Exploring Naples, FL

Naples History

Once, the only people to stroll Naples' seven miles of white, sandy beaches, were the Caloosa Indians. The first settlers, Roger Gordon and Joe Wiggins, arrived in Naples in the late 1860's. A river and two inlets still bear their names.

Throughout the 1870's and '80's, magazine and newspaper stories telling of the area's mild climate and abundant fish and game likened it to the sunny Italian peninsula. The name Naples caught on when promoters described the bay as "surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy."

In 1887, a group of wealthy Kentuckians, led by Walter N. Haldeman, owner of the Louisville Courier-Journal, purchased virtually the entire town of Naples. One of the first improvements Haldeman and the Naples Company made was to build a pier 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The unusual "T" shape allowed large ships to dock easily. Despite being destroyed and rebuilt three times, the pier's "T" shape remains.

Naples quickly gained a reputation as a winter resort. Social life revolved around the Naples Hotel, which played host to celebrities such as Rose Cleveland, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, Greta Garbo, Hedy Lamarr, and Gary Cooper. As the town of Naples went up, so did the price of property. The cost of a beachfront lot soon reached $125.

In 1911, Barron G. Collier, who had made his fortune in streetcar advertising, visited nearby Useppa Island. He was so taken with the area that he bought over a million acres of untouched swampland - including most of Naples. Collier believed that Florida's west coast could enjoy the same boom that the east coast was experiencing in the 1920's; but first it was necessary to bring in roads and railroads.

Based on Collier's promise to help build the Tamiami Trail, in 1923 the state legislature created Collier County, of which Naples is the county seat. Collier spent more than $1 million of his own money to construct the Tamiami Trail, which opened in 1926 as the only paved highway linking the state's two largest cities - Tampa and Miami.

Collier died before he could see his dream come true, but come true it did. Today, Naples enjoys unparalleled prosperity. And the area's unrivaled sport fishing, hunting, boating, sun bathing, and beach combing attract people today just as it did a century ago.

*Historical information thanks to "Dining and Doing Guide"

Naples, FL today

Naples Today

Welcome to Naples, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, a paradise of sun, shore and nature harmoniously blended with the cosmopolitan and cultural center this city has become. Despite its metropolitan population and myriad housing developments, Naples remembers its Indian and early pioneering heritage. This diversity combined with its host of attractions, amenities and activities make Naples a great place to live and visit.

With over 35 golf courses, Naples has the highest ratio of golf courses to golfers in the USA. But tennis enthusiasts find equally high standards of play here, while water lovers discover pristine white beaches of unsurpassed tropical beauty, complete with splendid shells and a full array of sea sports.

The fishing is great, even at The Pier, Naples' classic landmark, where fish abound in the translucent water for the pleasure of dolphins, pelicans and humans alike. Or simply come stroll along the beach or pier for a panoramic view of the sunset.

Canoes can be rented for a tranquil exploration of the mangrove waterways, while boat charters are readily available for deep-sea fishing. Taking advantage of local sea fare are many casual waterfront and award-winning restaurants. The best cuisine from all over the world can be sampled in and around Naples, home also to many exceptional resorts such as the Ritz Carlton, Ritz Carlton Tiburon, Naples Grande, Edgewater Beach, La Playa, Inn on Fifth, Cove Inn on Naples Bay, and Naples Beach Hotel.

Shopping in Naples is another treat in store, with a spectacular selection of fashionable centers and plazas to choose from. From small boutiques and shops at Bayfront, Crayton Cove, Third Street, Fifth Avenue South, Mercato, Tin City and Venetian Village to the large chain and department stores at Coastland Center Mall and Waterside Shops, you can find just about anything in Naples.

But if it's culture you're after, spend an evening at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts or the popular Dinner Theater. Take in a couple of art galleries while you're about it, or a movie, and visit some historic sites around the city.

Special attractions include the picturesque Naples Trolley Tours, Historic Palm Cottage (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), The Norris Gardens, and a luxurious display of mansions along Port Royal.

But don't overlook the natural attractions of our West Florida Coast. Sensitively preserved at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Conservancy, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Wiggins State Park Beach and so many other Florida parks, trails and centers, are rare species of flora and fauna indigenous to the State.

For a real Florida thrill -swamp buggy and air boat rides, island tours and all - head south to the Everglades, perhaps stopping on the way at Collier Seminole State Park for a true commune with nature. It's all here for your pleasure and leisure. And do not forget the beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico!

