Naples, Florida - AttractionGuide

Naples, Florida

Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Naples, Florida-area attractions. The Greater Naples, Florida area is full of attractions for all ages. Inheriting its name from early promoters rhapsodizing over comparisons to Italy's bay near Naples, Florida's Naples stakes claim as a world-class golfing capital with more than 70 courses, plus stellar nature-oriented attractions. Sprawling Collier County on the southwest coast embraces not only upscale Naples, but also Marco Island (on the weekend before Super Bowl hosting the Goodland Mullet Festival & Buzzard Lope Queen Contest), Everglades City (home of the historic Rod & Gun Club) and Immokalee (an agricultural outpost with a $4-million Seminole Indian casino just outside town). In Naples, it's possible to start the morning beachcombing on shell-strewn sand, spend afternoons browsing for art and antiques, and devote evenings to feasting on chic cuisine or deep-fried frog legs fresh from the swamp. Emerging nightlife or star-lit strolls on the town pier are options, too. From Naples, it's also possible to explore Florida's Everglades, deep-sea fish, horseback ride, bicycle, or laze around blissfully soaking up sun. Shaped and reshaped by Ice Age flooding depositing layers of sand and shells, this region was controlled -- centuries before Columbus -- by the powerful Calusa Indians. Spain's Ponce de Leon claimed Florida in 1513, returning to colonize in 1521 when fatally wounded by warriors. During the next 40 years, other Spanish explorers failed in conquest, yet the Calusa eventually succumbed to European diseases. Southwest Florida remained virtually uninhabited until after the Civil War when settlers arrived to farm, fish, hunt, and trap alligators, with trading posts on Chokoloskee Island and at Everglades City serving as social hubs. By the late 1880's, Naples and Marco Island were winter resort magnets for sportsmen and wealthy snowbirds. WWII introduced servicemen to Naples when the U.S. Army Air Field (now Naples Airport) was activated in 1943 to train combat pilots, and many veterans later returned. Hurricane Donna in 1960 actually stimulated Naples growth with infusions of insurance dollars and loans. In 1962, the county seat moved from Everglades City to Naples, ensuring inevitable growth.

Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Naples, Florida Metropolitan Area, with links to more details when available.

Beach Options
Waters are gentle with sands powdery white along Naples area shores. Clam Pass Beach Park runs along a 35-acre coastal mangrove preserve and has free trams from the parking area. Although it has no beach per se, Caxambas Park, between two condo complexes on Marco Island, has a play and picnic area along with a boat ramp, bait, fuel and docking. Lowdermilk Park has a pavilion and picnic tables with concessions and a children's play area. Naples Beaches are composed of 10 miles of sandy shoreline from Gordon Pass south to Seagate Drive on the north. Tigertail Beach on Marco Island near Sand Dollar Point is a shelling paradise. Sunset green flashes are common talk at Vanderbilt Beach.
Clam Pass Beach Park, at Seagate Drive
Caxambas Park, on South Collier Boulevard on the south end of Marco Island
Lowdermilk Park, Banyan Boulevard and Gulf Shore Boulevard
Naples Municipal Beach, at 12th Avenue and Gulf Shore Boulevard
Tigertail Beach, on south end of Marco Island near Cape Marco
Vanderbilt Beach, starts at Vanderbilt Drive south to Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park
Big Cypress National Preserve
The National Park System's first national preserve, Big Cypress has a mix of pines, hardwoods, prairies, mangrove forests, cypress strands and domes. White-tailed deer and bear are here amid the royal palms and cigar orchids. Big Cypress, a hotbed of biological diversity, serves as a supply of fresh, clean water for the vital estuaries of Everglades City's Ten Thousand Islands area. Camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and birdwatching are popular, with explorers often lingering to watch woodstorks feeding along roadside canals or search for the elusive Florida panther.
U.S. 41 in Ochopee, about 20 miles south of Naples. (239) 263-3532
Caribbean Gardens
Naples' Caribbean Gardens, formerly Jungle Larry's Caribbean Gardens and a nationally accredited zoo, has a nearly mile-long path winding past lions, kangaroos, monkeys, African wild dogs, Asian deer and more within a 52-acre jungle of exotic greenery first planted in 1919. Beyond exhibits and gardens, presentations include Safari Canyon (combining nature program information and wildlife footage with opportunity to see featured animals in live action), the Primate Expedition Cruise (sailing past mini-islands inhabited by monkeys, lemurs, and apes), the Scales and Tails Show (very touchy-feely), Meet the Keeper, and Alligator Bay Feeding. Children enjoy three play areas, and adults can relax in tranquil settings overlooking water, or stroll beneath the expansive canopy of giant ficus trees in the densely foliated northern gardens.
