Top Things To Do in Naples, Florida: The Ultimate Guide To the Paradise Coast
Naples, Florida is consistently rated as one of America's Best Vacation Spots, Best Places to Retire, and Best Place to Raise Your Kids, and if you think one place can't have all this, you've probably never been to Naples. This is one city in the US that's almost as much fun to visit as it is to live here!
What to Do in Naples, Florida
Located on southwest Florida's Gulf Coast at the edge of the Everglades, Naples has palm tree-lined avenues and a glitzy reputation. But the city also has a small-town feel and wears its affluent and easy island style in equal measure, making it a perfect destination for those seeking a romantic or luxury getaway, family vacay, Everglades adventure, or chill beach vibe. Sure, the 280 average days of sunshine is great for year round golf, but there are so many other things to do in Naples as well, making it a favorite destination for couples and families. Shopping in Naples Florida is truly an Olympic sport, and yes the beaches are really all that. It's a restaurant powerhouse, and home to the arts and endless outdoor activities, including some of the best fishing in Florida. Honestly, there’s so much to see and do, your biggest decision may be where to begin. So let’s start with the food!
Best Places to Eat in Naples, Florida
Naples is a culinary dream, and you can sip and savor to your heart's content at hundreds of excellent restaurants (nearly 700 in Naples alone), from casual eateries, diners, and food trucks, to high end restaurants all around town. Here are some favorites:
Breakfast, Lunch, & Brunch
🍹Patric's Breakfast & Lunch
EJ's Bayfront Cafe
🍹Jane's Cafe on 3rd - the Best Brunch in town
🍹Three60 Market - on the water and great prices on wine by the glass or bottle!
🍹Celebration Food Truck Park - the newest funspot from the owner of Three60 Market, is a laid-back place filled with so many good choices of food truck fare, and a full bar on site.
🍹Kunjani Craft Coffee & Gallery - a place to linger with a good friend or book
🍹Cove Inn Coffee Shoppe - the local’s local breakfast joint
The Dock - on the water at the City Dock
Grain de Cafe - for a French twist
Dolce & Salato
Organically Twisted - beautiful, healthy food, rolled or bowled
The Local - locally sourced food
🍹Jimmy P's Charred - mouthwatering meats & sandwiches
Gumbo Limbo at the Ritz-Carlton Naples - great for cocktails on the Gulf
🍹 a Local Favorite!
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Because of the amazing seafood in southwest Florida, Naples really is one of the top food destinations in the US. Be sure and try these foods when you’re here: Gulf Coast oysters and fresh seafood. Florida stone crabs are in-season October 15 - May 15 each year and a must-try! When you’re in the Everglades, try alligator and Miccosukee Indian fry bread.
🍹The Village Pub, Village on Venetian Bay (casual)
Brook's Gourmet Burgers, Downtown (casual)
🍹7th Avenue Social, two blocks off 5th Avenue South (casual)
🍹Osteria Tulia and Bar Tulia, 5th Avenue South (casual)
Rumba Cuban Cafe, Airport Road South
The French Brasserie Rustique, 5th Avenue South (casual)
🍹The Naples Pub, 3rd Street South (casual)
Bha Bha Bistro, 5th Avenue South (casual)
USS Nemo (Park Shore area, Tamiami Trail N.)
Chops City Grill (5th Avenue South)
Captain & Krewe, 5th Avenue South (casual)
Tacos and Tequila, 2 locations in N. Naples and East Naples (casual)
🍹Fernandez the Bull, 2 locations in N. Naples and Pine Ridge & Livingston (casual)
Thai Udon Cafe, Pine Ridge & Goodlette-Frank (casual)
Old Europe Bistro, Vanderbilt Beach Road and Airport-Pulling Road (casual)
🍹The Bay House Restaurant, North Naples
Campiello, 3rd Street South (upscale)
HB's on the Gulf at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
The Continental, 3rd Street South (upscale)
Sea Salt, 3rd Street South (upscale)
1500 South by Art Smith, just past Tin City (upscale)
Truluck's, off 3rd Street South (upscale)
Julie from Fun in Fairfax VA raves about Sea Salt! — "For incredibly fresh fish and a truly fun finish to your meal, head to Sea Salt in downtown Naples. Take a look at the fresh catch, on ice in front of the open kitchen, before you take your seat. Grilled Whole Fish is prepared simply and perfectly, and served with a sample of the restaurant's huge collection of sea salts. Leave a little room, and your table can share a comically huge serving of cotton candy, a fun finish to a delicious meal."
🍹 a Local Favorite!
Shopping in Naples Florida
The Naples shopping scene can keep you busy for days and seriously impact your wallet. Whether you’re searching for the perfect outfit for paradise, a touch of the beach for your home, priceless antiques, or a steal of a thrift store deal, there are enough unique places to shop in Naples to keep you busy your entire stay!
