Naples, Marco Island, Everglades - The Paradise Coast
Family Travel Highlights
NAPLES, Fla. (June 7, 2005) - 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. The combination of shopping, dining and fun family activities lead the Travel Channel to select Naples as its Best All-Around Beach for 2005. 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 adventure, bird and wildlife watching and more. For more information or to request a free visitors guide or brochure, call
1-800-2-ESCAPE 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 coming on board in 2006 - and the Village on Venetian Bay in north Naples. Bargain hunters should not be dissuaded, however. Prime Outlets, located halfway between downtown Naples and Marco Island, boasts over 40 name brand retail outlets including Liz Claiborne, Bass, IZOD and more. 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 September, 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, Naples Golf Club 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 EvergladesKayakFishing.com. Six kayaks and six passengers are ferried out into the wilds of the creeks and deserted island beaches of the Everglades for a day of paddling, fishing and exploring the deserted islands. 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 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 its 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 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.
Caribbean Gardens: The Zoo in Naples is fully accredited by the prestigious American Zoo & Aquarium Association. 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. The zoo has a brand new Madagascar-themed exhibit called Petrof's Primate Pavilion featuring the unique wildlife of Madagascar, as well as the Primate Expedition cruise, included with zoo admission, 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.
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 and viewing of rehabilitated injured wildlife that are cared for on the grounds.
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 airobat 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 scheduled to open in 2007 at North Naples Regional Park. The museum will be 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 will include ten state-of-the-art exhibits, classrooms and party rooms, dining room, and a museum store. C'mon's exhibits will 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. All exhibits were created to meet Florida's Sunshine State curriculum standards. The Children's Museum of Naples, envisioned to become one of the finest children's museums in the United States, will also be the first fully physically accessible, barrier-free children's museum in the nation. Visit www.cmon.org for a peek at what's to come.
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 Resort, 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, Radisson Suite Beach Resort on Marco Island, 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 quite time. These include Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa, Radisson Suite Beach Resort on Marco Island, The Registry Resort & Club, Marco Beach Ocean Resort and The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
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. Vanderbilt Inn features laid back accommodations and the beachside Chickee on the Beach restaurant with tropical 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.
If traveling in the high (winter) season, hotels to consider in the below $400 per night range include: The Inn on Fifth, Lemon Tree Inn, Trianon Old Naples, Cove Inn on Naples Bay, The Ivey House B&B in Everglades City and any of the area's many name brand chain hotels. Resorts for those on a budget include Radisson Suite Beach Resort on Marco Island, Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites, Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Vanderbilt Inn and Quality Inn & Suites Golf Resort.
For more ideas on where to stay, visit www.ParadiseCoast.com or call 1-800-2-ESCAPE to request a free visitors guide.
This guide to Downtown Naples Florida has been online since 1997 providing information about 5th Avenue South, Third Street South, Crayton Cove, Tin City and Bayfront Naples Florida.
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