1590 Goodlette Road, Naples. (239) 262-5409
Cocohatchee Nature Center
Three 1 1/2 hour nature walks and a cruise through the estuary to the Gulf of Mexico at Wiggins Pass are offered each day, or you can rent your own canoe or kayak and strike out on your own, where you can see native Florida wildlife, including dolphins, manatees, wading birds, eagles and much more.
12345 Tamiami Trail North, Naples. (239) 592-1200
Collier County Historical Museum
From ancient fossils and Indian civilizations, to the rustic charm of trading posts and early settlements, Collier County museum depictions were set up in 1977 to showcase the daily life of pioneers who shaped Florida's last frontier. The museum preserves and interprets history, archaeology and development within a five-acre historical park. The Permanent Exhibit Hall's artifact displays, videos and dioramas trace 10,000 years of local history. Discovery Cottage, a restored 1926 Naples home saved from demolition, showcases early family life. The Logging Locomotive's Steam Engine # 2, circa 1910 from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, recalls Collier's cypress-logging industry. Craighead Laboratory, the restored field lab of Everglades scientist and scholar, Frank C. Craighead, Sr., is operated by the Southwest Florida Archaeological Society. The Native Florida Garden memorializes Craighead and there is also an orchid house. Admission is free to this museum at the Collier County Government complex on Airport-Pulling Road and U.S. 41 East (Tamiami Trail).
3301 East Tamiami Trail, Naples. (239) 774-8476
Collier-Seminole State Park
In the early 1940's Barron Collier, a wealthy entrepreneur and pioneer developer, planned a park. By 1947, his chosen acreage was turned over to Florida for a state park named in part for Collier and for Seminole Indians staking out the area as home. Stories are legendary about the park's mosquito populace. While salt marsh mosquitoes can be off-putting, it is also true that these pests are often not a problem even during summer. When trails and the campground are under siege, the Blackwater River offers escape. Collier-Seminole State Park lies at the junction of two fascinating tropical Florida features: The north edge of southwest Florida's great mangrove swamp, and the south edge of Big Cypress Swamp. The park melds land and sea, fresh and salt water, and tropical and temperate zone vegetation, yielding a great diversity of plants. The park's original intent was preservation of royal palms, yet it also serves as a memorial to both the Seminole and the U.S. Army fighting the Seminole Wars. The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown daily.
20200 East Tamiami Trail, Naples. (239) 394-3397
Conservancy of Southwest Florida's Briggs Nature Center
Closed for the summer in 2003, the Conservancy's Briggs Nature Center's half-mile boardwalk takes visitors through rare plant communities marked by educational, interpretive signs. The butterfly garden is dense with native plants specifically selected for attracting more than 27 species of Florida butterflies, and an abundance of birds also gravitates to the grounds. Guided tours, along with canoe and kayak rentals are available.
1401 Shell Island Road. (239) 775-8569
Conservancy of Southwest Florida's Naples Nature Center
This 14-acre oasis just south of the Coastland Center Mall is packed with recreational activities, including guided tours, nature trails, boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, and a nature store.
1450 Merrihue Drive, off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North. (239) 262-0304
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
This 11,000-acre wetland preserve has a two-mile boardwalk leading to a diversity of wildlife, including alligators, whitetail deer, and the endangered wood stork, the only stork native to North America. The sanctuary is off U.S. Highway 41 in Naples Park. Follow signs on State Road 846 to the Visitor's Center.
375 Sanctuary Road. (239) 348-9151.
Cruise Naples
Operating every day of the year, from 7:45am until an hour before sunset, cruises leave from 'Tin City' in downtown Naples for a variety of adventures including sightseeing areas viewable only by boat, dolphin watching, sunset watching, deep sea and calm water fishing and shelling, or a charter cruise of your own design.
1200 Fifth Ave South. (239) 263-4949.
Everglades City Museum
A showcase for the region's colorful history, the museum displays artifacts and photographs tracing human habitation in the southwest Everglades. This lush environment shaped lives of all who passed through, from the ancient Calusa to Seminole Indians, settlers and entrepreneurs. Permanent exhibits feature Barron G. Collier's transformation of a pioneer village into a modern 1920's town and his fulfillment of a promise to complete the road from Tampa to Miami (Tamiami Trail) that would open the area to tourism and development.