Naples Shopping Districts
5th Avenue South and 3rd Street South are two areas in Old Naples with unique upscale boutiques carrying designer brands for your wardrobe and home. If you're budget-minded or a consignment and thrift store junkie, you'll be in heaven along 10th Street, known to locals as the Trail of Treasures. Park your car and walk the several blocks between Fifth Avenue North and Second Avenue South for dozens of thrift stores, consignment shops, and antique stores offering great deals on pre-owned treasures.
Naples has some gorgeous outdoor walking malls as well: Waterside Shops, The Village at Venetian Bay, and Mercato. All three have upscale shopping and top-rated restaurants. While Mercato has a walkable town feel to it, Waterside Shops and Venetian Village are truly distinct with some of the most beautiful settings in all of southwest Florida. Waterside Shops even has covered walkways for rainy or uber sunny days.
Naples Farmers Markets
A favorite thing to do in Naples among visitors and Neapolitans alike is strolling the weekly Farmers Markets. There are several around town throughout the week, but for the best Old Naples feel, head to the Third Street South Farmers Market Saturday morning at 7:30am.
Some of the best shopping in Naples can be found in the unique boutiques and independent shops around town. Some favorites include Chesterdales for new and pre-loved home decor, jewelry, and other great finds. Marissa Collections is the treat-yourself luxury women's clothing store on 3rd Street South. For your sweet tooth or that of your sweetheart, Norman Love Confections has the most perfect edible and scrumptious works of art. And don’t miss The Island Company, with their signature luxe casual island wear. The tropical boutique always smells amazing and you can sip their private label rum while you try things on for size.
For quick shopping trips or rainy days, head to the local indoor Coastland Mall.
Best Things to Do With Kids in Naples, FL
For families, the possibilities are endless when it comes to fun things to do with kids in Naples. Our kids and grandkids love it at the Sun-n-Fun Lagoon, Collier County's premier water park. They have four pools, a long lazy river that's open in the warmer spring and summer months, a splash playground, five water slides, and a concession stand.
Since it's sunny in Naples most of the year, you can enjoy the beach year round although ocean temperatures are typically better for swimming March through November. The clear water of the Gulf Coast is usually calm with a soft sandy bottom - perfect for small children and kids of all ages to play in.
One of my favorite family beaches in Naples is Lowdermilk Park, which has a concession stand, sand volleyball courts, two children's playgrounds, picnic tables, benches, and restroom & shower facilities. They also rent kayaks and SUPs (stand up paddleboards) and have plenty of metered and unmetered parking.
🍹LOCAL TIP: Get to Lowdermilk Park early (around 7:30-8:00am). Eight sturdy, thatched roof palapas are free and up for grabs to the early birds, and big enough for the whole family to gather under!
A great option for rainy days with kids under 8 or 9 is the Golisano Children's Museum of Naples (C'MON), located at the same park as Sun-n-Fun. They have hands-on interactive exhibits like grocery and restaurant-themed play rooms, and a fun outdoor garden and water play area.
Top 10 Things to Do in Naples, FL
There are more great attractions in Naples that the whole family can enjoy, many of which are institutions with a rich history in the community.
1. Hit the Best Beaches in Naples
The first thing to do when you get to town is head to the nearest beach to take in a deep breath of salt air and sink your toes into the soft white sand. Naples beaches consistently rank among the best beaches in the world. There may be 16 miles of shoreline from which to choose but these are my picks for the best beaches in Naples. All Naples beaches offer public access with no bridges to cross (or pay for) and very little traffic. You won't find boardwalks, t-shirt shops, major thoroughfares or any highways running along the beach. Street access along the beach is largely residential and therefore fairly quiet. Just park your car at one of the major access points in town and walk to your nearest favorite beach.
DON'T BRING THESE to a Naples beach: Pets, Glass, Fires, and Vehicles
NEW in 2018: BEER & WINE to the Naples Pier and beach. The Naples Pier now sells beer and wine, or you can bring your own beer and wine except in a glass container.
2. Naples Arts Scene
The arts are truly alive in Naples with world-class cultural attractions, two performing arts theaters and countless galleries. Artis-Naples is the premier venue in town for fine arts exhibitions, live performances, and community arts education. You may hear it referred to as The Phil, a testament to the community's active and ongoing support for the arts which began with the Naples Philharmonic.
ThreatreZone is a small, intimate theater experience and Naples' Professional Equity theatre company which produces top quality musicals and plays with a live orchestra.