Naples, FL visitors

Visitors Information Center Your First Stop

The Visitors Information Center's vibrant, compelling, cutting-edge setting continues to manifest the charm that is Olde Naples, while emphasizing the prestige and progress of the Greater Naples Area. The Visitors Center has all types of interactive bells and whistles, booths and kiosks, and visuals. It features include: Interactive Information Kiosks; A wall map with five touch screens where visitors can find members by category, their addresses, and a business description; User-friendly, interactive environment with manned information booths from which one or two people may interact with visitors and guests; Brochure Display Racks all around the periphery of the center, with member brochures on display.

The Visitors Information Center is manned throughout the year by more than 90 gracious, welcoming, and helpful volunteers who attend to the needs of visitors, guests, relocators, residents, and chamber members.

Your Top Reasons to Stop by the Visitors Information Center

  1. Calendar of Events Listing
  2. May to December pick up your VIP savings card including over $3000 worth of discounts
  3. Free high speed internet access
  4. Restaurant Recommendations & Reviews
  5. Daily Discounted Hotel Rates & Reservations
  6. Top 33 Fun Adventures as listed in Naples on The Gulf
  7. Complimentary phone books
  8. Rentals and real estate information

For more information, visit: www.napleschamber.org.

Naples, FL Zoo

Naples Zoo

Naples Zoo is a nationally accredited zoo and yet much more than a walk-through zoo. The nonprofit charitable institution also features a full day of fun activities. The paved path winds nearly a mile past rare and beautiful animals residing within a historic tropical garden of exotic plants first planted in 1919 with a fascinating history.

In this tropical setting, you can take delight at seeing many of your favorite animals like lions, kangaroos, monkeys, and bears. In addition, you'll also discover feature exhibits and an array of more rarely seen creatures like the fosas of Madagascar or an Asian deer that barks and eats meat.

Beyond the exhibits and gardens, the best of the zoo can be seen by taking in the full day of fun and entertaining presentations and activities that have a solid conservation foundation. Safari Canyon presentations like Planet Predator and Serpents: Fangs & Fiction enable you to understand wildlife in exciting ways through living animals, wildlife video, and live camera close-ups. The Primate Expedition Cruise takes you through islands inhabited by monkeys, lemurs, and apes. You can also enjoy the Meet the Keeper Series, Snake Sunbathing, and Alligator Bay Feeding. Children have fun at the presentations and exploring each of the three play areas.

You can also relax in a tranquil setting looking over the water to watch the lemurs, monkeys, and apes on their islands. In the more densely foliated northern gardens, you can walk beneath the expansive canopy of giant Ficus trees and their sprawling aerial root systems.

Combining conservation and recreation, Naples Zoo offers fun for every generation. You'll also discover a number of ways to get involved in helping animals. The zoo is accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is an institutional member of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.

For more information, visit: www.napleszoo.com.

Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts

Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts

The Philharmonic Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization opened in 1989 with a mission to enlighten, educate and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds in Southwest Florida by presenting the very best of the visual and performing arts.

The Phil is unique among arts centers in that it features both the performing and visual arts in a single complex and also hosts a resident orchestra. In addition to the 1,425-seat main hall and a 282-seat black box theater, the Phil has four museum-quality art galleries, which showcase traveling and exclusive exhibitions. Each season, the Phil is host to more than 400 individual events. Although the heaviest season is between October and April, the Center hosts events year-round, including summer children's presentations. The Center also provides programs for groups and schools.

Celebrating its 30th season in Southwest Florida, the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra is increasingly recognized as one of the top regional orchestras in the United States. This elite ensemble employs 49 full-time resident musicians and is critically acclaimed as South Florida's premier professional orchestra. In addition to regular classical, pops and chamber concerts, the orchestra has international recording credits, two PBS television specials, and has accompanied such renowned artists as Renee Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Kiri Te Kanawa, Harolyn Blackwell, Denyce Graves, Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Stade.

The Naples Museum of Art invites you to experience the wonder of the visual arts, and to become a part of our cultural adventure. The museum is a reflection of the unique spirit and generosity of Southwest Florida. Our visual arts center includes a three-story, 30,000-square-foot museum with 15 galleries, a glass-dome conservatory, entrance gates by renowned metal artist Albert Paley, spectacular chandeliers and a Persian Ceiling by acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly, a resource room and the Museum Store. The museum is dedicated to displaying world-class paintings, sculpture, drawings and other art forms, while providing educational programs and lectures.

For more information on the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, visit: www.thephil.org.

