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From shell-strewn beaches to upscale art galleries, haunting cypress strands, and the most tangled maze of mangrove-lined waterways in America, Naples is undeniably a majestic tropical destination.
Founded in 1887, it was shaped by millionaire developers from the start, including Barron Collier, who pushed the Tamiami Trail to completion.
Tropical gardens are a special delight, the earliest cultivated by caladium grower Henry Nehrling at what is now Caribbean Gardens, a former tourist attraction turned local zoo.
At Naples Botanical Garden, buildings, landscaping, and nature live in harmony, with a delicate balance of natural spaces and lush gardens accented with art achieved.
Within the city are extensive parks, greenways, wave-washed natural shores, and waterways to explore. Several state parks offer unique perspectives on natural habitats.
Nearby via US 41 are Rookery Bay NERR, the Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades National Park, and the many parks and preserves protecting much of the Big Cypress Swamp.
Protecting vast mangrove forests and coastal habitats between Naples and Ten Thousand Islands NWR, Rookery Bay NERR encompasses a mind-boggling 110,000 acres.
Where the waters of Big Cypress and the Everglades meet the Gulf Coast, the Ten Thousand Islands are a maze of mangrove forest: the second largest mangrove forest in the world, bested only by Bangladesh
In its 1.5 million acres sweeping across South Florida, Everglades National Park offers outdoor experiences ranging from accessible boardwalks and paved trails to rugged adventures in harsh wilderness
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary remains one of Florida’s best destinations for birding, part of the larger Corkscrew Strand within Big Cypress.
The Florida Trail’s southernmost and most challenging 30 miles sits an hour east of downtown at Big Cypress National Preserve, with little but wild spaces along two-thirds of the drive to it.
Featured Trails and Parks near Naples
It’s Florida’s roughest, wettest, weirdest backpacking trip, best tackled with friends. Along this 30 mile stretch of the Florida Trail in the heart of Big Cypress National Preserve, immersing in the swamp is the point of the hike. Sandra tackled it as the final stretch of her multi-year 1,110-mile section hike of the Florida Trail, end-to-end.
At the Koreshan Unity in Estero, Florida, a group of believers gathered in 1894 to build their paradise. It is now a National Historic Site and a Florida State Park. Walk the trails and streets of “New Jerusalem” to learn its story.
Although John is a native Floridian, our research trip to South Florida became an opportunity for him to see many natural “firsts” in Florida that most people have on their life lists.
Where to Stay in Naples
Naples is known for its luxurious resorts. But you can also enjoy comfy lodgings within the walkable downtown like The Inn on Fifth and the Trianon Old Naples.
For a romantic getaway, try the Lemon Tree Inn, a boutique hotel with an Old Florida vibe, or the Marco Island Lakeside Inn, the quiet choice on the island. The Mariner is a great choice for families with its large suites.
Excepting Rock Creek RV Resort, an adult RV park, camping is primarily out in the wild spaces along the Tamiami Trail heading east, with Trail Lakes Campground in Ochopee, and seasonal campgrounds in Big Cypress National Preserve.
NEARBY: Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Estero, Everglades City, Fort Myers. Immokalee, Marco Island. | PART OF: Southwest Florida