105 West Broadway on the Circle. (239) 695-0008
Everglades National Park
Covering the Florida peninsula's southern tip and most of Florida Bay, Everglades National Park is North America's only subtropical preserve, and the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side. Everglades National Park has been designated a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. In short, there is no other like it. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center, in the park's northwest corner next to Everglades City, has park info and exhibits. The Gulf Coast is the gateway for exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove isles and waterways extending south to Flamingo and Florida Bay. Manatees, dolphins, and osprey coexist in this saltwater portion. Shark Valley, on the park's northern border in the heart of the “river of grass” stretching 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf, has a visitor center with park info, exhibits, and book sales.
Gulf Coast Visitor Center, Everglades City. (239) 695-3311
Shark Valley Visitor Center, along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail). (305) 221-8776
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, on Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, is part of the Big Cypress Swamp. June is a popular time to visit Fakahatchee Strand when the very rare Ghost Orchid begins blooming and park staff conduct guided walks. Southwest Florida's Big Cypress Swamp is a flat, gently sloping limestone plain. During rainy season (June through September), water flows slowly south over this plain into mangrove swamps bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Water also flows below ground through the porous underlying limestone. In places, limestone has dissolved, forming elongated sloughs or channels, accumulating organic soils. These channels or sloughs have spawned cypress and other trees, creating swamp forests standing in contrast to open prairies and pinelands. The local term for these linear swamps is "strand," as in Fakahatchee Strand.
On State Road 29, just west of Copeland. (239) 695-4593
Florida Sports Park (of Swamp Buggy Racing Fame)
Florida Sports Park, home of the famed "Mile 'O Mud" oval race track for Swamp Buggy racing every January, March and October, also hosts other Naples sporting, cultural and social fare. Born out of environmental necessity, Collier swamp racing got rolling in the 1930s with emergence of the so-called swamp buggy – vehicles with balloon tires, gun racks, and names like Dirt Dobber. Prior to the first legal hunting day, locals prepped their buggies, gathering at one garage or another to share engineering tips. Before long, hunters were challenging one another to buggy races through a local potato patch, the goal being merely to finish first. By the late ‘40s, merchants offered prizes, usually a new shotgun, and townsfolk were turning out to cheer. In 1949, Johnny Jones won the first "official" swamp buggy race, a tow parade was organized, shops closed, and Naples became birthplace of Swamp Buggy Days, the world's most bizarre motorsport. Volunteers organized an official board of directors, and ABC's Wide World of Sports showed up to cover the mud madness. Celebrities like Gary Cooper took a liking to swamp buggy racing and soon corporate execs, politicians, and others climbed aboard. Cash prizes replaced shotguns and turkeys, and buggies were built for racing only, the newer designs too fast and loud for hunting. Add-on frills were conceived, among them the Swamp Buggy Queen's Annual Mudbath, launched in 1957 when winner H.W. McCurry, in a state of exuberance, grabbed that year's Queen, fancy hair-do and all, and dunked her in the muckiest part of the track. With thousands packing grandstands, the impromptu act lives on as the finale for every Swamp Buggy event.
8850 Collier Boulevard. (239) 774-2701
Good Fortune Sunset Birding Cruise
Bring your camera on the Conservancy of Southwest Florida birding cruise at sunset on the pontoon boat Good Fortune with a Coast Guard-certified boat captain, through the uniquely beautiful mangrove channels of Rookery Bay full of shore birds and other wildlife, operating each day January through April starting 2 hours before sunset.
1450 Merrihue Drive, Naples. (239) 262-0304
Immokalee Pioneer Museum
The Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch is the newest addition to Collier County's museum system. The 15-acre site recalls the story of cattle ranching, one of the region's oldest industries, and portrays daily life on an authentic early 20th century pioneer homestead. Terrain is difficult for this work in progress, scheduled for full restoration by 2005. Admission is free, but (at present) by appointment only.
1590 Goodlette Road, Naples. (239) 658-2466
King Richard's Medieval Family Fun Park
King Richard's, debuting in 1996, started with the idea of providing area residents and visitors with a place for go-cart, bumper boat and batting cage fun. Now family-oriented King Richard's has the area's only permanent roller coaster, plus a water play area called Merlin's Moat, and a dozen more rides for all ages.