Naples Botanical Gardens

Naples Botanical Gardens

The Naples Botanical Garden is a new botanical garden now taking shape in Naples, Florida. In 1993, a group of eight Naples residents first established the Garden with nothing more than the dream of creating a world-class botanical garden. In 2000 with the gift of an additional 148 acres from the Kapnick Family, full-scale development has now begun. The Garden now consists of 160 acres of lakes and lands, representing seven distinct natural habitats and ecosystems, and currently featuring over 600 species, and intends to become one of the finest collections of subtropical and tropical plants in the world, with special emphasis on the ecosystems of the 26th Latitude. The master plan for future development calls for a center for natural science, plant collections, art, science, history exhibitions, and education.

Naples Botanical Garden is creating a world class paradise that combines delightful cultivated tropical gardens with beautifully restored natural habitats. The Garden connects people and plants through display, education, conservation and science. It will be a community gathering place and an exceptional venue for exploring our natural world as well as enjoying special events, traveling exhibitions and performances.

For more information, visit: www.naplesgarden.org.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Visitors to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary find a gentle, pristine wilderness. A 2.25 mile boardwalk meanders through pine flatwoods, open prairies, and finally into the largest forest of ancient bald cypress in North America. These impressive trees, relatives of the redwood, tower 130 feet into the sky and have a girth of 25 feet. Their massive branches are draped with mosses, lichens, air-plants, orchids and ferns.

The forest is also home to hundreds of alligators, otters, Florida black bears, white-tailed deer and red-bellied turtles. The boardwalk winds through the swamp's two "lettuce lakes," wide, shallow soup bowls that are favorite feeding grounds for wildlife. During the dry spring months, birds and reptiles congregate at the lettuce lakes in a competitive feeding frenzy, one of nature's most exciting, interesting performances.

Almost 200 birds are permanent or temporary residents of the Sanctuary. Year round, visitors see egret, ibis, heron, limpkin and anhinga. Songbirds, including black-throated green warblers and yellow-billed cuckoos, visit during the spring and fall as they migrate between the tropical and temperate regions of America. Winter visitors include pine warblers and painted buntings. Corkscrew is world renowned for supporting the largest colony of nesting wood storks in the United States.

Corkscrew's water is actually a slow moving river that flows to the southwest towards the Gulf of Mexico. Plants and trees help to filter the water, keeping it clean and clear.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society and acclaimed as the crown jewel of the Audubon's sanctuaries. Audubon's first encounter with Corkscrew was in 1912, when it dispatched wardens to protect egrets and other birds from plume hunters.

Today, Audubon is involved in restoring the Everglades and preserving the watershed to ensure a healthy ecosystem for the people and wildlife of Southwest Florida.

Visit Corkscrew's new Blair Audubon Center, the first of a new generation of education centers to open at National Audubon sites nationwide. Among the six exhibits is the multimedia "Swamp Theater," depicting the daily and seasonal changes in the swamp. The center also features a tearoom, nature store and art gallery.

Contact Information: Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary 375 Sanctuary Road Naples, Florida 34120 239-348-9151
Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

Approximately 30 miles south of Naples, Everglades National Park is a subtle place where earth, water, and sky blend in a low green landscape; where mere inches of elevation produce distinct changes in vegetation; and where a great wealth of birds and other wildlife find refuge.

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, President Harry S. Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park on December 6, 1947 in a ceremony held at Everglades City. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. Everglades was the first national park preserved primarily for its abundance and variety of life, rather than for scenic or historic values.

Boundary changes since 1947 have substantially increased the size of the park from the original 460,000 acres to 1,400,533 acres by 1958. In 1989, Congress passed legislation that expanded the eastern boundary of the national park by 109,000 acres, primarily for the purposes of ecosystem restoration and protection.

The topography is so subdued that a broad sheet of water slowly flows over and through the porous limestone bedrock on its way to the sea, rather than following well-defined valleys. Most of the park is actually covered with water during normal wet seasons, while dry winters cause fresh water to dwindle to a few open areas crowded with wildlife.

The great floral variety of the Everglades is one of the key resources of the park. Among its more prominent and colorful plants are Bromeliads and epiphytic orchids. As many as 25 varieties of orchids are known to occur in the park, in addition to over 1000 other kinds of seed-bearing plants and 120 species of trees. Over 36 threatened or endangered animal species reside in Everglades National Park, such as the American alligator and crocodile, the Florida panther, the West Indian manatee, and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded, seven of which are rare or endangered.

Protection of wading birds and their rookeries from commercial exploitation and encroachments was the prime reason for setting the park aside. Although habitat changes have reduced historic numbers, tens of thousands of birds feed and nest within the Everglades, providing visitors with opportunities of a lifetime for viewing them.

