Naples, Marco Island, Everglades - The Paradise Coast
Family Travel HighlightsNaples, Fla.
– The greater Naples, Florida area is blessed with miles of beautiful, white sand beaches, but this is not your average beach town. Naples is a small yet sophisticated city by the sea, recognized as a leading arts and culture destination with a diverse array of recreational opportunities appealing to all members of the family.Naples-area beaches have won many prestigious awards, including being named to TripAdvisor.com's 2011 Travelers' Choice Awards for the Top 25 Beaches in the U.S. TripAdvisor's announcement described the area as "sophisticated" and "charming" with "world-class hotels and resorts." In addition, the easy access to "secluded islands" and the "wild Everglades" was one of the area's key selling points for travelers.
The tropical ambiance of nearby Marco Island adds to Naples' appeal with beachfront resorts, guided Waverunner tours of the Ten Thousand Islands, fishing charters, boat rentals, waterfront dining and more. The beach resort areas are complemented by the vast Everglades ecosystem, providing unique choices for outdoor adventures that always include bird and wildlife watching. For more information or to request a free visitors guide or brochure, call (239) 225-1013 from outside the USA or 1-800-688-3600 from within the USA, or log on to www.ParadiseCoast.com
.WHAT TO DO
Shopping is outstanding, with unique boutiques, art galleries and clothing stores along Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South in downtown Naples, and with elegant upscale centers such as Waterside Shops – with an impressive list of luxury retailers including Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Hermes and more – anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom's. The Village on Venetian Bay in north Naples offers upscale shopping and picturesque waterfront dining on the bay. Bargain hunters should not be dissuaded, however. Naples Outlet Center, located halfway between downtown Naples and Marco Island, boasts over 40 name brand retail outlets including Liz Claiborne, Bass and IZOD. And if you're into treasure hunting, the second hand, thrift and consignment shops in Naples are filled with cast offs from the area's wealthier residents with great buys possible on designer shoes, bags, clothing and home furnishings and interior design items.Golf
is ubiquitous with courses available at all the major resorts as well as several excellent public courses. Some of the private, members-only courses go semi-private between May and October, when they welcome non-members to play. Instruction programs are available that appeal to families and may include lessons on golf etiquette for youngsters (Tiburon Golf Club at The Rtiz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples or family lessons at Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club).Fishing
can be a great family fun activity. While deep-sea fishing trips into the Gulf of Mexico can be fun and exciting, sometimes seas may be too rough for younger passengers. Try one of the many inshore or "backcountry" fishing charters available. Calmer waters prevail, but the fish are big and plentiful. Use fly rods or spinning tackle to hunt for tarpon, snook, redfish, seatrout and more. If you'd like to try kayak fishing the Everglades National Park Wilderness Waterway, book a "mother ship" trip aboard the Yak Attack out of Everglades City from EvergladesAreaTours.com. Six kayaks and six passengers are ferried out into the wilds of the creeks and deserted island beaches of the Everglades for either a half or full day of paddling, fishing and exploring the wilderness. Motor back to the dock in the afternoon. You'll have spent a day kayaking in an area where it normally would take you at least three days to paddle to, with no need for camping gear, and returning you to your beachfront resort in time for dinner and sunset.Boating
is part of the lifestyle in Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades and most visitors want to get in on the action. All manner of boat tours are available. Sightseeing boats such as the Naples Princess, Marco Princess, Sweet Liberty, Cool Beans Catamaran and the Double Sunshine provide tours to view the area's beautiful waterfront homes as well as the mangrove estuaries teaming with wildlife that lead out to the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller boat tours focus on spotting wildlife, especially the area's many bottle nosed dolphin, manatee, sea turtles and birds.Shelling
is unbelievable in the area, but to find the best shells, sometimes it is best to book a shelling charter from one of the area's boat captains. Nearby islands, accessible only by boat and located just offshore, are filled with keepsake shells and the trip to and from promises dolphin spotting as well as a relaxing ride.Arts & Culture
abounds, with concerts at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, some with family themes, as well as the renowned Naples Museum of Art. Collier County Museums in Naples, Everglades City and Immokalee provide free admission and a look back into the fascinating history of Southwest Florida, from the days of the prehistoric mastadon to the reign of the Calusa Indians to the pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th century.Attractions
can be found to keep the children interested. Most all are themed around the area's rich natural environment. Following are some of the area's top attractions.Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
is fully accredited by the prestigious Association for Zoos & Aquariums. The zoo is located in an historic 52-acre old growth tropical botanical garden and features several excellent multimedia shows daily that include live animal participation. Admission to the zoo includes the Primate Expedition Cruise that takes guests up close to the many islands in a large lake that serve as cage free homes for the zoo's primates, including lemurs, colobus monkeys, spider monkeys, gibbons and more. Naples Zoo is the only zoo in the Southeastern US to have the rare fosa on display. Two fosas, a carnivore native to Madagascar that preys on the island's lemur population, make their home at Naples Zoo.Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
