About Naples beaches
Naples is southwest Florida’s version of ritzy Palm Beach, home to some of America’s wealthiest families.
The nice thing about 16km- (10 mile-) long Naples Beach is that it’s mostly bordered by older homes instead of high-rise hotels, which offers a pleasant feeling of privacy. Despite so many mansions fronting the Gulf, the entire beach is open to public access if you can find a place to park. If the metered lot at the city’s landmark fishing pier is full, cruise the streets paralleling the beach for other designated spaces.
Or simply drive a few kilometres north to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park with its 1.6km- (1 mile-) long sandy strand. This gorgeous white sand beach is ranked one of the nation’s best, so in winter the park occasionally has to shut its gates once it reaches capacity. To ensure a spot, come early, bring a picnic and spend the day.
Beyond the beach:
Situated at the fringe of the Everglades, Naples is the closest city to the internationally recognised Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (www.corkscrew.audubon.org) operated by the National Audubon Society. Its 3.6km (2.2 miles) raised boardwalk penetrates several rich environments including a cypress swamp hosting one of the nation’s largest colonies of nesting wood storks. The sanctuary hours vary seasonally with no one allowed on the boardwalk after dark so the birds are not disturbed.
With the Everglades wilderness within easy reach, it may seem strange to suggest visiting the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens (www.napleszoo.com). This nationally accredited landmark, opened in 1919, houses more rare exotic cats (such as Indonesian tigers) than any other Florida zoo. Children can even handle some of the less dangerous animals and reptiles in the ‘Scales & Tails’ area, then ride by boat through a jungle area with live animals from many continents in a natural setting, unlike the robotic creatures at Disney World.
Naples is within easy driving distance of Fort Myers and its famous offshore barrier islands, Sanibel and Captiva. On Sanibel Island, the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers bird watching rivalling that of the Everglades National Park, located much farther to the east. It’s an easy day trip 24km (15 miles) to Marco Island for a swim at spectacular Tigertail Beach Park. If you really want to experience Florida’s outdoors, hike the 10.5km (6.5-mile) nature trail at Seminole-Collier State Park, even rough it overnight at the primitive campsite lacking water and other facilities. The park is 27km (17 miles) south of Naples.
The Sunset Beach Bar at the Naples Beach Hotel (www.naplesbeachhotel.com) in Olde Naples is a longtime favorite of locals. Expect it to be packed at sunset, then stick around for the live music.