With its special significance to the Nation and the world recognized by making the Everglades a National Park, an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, its preservation for the benefit of present and future generations is better assured. Everglades National Park is open year round. Walking and canoe trails, boat tours and tram tours are excellent for viewing wildlife, including alligators and a multitude of tropical and temperate birds. For more information, visit: www.nps.gov/ever.

Naples, FL Beaches

Naples Beaches

Naples' best-known natural assets are its 17 miles of pearly white beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. National travel publications regularly name the pristine beaches along Collier County's coast as among the best anywhere, and in 2005, the Travel Channel named Naples as "America's Best All-Around Beach." Naples beaches have lots of tropical foliage, making them the most tropical looking beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Many visitors first encounter Naples beaches near downtown, where the Naples Municipal Pier, just west of the Third Street South shopping area, offers easy access to a 10-mile stretch of fine white sand. From its southernmost point at Gordon Pass, this beach stretches past sprawling estates, Gulf-front cottages, historic homes, and stunning high-rises. The warm blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico gently lap their uncommonly white sands, which are perfect for shelling (uninhabited shells only, please!) or just soaking up the sun. Feeling adventurous? Rent a jet ski for an hour or two and feel the sea breeze on your face as you fly through the Gulf's calm waters.

Other beach locations you might want to fit in to your schedule are Vanderbilt Beach, Clam Pass County Park, Park Shore beaches, Lowdermilk Park, and street-end beach accesses north and south of the pier. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park offers beach combing and sunbathing along with kayaking and diving activities.

Fishing and Boating in Naples, FL area

Fishing & Boating

Come on in, the water's fine -- for fishing! Yes, the temperate waters of the Gulf of Mexico provide a good year-round environment for a large number of catchable fish species. Whether your preference is fishing offshore over the wrecks or stalking lunkers in the backwaters, there's plenty of room for fishing in solitude. Naples has many experienced guides to help you catch that trophy. But if you want to explore on your own, there also are plenty of marinas and tackle shops for boat rentals, tackle and advice. And, if you would prefer, there are places where you can fish without a boat. Some of the more popular spots are our rivers and the Naples Pier. Many people also fish the canals, especially where and when the tidal currents are relatively strong. The beaches can also be productive, especially at dawn and at dusk. Whether your preferred technique is fly, spin, plug or bait, you will enjoy fine fishing in a great environment.

There are plenty of opportunities for fishing on-your-own, but securing the services of one of our experienced local guides will give you the best shot for a memorable fishing experience. Whether your goal is to go offshore for grouper or back in the bays and creeks for snook or tarpon, a guide will put you where the fish are, will help you select the right natural or artificial bait, and will coach you on techniques. You are welcome to bring your favorite rods and reels, but almost all of our guides have high-quality rigged tackle available for your use at no extra charge.

For the prospective visitor who is planning to do some fishing and/or boating, some of your earliest contacts should be with our many marinas, bait shops and tackle shops. We are blessed with many shops; some full-service and some highly specialized in their offerings. Many are located around Naples and many others are located north toward Bonita Springs or south toward Marco Island, Port of the Islands, Everglades City and Chokoloskee.

Golfing in Naples, FL


Naples is known as the "Golf Capital of the World" for a reason, hole per capita ratio! With over 35 golf courses, Naples has the highest ratio of golf courses to golfers in the world!

Naples has hosted major state, national and professional tournaments for several decades and continues to expand its role in competition play. The LG Championship (Seniors Tour) has been played at the Classics at Lely Resort, the Vineyards, and Pelican Bay in past years. These events draw more golf enthusiasts every year to Southwest Florida.

A large number of our developments are Golf Course Communities. Some excellent designers have 'carved' a place in the sun. They include; Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Arthur Hills, Tom Fazio, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Joe Lee, and many, many more. When you stop for lunch or go out to dinner, odds are you will be in close proximity to a golfer's table. Listen carefully, it might be tomorrow's match…. With so many wonderful and challenging courses in the area, it's a new experience everyday!!

Whether you enjoy the challenge of bunker play, navigating water hazards, the company of local wildlife, fast or undulating greens, or just a friendly wide open course; you can find them all in Naples. Showoff your long drives on Lely Flamingo, playing 7171 yards from the Championship Tees. Challenge the wind at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, or demonstrate your finesse around the green at Pelican's Nest. If you like golf, you will love Naples. Naples sets the standard for golf in South Florida.

One of the true joys of playing a round of golf in Southwest Florida is you can see nature in the wild. Eagles, Osprey, Alligators, and other wild life abound. You just have to look for them, they are there. Watch where you go, you are on THEIR turf!!

Bill Duffy - Realtor in Naples, FL BILL DUFFY
Premiere Plus Realty Co.