Head South from Orlando Airport to Naples

by Lexa Pennington / Nov 16, 2013 /
Lexa Pennington's picture

Florida is America’s Sunshine State and a fantastic destination for those seeking sun and relaxation, fun outdoor activities, great shopping or fine dining. But all towns in Florida are not the same. Touch down into Orlando and you enter into a crazy world of amusement parks and entertainment, of circus shows and wacky architecture. Orlando is big, bold, and dedicated to fun.

 

If you want to experience another side to Florida, then arrange to pick up a car hire at Orlando airport and hit the road south. Southern Florida has a myriad of wonderful destinations, from sleepy, magical resorts to glamorous cities and enchanting natural parks. At the far south is the Everglades National Park, a watery subtropical wilderness and wetland of international ecological importance.

 

Everglades National Park - momma gator with baby on her back

Everglades National Park - momma gator with baby on her back. Photo: Debbie Glade

 

Lying on Florida’s sunny West Coast, south of vibrant Tampa and beautiful Clearwater, further south than cultural St. Petersburg and elegant Sarasota, and further south than upmarket Rotonda and tranquil Port Charlotte, is Naples. Naples is the jewel glistening on the south west coast, the elixir found by travelling hundreds of miles in search of perfection. If you are after a holiday experience combining elegance and sophistication with beautiful natural surroundings, then Naples could be the destination for you.

 

Visiting Naples, Florida

Wikimedia commons: Ebyabe, adapted by Wandering Educators

 

The trip from Orlando to Naples is about 220 miles and takes around four hours if driven direct. Whether you want to take the direct route is up to you. You can take the Interstates I-4 and I-75, driving west to Tampa and south along the West Coast. Or you can take the smaller roads inland. The interior route takes you through Lake Wales and past Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. You could take a detour to Lake Kissimmee State Park. Further down, wind your way past Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park and down to LaBelle. Florida in these lesser-known parts is more about cattle and oranges than beaches and shopping, and driving the back roads is a great way to experience another side of the state.

 

Naples Pier

Naples Pier. Wikimedia Commons:  Massimo Catarinella

 

Arrive in Naples and you step back into that other Florida, where high-end shopping and cultural pursuits vie with the desire to simply lie back and soak up the sun. Naples is a great value destination to do any of things, and what’s more it’s just as suitable for families as for couples.

 

If it’s art galleries that you’re after, then you’re in luck. An afternoon could easily be spent browsing galleries, sipping coffee and sinking into the leisurely pace that permeates every aspect of life here. Check out the Naples Museum of Art, Everglades Gallery, Cunningham Gallery and the Phil Fisher Gallery for a taste of local art and photography.

 

Sun lovers will find a fantastic selection of sun-drenched beaches. In all there is over 30 miles of sands and all beaches are open to the public. Bonita Beach, Lowdermilk, and Collier County Pass Beach are all great for kids and families, as is Naples City Beach itself. Barefoot Beach Preserve offers trails and boardwalks, ranger-led sessions and guided canoe tours. Fine dining and upmarket hotels can be found at Vanderbilt. Fort Myers offers a huge range of activities, including boating, parasailing, jet-skiing and water-skiing – it’s a popular beach lined with bars, restaurants and hotels, with a fun, party vibe.

 

The view of downtown Naples from Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

The view of downtown Naples from Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Wikimedia Commons: quadell

 

The Naples area is also hugely popular with nature lovers. Options for getting out into the countryside include Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking and learning about the flora, fauna and ecosystems of the local area.

 

Pelicans at the Naples Pier

Pelicans at the Naples Pier
Wikimedia Commons: Marc Averette