Lowdermilk Park holds the most full-service facilities of any Gulf of Mexico beach in the Naples area, making it a good fit for families with children. They can gather for picnics in one of the two gazebo pavilions that the park rents out, go check out the duck pond, play on the two playgrounds and enjoy the calm and safe waters here away from any rushing pass waters. Other facilities include sand volleyball courts, restrooms and showers, handicap access and beach wheelchairs and a food concession stand. Its close proximity to the downtown area adds to its convenience for visitors of all ages.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Especially for families, Lowdermilk Park takes vacationing outdoors in the easiest way possible.
Chelle's expert tip: Parking is metered at 25 cents per 10 minutes. The meters take Visa and MasterCard.
A staple in the community for more than 100 years, the Naples Fishing Pier is a must-see attraction close to the downtown goings-on around Third Street South. Once the entry point for those who arrived to Naples by boat, the main mode of transportation in the early days, today its importance lies in the recreational rather than practical realm. Six miles of flawless, white sand meets aquamarine waves that lull beach lovers into relaxation. Bring a rod to try fishing off the pier, or just watch as others reel in their catches. The pier and beach never close, and provide the perfect spot to watch the setting sun dip into the endless sea. It's a nightly ritual for fishermen, strollers, lovers and pelicans.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Beach goers get outdoors to enjoy fishing, swimming and walking the gorgeous sands.
Chelle's expert tip: Park for free in the lot off 14th Avenue and combine a walk on the beach with a visit to local shops, bars and restaurants.
Naples Bay Resort stocks the finest in boating equipment for day rentals to explore the Gordon River and bay waters. The power boats are fully equipped with all the latest navigational electronics and a Sony stereo system. Choose from deck boats that accommodate up to 10 passengers or center console boats more suited to fishing and seating up to eight passengers. There is so much to see and do in local waters, including visiting un-bridged Keewaydin Island beaches and cruising on down to the fishing villages of Marco Island for lunch on the water and the freshest fish possible.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Exploring the Naples area by water is the best way to sightsee.
Chelle's expert tip: The dockside restaurants and bars of Isle of Capri make an easy, enjoyable boating day trip.
Docked at the Naples City Dock at Crayton Cove, this beautiful 53 foot catamaran sails three times daily and is available for private charters. The popular beach trip takes up to 40 passengers through Naples Bay and along its waterfront mansions and natural mangroves scenes. Once in the Gulf of Mexico, the sailboat heads to Keeywadin Island, an historic island accessible only by boat. It is known for its superb shelling and plush white sands. Twice weekly the trip includes naturalists from the Southwest Florida Conservancy to narrate. Other tours include dolphin watch excursions, shelling trips and a two hour sunset cruise.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Boating is the quintessential mode of outdoor enjoyment in Naples.
Chelle's expert tip: To learn about the environment as you sail, ask about the naturalist-guided tours.
If you are looking to get as closeup and intimate with nature in Naples backyard Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands region, grab a paddle. Paradise Coast Blueway is a work in progress – a system of paddling trails throughout the county that provide GPS-marked trail routes. Phase I, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge section, was completed in 2009. Seventy-three miles long, it includes one long trail from Everglades City to Goodland on Marco Island and six shorter day-trip trails. En route, see secluded beaches, mangrove forested islands and shallow back waters teeming with birds, manatees, dolphin and fish. Phases II and III will extend to north Naples and Bonita Springs.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The Blueway trail makes it easier for paddlers to navigate the maze like waters of the Everglades and environs.
Chelle's expert tip: Everglades City and Naples have plenty of outfitters that can equip and guide you along the trail.
Recognized as one of the best beaches in the US, the sandy shore at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is all-natural and devoid of the high rises and development of most of the other local beaches. A nature trail leads to an observation tower at the beach's north end. Fishermen head to the pass to hook into fish being flushed out of the Cocohatchee River. This is a popular park, but you can usually find parking in one of the many lots if you arrive early enough. The park posts a sign on the road leading to it when it is full, but there's another parking lot less than a quarter mile away if you don't mind walking. Picnic areas have grills, restrooms and showers.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Naples most natural beach encourages visitors to engage in and learn about nature.
Chelle's expert tip: Avoid swimming in the waters at the pass, which run swiftly and can be a challenge - especially to children.
Take an awe-inspiring journey through the Everglades, the best natural attraction in the Naples area. Everglades National Park offers tours of the Mangrove Wilderness several times a day on a small, intimate boat. The tours depart from the park's West Coast visitor's center (The park extends to south of Miami and its East Coast facilities are more extensive.)Have a look at the center's interpretive displays to prepare yourself for the flora and fauna you will experience. A knowledgeable guide navigates the vessel through the heavily shaded wetlands while providing information on the wildlife and vegetation. Make sure to bring a camera to snap photos of the posing birds and lurking alligators.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: This boat tour introduces visitors to the vast outdoors world of the Florida Everglades.
Chelle's expert tip: Bring binoculars and insect repellent. Dress in long sleeves and slacks to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
While Naples is known for its pristine beaches, the city also has flourishing wetlands such as the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - known for its ancient cypress forest and colony of nesting American woodstorks. The Audubon facility is also the gateway for the South Florida Birding Trail, part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Save an afternoon to meander down the park's 2.25-mile boardwalk, which is interpreted with educational signs that lead visitors along a self-guided tour. The walkway allows guests to travel through a wet prairie, a cypress forest, pine uplands and a marsh as they observe the native wildlife.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The boardwalk trail means you can explore the mysteries of the swamp without getting wet.
Chelle's expert tip: Don't miss the Blair Audubon Center and Tea Room - filled with interactive exhibits, a wonderful nature store and a healthy food cafe open November through April.
A leading tour operator in the Everglades City area, it offers outdoor adventure types a number of different options to explore Everglades National Park, Marco Island, Big Cypress National Wildlife Preserve and environs. The operation is best known for its boat assisted eco kayaking tours, which transport you and kayaks to some of the out islands of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge that would otherwise take you days to reach under solely paddle power. It also leads narrated and fully outfitted paddle only tours that can last anywhere from a couple of hours to nine days. Specialty tours include kayak fishing and charter boat fishing.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Everglades Area Tours does charter excursions that combine boating and kayaking into the vast wilderness of Ten Thousand Islands.
Chelle's expert tip: Everglades Area Tours also does biking and walking tours of the region.
For nature lovers traveling on a budget, it doesn't get any better than the land and water trails of Big Cypress National Preserve. This behemoth freshwater neighbor to Everglades National Park covers more than 700,000 acres and is home to such rare creatures as the Florida panther, Florida manatee and all the alligators you've ever cared to see. Begin your explorations at the new free Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center. Its boardwalk trail lets you spy on manatees in the waters and anhingas in the trees. Inside, listen to the sounds of pig frogs, limpkins, thunder and rain and other 'Glades music. Drive Loop Road for the best wildlife sightings and stop at the free Oasis Visitor Center to learn more about the environment and free ranger programs.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Big Cypress National Preserve is all about the great outdoors with a number of recreational and educational activities available.
Chelle's expert tip: Best spots to find alligators: The boardwalks at H.P. Williams Roadside Park and the Oasis Visitor Center.