6780 North Airport Road. (239) 598-2042
Naples Museum of Art
Adjacent to the Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the three-story Naples Museum of Art, with a glass dome conservatory, offers an eclectic collection of world-class art in 15 galleries. Entrance gates are by renowned metal artist Albert Paley, and a spectacular entrance chandelier is by acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly.
5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples. (239) 597-1900
Naples Pier
Open 24 hours, Old Naples' landmark 1,000-foot pier remains Florida's longest no-fee pier, attracting anglers, strollers, and sunset watchers, along with pelicans and dolphins. For reeling in big ones, the good news is that no fishing license is required to fish off the pier, since the city of Naples covers everyone with a blanket license, with a snook stamp included. Restroom and shower facilities are at the land end, and midway out there's a snack bar and bait shop. Metered parking is nearby.
West end of 12th Avenue South.
Naples Princess and Marco Island Princess
Naples Bay, the multimillion-dollar homes of Port Royal, and sailing out into the Gulf of Mexico are standard fare aboard the Naples Princess, a 93-foot air-conditioned luxury yacht carrying up to 149 passengers. For departures from Marco Island, the air-conditioned 74-foot luxury yacht Marco Island Princess provides similar adventure. Both vessels offer daily sightseeing, lunch, sunset hors d'oeuvres, or sunset dinner cruises.
Naples Princess, 550 Port-O-Call Way. (239) 649-2275
Marco Island Princess, 951 Bald Eagle Drive. (239) 642-5415
Naples Trolley Tours
For touring or getting around town, narrated Naples Trolley Tours show off more than 100 area points of interest from the vantage point of authentically styled, all weather trolleys. Guides take riders back to when Ponce de Leon and the Calusa Indians were skirmishing on to the present. Trolleys make the rounds of many attractions, top shopping centers and leading resorts, and passengers can board and disembark at their whim to cover a lot of ground without the aggravation of driving.
1010 Sixth Avenue. (239) 262-7300
Palm Cottage
Built in 1895, restored to its original state, and on the National Register of Historic Places, Palm Cottage's significance stems from being one of the last remaining Tabbie homes, with foundations and walls formed from a mixture created by burning local sand and sea shells. During the ‘40s, Palm Cottage, near the Naples pier, basked in limelight as a social season hub, with the late owner Laurence Brown hosting celebrity house guests such as Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery, and Heddy Lamar. Furnished with period pieces and photos depicting early Naples, it is now home to the Collier County Historical Society and open for tours.
137 12th Avenue. (239) 261-8164
Philharmonic Center for the Arts
Opened in 1989 and known to locals as The Phil, Naples' Philharmonic Center for the Arts, with a 1,221-seat main hall and a 200-seat black box theater, hosts more than 400 events per year from opera to Broadway shows on tour. It is also home to the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, and is the west coast home of the Miami City Ballet. Although the heaviest schedule is between October and April, events are hosted year around including summer children's presentations.
5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard. (239) 597-1900
Rod & Gun Club
Sitting on a quiet waterfront tract, this historic one-time sportsman's club turned B&B and restaurant retains echoes of its colorful history. Deep wood paneling is embellished with assorted faded newspaper clips, artifacts and taxidermy serving as testimony to an era long gone. In 1922, Barron G. Collier bought almost all of southwest Florida, including the Rod & Gun, which he operated as a private club, hosting U.S. presidents FDR, Truman and Eisenhower. In 1972, the Bowen family from Michigan bought the property, which it continues to operate. The restaurant, known for frog legs, fried mullet and other down-home delights, serves meals on an old-fashioned screened porch overlooking the river. The celebrity list here ranges from John Wayne, Chuck Connors and Ernest Hemingway to Burt Reynolds and Mick Jagger. Restaurant hours vary, especially in summer.
Everglades City, just off the Circle. (239) 695-2101
Seminole Gaming Palace
The $4 million Seminole Gaming Palace features indoor gaming such as bingo, low-stakes poker and video gaming machines, plus a continental dining room.
506 South First Street, Immokalee. (239) 658-1313
Third Street South and Fifth Avenue
In Old Naples' Third Street South shopping neighborhood, the Mercantile Building, now an Italian bistro, dates to 1903, and restored Cracker cottages provide charming reminders of early Naples. Near Fifth Avenue South, the Naples Depot, circa 1930, serves as a community center. Fifth Avenue South has fine shops, galleries, restaurants, and sidewalk cafes, combining small town friendliness with an aura of main street sophistication.
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