3. Naples Pier and Historic Palm Cottage
The 130-year old Naples Pier has been beloved by generations, and recently got a facelift in 2017 with new planking, rails, and lighting. After all these years, the Naples Fishing Pier is still the best place in town for a casual stroll or to catch sunset. The historic Palm Cottage, Naples oldest surviving home, is open Tuesday - Saturday for docent-guided tours and self-guided tours of the outdoor Norris Gardens. Or join a guided walking tour around Naples’ historic district with a member of the Naples Historical Society.
4. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
The 44-acre Naples Zoo began as a tropical garden in 1919, and today this small city zoo has many native species along with other unique residents like giraffes, big cats, a giant anteater, and lemurs, or take a boat ride around Monkey Island.
Naples Botanical Gardens is 170 acres of preservation land and cultivated gardens, representing seven distinct natural habitats and featuring over 1,000 native flora species. There are themed gardens, an interactive Children’s Garden, and water features complementing a 90-acre wetlands preserve. Open daily.
6. Take a Hike
Hiking may not be top-of-mind when you think of southwest Florida, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to see! The terrain here is flat but lush, and there are some excellent places to get out into nature on several local boardwalk trails. You'll find nice and easy, light SWFL day hikes with plenty of native flora and wildlife to see. Head inland and you'll find the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary with well-maintained boardwalks and nature trails. The Koreshan State Historic Site located just north of Naples in Estero is a fun day hike and a fascinating glimpse into some of the area's earliest intrepid settlers.
7. Visit a Naples Museum
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Naples Depot Museum in downtown Naples is set in the restored Seaboard Air Line Railway passenger station and tells the story of Naples' early technology and transportation. For train and model train lovers, the Naples Train Museum is also located here and open to visitors on Saturdays. Lovers of local history will love the Collier County Museum with exhibits covering everything from the Calusa Indians to more recent settler history. A five-acre garden is filled with relocated buildings of historic interest including a recreated Seminole Village.
The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida is worth a visit but set your GPS because you might miss this gem of a museum tucked in an unlikely strip mall. The museum is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting unique works of art and telling the stories of the Holocaust through thousands of photos, artifacts, exhibits and events.
If you love art, I highly recommend a visit to The Baker Museum at Artis Naples, featuring one of the finest and most diverse collections of art in all of Southwest Florida. There are 15 galleries, a glass dome conservatory, and numerous works by Dale Chihuly including a lighted walkway you have to see!
8. Kayak the Mangroves
Naples is the Gateway to the 10,000 islands and the Florida Everglades, though you don't have to go that far to see evidence of the sub-tropical ecosystem all around you. One of the best ways to experience and appreciate the fragile environment here is to paddle and explore the calm waters, mangroves, and backwater estuaries around Naples and Marco Island. Rising Tide Explorers runs kayak tours (more like ecology lessons in a kayak) from the Isles of Capri that are guided by biologists, eco- and family-friendly, and so much fun.
9. Cruise Naples
At historic Tin City in Old Naples, you'll find tourist shops and cafes selling everything from rubber alligators and resort wear to Monkey Bread and coconut candies. You'll also find Naples fishing charters and sightseeing tours with Pure Florida and the famous Naples Princess which offers sightseeing, lunch, and dinner cruises - a great way to see Naples from the water.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida also offers guided nature boat tours through the local mangroves. Protecting the water, land, and wildlife of southwest Florida is their mission and visitors can also tour the Dalton Discovery Center and aquarium, and visit the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The Conservancy also sponsors a reservation-only guided boat tour of Rookery Bay near Isle of Capri (on the road to Marco Island) onboard the 40-passenger pontoon boat Good Fortune.
10. Celebrate Sunset
You may think sunset is just the end of the day, but on the Paradise Coast, sunset is something to celebrate. Head to your favorite beach or the Naples Pier (which now sells beer and wine from approved vendors), toast to the fiery sunset and bid goodbye to the day.
Look for the green flash in summer months - a phenomenon unique to Southwest Florida - which happens just seconds after the sun disappears over the horizon. Bring your camera or phone to Instagram a pic or text to friends.
Day Trips from Naples Florida
Matlacha and Pine Island
A visit to Pine Island north of Ft. Myers is like stepping back in time to Old Florida. Known for its calm backwaters, it's one of the area's premier fishing and paddling destinations. On your way in, you'll want to stop in colorful Matlacha, a small spit of land between Pine Island and the mainland, with its funky art galleries, and good time restaurants.
Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Naples has awesome beaches but if you're looking for a livelier beach scene head to Ft. Myers Beach, where you can cruise the strip or enjoy nature in Lovers Key State Park. There are so many reasons to visit Sanibel and Captiva, the barrier islands off the coast from Ft. Myers, but one of biggest is combing the beaches for seashells. You'll find some of the best shelling in the world on Sanibel and Captiva islands.
