After the heat, humidity and the endless theme park queues of Orlando we travelled to the beaches of the Gulf Coast for a relaxing end to our Florida break. We have previously visited Fort Lauderdale and Miami on Florida’s east coast but had never ventured to the west coast.
After extensive research, well actually after seeing it on Channel 4’s “A Place in the Sun” we decided to stay in Naples, perched on the south-west side of Florida. Naples is a sophisticated beach community stretching along the fine white sands of the Gulf coast, there are actually 30 miles of beaches from Fort Myers in the north down to the City of Naples itself. These beaches are quiet and undeveloped with the shops and restaurants kept off the beach and restricted to streets and avenues of the town.
As soon as you enter downtown Naples you can sense the relaxed atmosphere, the driving is sedate with a maximum speed of only 25mph – no one is in a rush.
We stayed at the Inn on Fifth in the heart of the restaurants of the downtown area of Fifth Ave South. Although Naples is one of the wealthiest cities in the US the prices are reasonable and the quality and service is exceptional.
From the hotel, the beach is a 10 min walk and not far from the exclusive shopping area of Third Street South. If it’s too hot to walk, the hotel has a free golf buggy transport service to get you around.
Just a 10 minutes walk from the Inn on Fifth is Tin City, a historic waterside area transformed into a shopping and eating venue. You can rent boats and jet skis here so you can explore the extensive waterways of Naples and Marco Island.
At the end of every avenue are the fine white sand beaches and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There is plenty of space to spread out and avoid the crowds. The picture below was taken around lunchtime on the beach at the bottom of 13th Avenue (the yellow tape was not a crime scene but a turtle nest containing eggs waiting to hatch).
If the fine dining and relaxing by the beach get’s too much (life can be hard) then it’s only a short drive into the wilds of the Everglades.
Just over 30 mins drive from Naples is the Everglades National Park. Everglades City (just a small town rather than a city) is airboat central. There are plenty of “Captain This’ and ‘Captain That’ boat tours that take you through the mangroves.
On our tour a few alligators floated past looking at us like an open buffet, we also saw some racoons and a couple of manatees. Don’t forget to take your bug spray especially if exploring later in the day.
We really enjoyed our time in Naples and would definitely go back. Hiring a boat to explore is recommended as this area is a water community with many houses backing onto bays and waterways.
Are you a regular visitor to Florida’s Gulf Coast? What are your recommendations for our next visit?