Naples is one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S., it is sophisticated, cultured and is a hugely popular tourist destination. However, for those of us that live here, we often get complacent with the abundance of opportunity is so readily available, we get habituated to our own edition of daily living within our 5-mile radius of everything we need and nearly hibernate during season because of the traffic.
It’s season for a reason, the weather is perfection and we live in paradise. Why should the tourists be the only ones getting the benefit of this perfection? Right now, with the weather being perfect, it is time to get out and rediscover our beautiful area. To remind ourselves of why we live here, because it’s not just the weather, as the weather doesn’t matter if there is not something wonderful to experience while having it.
Below is a list of amazing opportunities available to all of us, that represents what is truly amazing about where we are. I’ve not included shopping or cultural events as those are available in so many places. Here I focus primarily on only hyper-local, nature-based, one-of-a-kind opportunities only available here.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary consists of about 13,000 acres of magnificent wetlands, pine flatwoods, a marsh, and a wet prairie, as well as the largest North American old growth Bald Cypress forest. Take a photo of these magnificent giants with 25-foot thick trunks that soar 130 feet into the clear Florida sky.
Take a walk along the meandering 2.25-mile boardwalk and look for some of the sanctuary’s inhabitants such as alligators, white-tailed deer, otters, red-bellied turtles, many kinds of wading birds, and songbirds, as well as raptors. An occasional panther, the ghost orchid and few other treasures can be spied if you know how to look. You can also go on one of the guided tours to learn more about this rare habitat or attend a nature photography course to improve your skills.
You can easily spend several hours there. Once you’ve complete your walk enjoy a picnic they you brought at one of their picnic tables or grab a quick bite at the gallery café in the visitor center. Also, in the visitor center is a wonderful gift store and gallery. You may want to hit the gift store first, so you can get a proper field guild book for your walk. The boardwalk is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and boardwalk admission closes at 4:30 p.m. (Last boardwalk admission is one hour before closing time.) Address: 375 Sanctuary Road West, Naples, Florida 34120, 239-348-9151.
Clam Pass Park
Just down the street from Waterside shops and tucked behind the Naples Grand, Clam Pass Park is a beautiful park with beach access located in the North Naples area, boasts 35 acres of carefully preserved coastal habitat with a three-quarter-mile boardwalk. The boardwalk leads to the sandy beach without affecting the plants, blooming flowers, and fluttering butterflies. It continues through a dense mangrove forest composed of salt-tolerant black, red, and white mangroves, which are home to eagles, wading shorebirds, hawks, and Osprey.
The park also has an area of tidal bay that is a perfect breeding ground as well as nursery for marine life, many birds, and various species of wildlife. Besides beachgoers who use the boardwalk to access the sands, those who enjoy quiet nature enjoy using the boardwalk as a tranquil walking path. Address: 465 Seagate Dr, Naples, FL 34103, 239-252-4000
The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon) is a fun-filled place, embedded with learning based on our local community, where children can play, learn, and dream together. A variety of hands-on and interactive exhibits encourage children to learn through play. They can take a journey through the swamps of the Everglades, climb a giant banyan tree, weave through a maze, or experiment with the water play station.
Children of all ages can become anything they want to be, from firemen, farmers, chefs, and artists to architects, builders, veterinarians, or doctors, and they can explore the wonders of the sea, the sun, the earth, and the sky through fantastic displays. The museum also offers a range of educational workshops and programs for all ages such as the Eagle Scout Project, Little Learners, School field trips, and Vehicle Adventures. Address: 15080 Livingston Rd Naples FL 34109, 239-514-0084
Crayton Cove is a local favorite for many reasons. But did you know it is home to the very first boat landing where supplies arrived at the fledgling town of Naples. The little seaside suburb is also home to Naples City Dock, which still reflects the bustling atmosphere and pioneering spirit of a seafaring life that have defined the waterfront town for centuries.
Today, the quaint village-style destination draws visitors from far and wide to experience this ambiance, with historic buildings and hotels, venerable restaurants, and an array of fashionable and eclectic shops, boutiques, and galleries. Stroll around the Naples City Dock and Naples Bay, dine at the award-winning Boathouse on Naples Bay, located directly on the water, adjacent to the Cove Inn and offering beautiful bay views, a full bar and live Jazz on the Lido deck, or explore the many galleries that showcase the work of local artists drawn to this creative haven by the sea.
Two of my absolute favorite things about living in the U.S. are the National Parks System and the Public Library System. In combination they help us grow, learn and keep us connected to the earth. We have wonderful libraries here in Southwest Florida and we also have some of the most environmentally important National parks, with one being driven by almost daily for many.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Something many of us drive by signs for regularly, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is considered to be one of the most pristine beaches in the world. Visitors can enjoy miles of magnificent views of the Gulf of Mexico, watch the flocks of shorebirds and other wildlife that call the beach home, work on their tan, snorkel near the colorful reef, hike along the beach, have a lively family picnic, search for rare seashells, chase crabs or simply people watch. At the northern end of the beach boaters can launch into Turkey Bay and experience the scenic estuaries of the Cocohatchee River. Rangers offer guided tours of the park, and there are lovely pavilions available to rent for special celebrations or to simply secure a covered area for your family. Address: 11135 Gulfshore Drive, Naples, FL 34108, 239-597-6196
Built in 1888 to serve as a dock for freight and passengers, the Naples Pier had a narrow-gauge train rails along its length that served the train that transported baggage and freight in the 1900s. The old pier has been destroyed by fire and wrecked by several hurricanes, but it has always been rebuilt as the symbol of Naples’ history and resilience. Stretching from the end of 12th Avenue, the pier is a popular spot for fishing, sunset watching, dolphin spotting, and enjoying the view of the Gulf of Mexico. Go to Ridgeway’s for dinner (sit outside!) after watching sunset or head to Jane’s for breakfast, then wander down for a late morning walk.
I’d like to think it goes without saying, but I have to admit I haven’t done it in a while myself… Sunset.
Sunset near the water offers the body a truly healing experience. A visit to the beach always leaves you feeling alive and cleansed physically, emotionally and spiritually. The combination of sun, sea and sand is the most natural and easily accessible form of therapy available to mankind- and its free and always available to us.
Fortunately, from where ever one lives in the world, we can all witness sunset- for free. However, those of us who have elected to establish roots here in Southwest Florida have what many of us have forgotten- the extraordinary privilege of enjoying sunset from a beach- also for free. Add to the experience with a cocktail in hand from a great waterfront roof top bar like Bayside in Venetian Village, from the many gulf-front hotel bars like Gumbo Limbo at the Ritz and Sunset Beach bar & grill at Naples Beach Club and restaurants like Baleens at La Playa and the Turtle Club.
We’ve worked very hard for the privilege of living here and pay extra to do so, so why not get out there and remind yourself why we did it in the first place. It’s season, people are flocking here for a reason… now is not the time to deny yourself the privilege of the natural wonders and opportunities that are available all around us. Cheers to this little corner of paradise we call home.
Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!
Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company www.lifewithmoxie.com, CEO of Moxie Creed www.moxiecreed.com, skincare beyond chemistry. You can reach her at Julie@lifewithmoxie.com
Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie
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