Vanderbilt Beach and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. Hotels, resorts, and high-rises line the beaches in Naples Park. There’s a parking garage near Vanderbilt Beach for $8/day and they offer free return at sunset to watch the magic hour on the beach. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park charges an entrance fee of $6 to the park, where you can then visit the protected beach and the Tourist Trees, named so because the peeling, papery red bark resembles the sunburned skin of a tourist.
There are lots of places to eat near here, one of the best being the Beach Box Cafe. Florida’s humidity causes about 30 minutes of rain each day in the summer, so when it rains (usually around 3 p.m. every day), the Beach Box offers half-priced drinks while you wait out the rain to go back on the beach after. You can also get do-it-yourself topping, pay-by-the-pound ice cream here. The Lighthouse Restaurant is a casual but pricey beachfront restaurant and inn, perfect for a break from the Florida heat if you’re looking for more than a bar scene.
You can stay at the Ritz Carlton on the beach in Naples Park for a romantic getaway. On Valentine’s Day, they put rose petals on the beach and set up lights and tables for the most romantic way to spend a dinner with your sweetheart.
Marco Island is a barrier island connected to the Naples mainland by bridges south of the city. You’ll find resorts, beaches, marinas, and golf courses in Marco Island. Most of the resorts are in the south, while a long, white, sandy beach covers almost the entire west side of the island. Marco Island offers a casual, slower-paced resort-style vacation than Naples with plenty of seafood restaurants, water activities, boat tours, and wildlife gazing. If you’re looking for a relaxing, laid-back vacation for an older crowd, Marco Island is the spot for you. If you’re looking for a young crowd with a vibrant nightlife, venture out of Marco Island into Downtown or North Naples.
Naples is a big golf city that happens to have a beach. I wouldn’t be surprised if the city drew more golfers than beach-goers. Since I’m a beach person and not a golfer, I tend to focus on the beach, but I want to mention that there are plenty of places to golf for those so inclined. Some of the more popular golf courses are the Country Club of Naples, Wilderness Country Club, and Naples Grande Golf Club. However, there are over 70 golf courses in Collier County, making it a Golf Capital of the World!
The Ritz Carlton Golf Course is one of the most high-end golf courses in Naples. It’s $25 to park, offers villas to stay overnight, has a Baby Grand piano in the clubhouse, and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the pristine golf course. If you want to check out a golf course during a trip to Naples, I’d recommend the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.
Outside of Naples
Other popular neighborhoods outside of Naples include Bonita Springs, just north of Naples, Estero, just north of Bonita Springs, Fort Myers Downtown, and Fort Myers Beach. If Naples is just out of your price range, check these areas for places to stay only a quick drive from all the action in Naples.
The historic Naples pier is one of the best-known landmarks of the city. It dates back to January 1889, however after four hurricanes and much damage, it was rebuilt sturdier, longer, and deeper and turned into a recreation pier with dancing, fishing, dolphin-watching, and sunset viewing.
The Naples Zoo is small but perfect for what it is. It’s centrally-located and is a nationally accredited zoo and charitable institution. Tickets are $13 but they will issue return tickets if it happens to rain on the day of your visit. The zoo is open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., but the last tickets are sold at 4:00 p.m. You can walk through the zoo in about two hours, depending on how much time you spend at each place. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
All day long, zoo employees provide interactive events like a snake feeding, alligator feeding, animal trainings, shows, and the keepers of many of the animals talk about what it’s like to take care of animals like panthers, zebras, and bears.
Throughout the day, the primate expedition tours take people out on a boat tour of monkey-inhabited islands. The captain talks about where the monkeys and apes come from, how they ended up there, preferred living conditions, and other fun facts. Bring the kids – you get to see spider monkeys in real life!
You can also feed the giraffes before 3:00 p.m. Buy giraffe feed and walk up to the feeding area and let the giraffe eat right out of your hands! You can see what color a giraffe’s tongue really is.
Mercato is one of the most exciting places to hang out in Naples. You can shop for clothes or food, eat at one of the 12 restaurants, see a movie at the 12-screen theater, even rent a luxury condo. There are year-round events, most free and open to the public.
Every third Tuesday, bring a blanket or lawn chairs and catch a free movie on the lawn at Mercato. They show everything from classics to animated favorites, even movies just out of the theater. On the first Thursday of every month, live music in every genre is perfect for the entire family. There’s never a dull moment at Mercato.
Naples Water Sports
Naples has a water sports park where you can wakeboard, wake surf, water ski, tube, or take lessons in one of the lakes. There are multiple places you can do this, whether you prefer to go by boat or by cable. The lakes also include man-made jumps in the water for extra fun. Just beware of alligators!
Naples Beach Brewery
Tucked away between warehouses with an open and airy atmosphere, you’ll find Naples Beach Brewery. Enjoy specialty local brews alongside smoked barbecue meats and brick oven pizza specials in the food truck outside. Grab a few friends for the Sugarshack concerts and play oversized jenga or shuffleboard. Stay up to date on Naples Beach Brewery events like Yoga at the Brewery or Paint Your Pet night.
Have you been to Naples? What was your favorite part? Did you do anything that I missed? I’d love to add some new things to my itinerary for my next trip to visit my sister!
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