🍹LOCAL FAVORITE: Head to Sanibel and Captiva for the day, and drive back down to Ft. Myers Beach for sunset at the Outrigger, one of the coolest beach bars in southwest Florida.
Marco Island and Goodland
Just 30 miles south of Naples lies glitzy Marco Island surrounded by sleepy neighbors Goodland and the Isle of Capri. Check out the popular Tigertail Beach, a hotspot for beachgoers, followed by a cold beverage and lunch at The Snook Inn, one of the most famous chickee huts in southwest Florida. Or head to Kirk Fish Company in Goodland, one of the few working water-front fish houses left in Southwest Florida. Their retail market is open seven days-a-week, October-May and full of fresh, local seafood.
Key West, Baby!
Southwest Florida is very close to Key West (as the crow flies) and if you had to drive across Alligator Alley and head south from Miami and Homestead it would take you 6-8 hours depending on traffic. Don't do it - unless you're prepared for a Key road trip of course! Luckily, the Key West Express runs daily service from Ft. Myers to Key West in just 3 hours. (There's also service from Marco Island but less frequently.) Three hours! You'll get there around noon and there's a lot of fun things to do in Key West in that amount of time. Spend the afternoon taste-testing the best Key Lime Pie in town, or spend the night in Old Town for a nice little micro-vacay to your Paradise Coast vacation!
If you're looking for more urban flavor, head east across Alligator Alley to lively Fort Lauderdale, glitzy Miami, and other fun south Florida cities. They're an easy 1.5 hours from Naples, and make a fun day or overnight trip when you feel like a romantic date night or some serious nightlife in South Beach.
The Florida Everglades is a US National Park and the largest sub-tropical wilderness in the United States. Keep this in mind if you're looking to explore this vast territory - it could take weeks to see on your own. However, hitting some of the highlights makes an excellent day trip from Naples. For outdoor hikes, head out toward East Naples into Big Cypress National Preserve. There are several easy boardwalk hikes to enjoy at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Collier Seminole State Park, and Shark Valley, about an hour drive into the Park. On your way back, be sure and stop at the Clyde Butcher Gallery in Ochopee, the photography store and gallery of one of Florida's most beloved wildlife photographers.
Not far from Naples is also the Smallest Post Office in the USA, so stop in and send your friends a postcard. You'll never believe it's really a working post office! Get a glimpse of the area's fascinating history at the Museum of the Everglades and then explore the towns of Everglades City and nearby Chokoloskee. There's no better way to see the Glades than on an airboat ride. Wooten's Animal Sanctuary & Alligator Park is one of the most popular (and crowded) tour operators, but my pick for small (4-6 passenger) airboat rides is Speedy's Airboat Tours.
Where to Stay in Naples Florida
Residence Inn by Marriott - A great choice that's close to the beach and central to everything you want to visit in Naples. Find out rates and further details.
We recently discovered Park Shore Resort in the central Park Shore area of Naples, with its gorgeous Asian-inspired setting and just 3 minutes from Venetian Bay with great shops, dining, and beaches. You can bike to the beach without having to cross the highway (Rte. 41). Kids will love the nice pool and spotting turtles in the lagoon. A great value! Check rates and details.
If you're looking for lots of charm for the money, check out The Lemon Tree Inn. Between the Olde Naples charm, the retro atmosphere, renovated rooms, and manicured grounds and pool, it's a good value with a great location. Check rates and more details.
The Inn at Pelican Bay is a great choice with quick 5 minute access to the beach in one direction and shopping & dining at Mercato in the other. Check availability and details.
On the Beach:
For a perfect beach vacation, you can't go wrong with these Top five: the Edgewater Beach Hotel, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, the Naples Grande, LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, and The Ritz Carlton, Naples for direct beach access, excellent on-site restaurants and amenities, and top notch customer service.
The Ritz Carlton Naples tops the luxury list for their perfect location on the beach as well as superior customer service for you and your kids. Check out rates and packages here.
Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club - For the ultimate in family fun, it's hard to beat the Naples Beach Hotel, one of the most established hotels in town. Located right on the beach, there's plenty to do and explore on a family vacation or romantic getaway. Check rates and details here.
The Naples Grande Beach Resort is known for it's great location near Clam Pass, and its endless array of activities for the family. You'll never want for things to do or to keep the kids busy while you relax. Check out current rates and more details here.
The Inn on Fifth always gets high praise. It's got a prime downtown location and good luxury value. It's also steps to great dining, shopping, and beaches, and hard to beat their rooftop swimming pool and signature Concierge services. Find out more including rates here.
If you’ve been dreaming about a tropical vacation in the US, head to Naples, Florida. You might also want to check out these articles about Naples for more inspiration:
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