provides a 2.25-mile boardwalk through the country's last remaining old growth bald cypress forest for spotting birds and wildlife up close. Take your camera and allow several hours to stroll along the boardwalk. Best chances to spot deer, bear, otter and other mammals are morning and evening hours. Bird watching is good year round depending on the arrival and departure of many migratory species as well as year round bird populations. Check with the sanctuary for family night walks on the boardwalk and other guided activities.The Conservancy of Florida's Naples Nature Center
has an excellent interactive museum for learning about the Florida environment, narrated boat tours of the Gordon River, kayak rentals and viewing of rehabilitated injured wildlife that are cared for on the grounds.Cocohatchee Nature Center
in north Naples offers kayak rentals and guided boat tours on the pristine Cocohatchee River leading out to the Gulf of Mexico.Naples Water & Land Tours
, operating out of the Charter Club Resort in Old Naples, offers small boat tours to spot dolphins and other wildlife; as well as guided Segway scooter tours in the Naples area. Segway instructions are included with each tour – great for all ages.Naples Transportation, Tours & Event Planning
operates the Naples Trolley, with narrated trolley tours throughout the downtown and north Naples areas. They also have a guided Segway tour and a guided van tour of the Everglades called Everglades Excursions.Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
has a beautiful new Environmental Learning Center with tanks showing the estuary system and its inhabitants. Inquire about guided excursions on nearby trails on the waters of Rookery Bay.Wildlife drives
are great ways to enjoy the Everglades ecosystem. Several roads within area parks provide great opportunities to spot and photograph wildlife including alligators, raccoons, butterflies, birds and more. Janes Scenic Drive, Loop Road, Turner River Road and the Tamiami Trail, all just past Everglades City, offer some of the best critter spotting opportunities.Airboat rides
are fast and fun and get passengers up close to alligators and other animals along with Everglades area scenery. There are numerous airboat tour operators near Everglades City offering trips through the mangrove tunnels and alongside the Everglades prairies. Airboat rides on Lake Trafford are great for spotting birds in the lakeside reeds as wells as alligators, wild boar and other creatures.The Children's Museum of Naples (C'mon)
is a not-for-profit cultural institution in North Naples Regional Park. The museum is Collier County's first learning environment devoted exclusively to child's play, the serious business of discovery that helps children attain hallmark milestones on the journey into adulthood. C'mon's 22,000-square-foot building includes ten state-of-the-art exhibits, classrooms and party rooms, dining room, and a museum store. C'mon's exhibits present a well-rounded universe that is rarely experienced by children or, for that matter, the adults in their lives, from the swamps of the Everglades to the outer reaches of the galaxy, from the annual change of seasons to 10,000 years of history, from a working farm to a day at the beach. The Children's Museum of Naples, one of the finest children's museums in the United States, is the first fully physically accessible, barrier-free children's museum in the nation. Visit www.cmon.org
.WHERE TO STAY
Many area hotels and resorts are excellent for family vacations. Consider taking advantage of the suite life at one of the region's many hotels offering multi-bedroom suites complete with kitchens. These provide privacy for parents and money and time saving solutions to eating out three meals a day. Breakfast and snacks in the room provide a great break for vacationing families, especially those with small children. Options include the DoubleTree Guest Suites of Naples, Bellasera Hotel, GreenLinks Golf Resort, Charter Club Resort on Naples Bay, Residence Inn by Marriott, Hawthorn Suites, Edgewater Beach Hotel & Club, Naples Bath & Tennis Resort, Parkshore Resort, Marco Beach Ocean Resort, Quality Inn & Suites Parkshore and more.
Resorts with formalized children's programs provide interesting and fun activities as well as guilt-free childcare so Mom and Dad can enjoy a round of golf, spa treatments or quiet time. These include Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa, Naples Grande Beach Resort, Marco Beach Ocean Resort, The Ritz-Carlton, Naples beach resort and The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. Both Ritz-Carlton properties feature the environmentally themed Nature's Wonders program, with a state-of-the-art nature center filled with aquariums and other things to engage young minds.
Although Naples has an upscale aura, there are many budget friendly accommodations providing a relaxing, tropical environment. The Lemon Tree Inn has a lovely tropical courtyard, bicycles for getting around and is within walking distance of downtown Naples shops and beaches. Quality Inn & Suites Golf Resort has a relaxing atmosphere, golf course and tiki bar with karaoke and other entertainment.
Hotel rates in the area are highest between January and April. Great bargains can be found May through December with rates 25% to 50% off normal winter season rates. Spring and summer values are excellent, but the best rates occur September through December excluding the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods.For more ideas on where to stay, visit www.ParadiseCoast.com or call 1-800-688-3600 to request a free visitors guide. # # #