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Naples and Marco Island Are Heaven On Earth

by Charlie Peay on February 12th, 2009

The innkeepers are all fond of saying “My pleasure” in this corner of Southwest Florida, and believe me, after you visit Naples and Marco Island the pleasure will be all yours. The Mediterranean influences are evident everywhere you look in this luxurious corner of the state which is known as “Florida’s Last Paradise”, and certainly deserves its reputation as one of South Florida’s premier wintertime retreats.

The bountiful attractions in and around the charming city of Naples which has fewer than25,000 residents and was named after Naples, Italy, never seem to cease. From its northern boundary near BonitaSprings to its southern boundary near the crossing of East Tamiami Trail and Collier Boulevard, Naples is awash in enchanted pleasures of just about every description… from symphonies, shelling and bird watching to fishing, boating and fine arts.Whether your pleasure is spending all day on magnificently manicured golf courses, walking along deserted windswept beaches, or checking out the latest offerings at fabulous shops and outlets, you’ll be glad you came.

Perhaps one of the most stunning aspects of Naples is its classical Mediterranean-style architecture which helps to give the city its unique identity.Bright red tile roofs and sassy earth tone facades pervade not only much of downtown area, but also provide a warm, unifying theme in Naples’ new developments as well. From lavish Vanderbilt Road with its historic inns and hotels, to stylish Fifth Avenue with its scrumptious dining and shopping venues, Naples offers a grand getaway that is simply hard to match. If you’re looking for even more diversions to keep you occupied, check out The Village On Ventian Bay, Olde Naples, Gallery Row, Dockside Boardwalk, and Naples Pier. One of the most glamorous areas of town has to be the Third Street Shopping District and famed Gallery Row where ritzy boutiques and colorful art galleries line the streets. Wherever you go in this romantic, one-of-a-kind city, palm-lined avenues, quaint cottages, historic preservations, and beachfront estates add to the gracious, turn-of-the-century atmosphere.

As you’d expect, there are plenty of memorable eating spots in Naples which range from uptown, white tablecloth establishments to more casual, laid-back affairs.The Bay House, Di Julio’s, Sunset Beach Bar, Watermark Grille, Giovanni, Steamers of Naples, Truluck’s, Mangrove Cafe, and Chops City Grill all offer fabulous dining with an atmosphere to match. If you’re looking for good food in more relaxed surroundings, you can’t go wrong with Gulf Coast Grouper & Chips, Michelbob’s, Sunburst Café, and Chrissy’s Café. Whatever your taste buds, Naples is certain to have the right restaurant that will make for the perfect lunch, dinner or late night out.

With so many attractions in the Naples city limits from which to choose, it probably comes as no surprise that there are a plethora of natural wonders close by to explore as well, including the Barefoot Beach Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands region, Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Scenic waterways are teaming with exotic birds, alligators and wildlife of every description, but you might want to schedule your trip in advance to coincide with optimal viewing seasons and times. Other outdoor recreational activities abound such as nature photography, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking and boating.

Located just 10 miles to the south of Naples on Collier Boulevard you’ll find Marco Island, the ultimate getaway for pleasure, relaxation, and easy living. Offering upscale lodging, dining and all the perks you’d expect from a world-class destination, you can’t beat Marco for fun, convenience, and location. Marco Island measures just 4 miles wide and 6 miles long, and is home to only about 14,000 year-round residents. It is the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands and is surrounded on all sides by beautiful water, sun-washed beaches and miles and miles of pristine, untouched shoreline. Scenic mangroves, uninhabited islands and superb fishing make Marco Island a true sportsman’s dream. To the south lies over 70 miles of fly fishing heaven and only a few tiny sparsely inhabited fishing villages. With afternoon temperatures averaging in the 70’s and 80’s during the winter months, you can see why Marco Island is such a popular wintertime retreat!

While you’re here, be sure to visit the Tigertail Public Beach on the northwest end of the island, which offers 31 acres of unspoiled natural habitat and beautiful Sand Dollar Barrier Island for shelling and beachcombing. The park is open daily from 8:00am until sundown and has attractive facilities which include a bathhouse, boardwalks, cabanas, restrooms, a picnic area with grills, a sandvolleyball court, and a playground. It is no secret that Tigertail Beach is one of the best spots in all of Florida for bird watching, with numerous species of exotic shorebirds who either call this beach home or migrate through the area.

Although Marco Island didn’t begin to be fully developed until the 1960’s, the first 20-room hotel here opened in 1896 so the island has a long history of hospitality. In addition to swanky high-rises, beautiful homes and first-class resorts, Marco Island has a bevy of top-notch restaurants such as Snook Inn, Tara Steak & Lobster House, House of Mozart, Old Marco Pub, Marek’s Collier House, and Konrad’s Seafood & Grille. Whether you prefer casual or fine dining, elegant houses, condos or hotels…there’s truly something for everyone on this unique island paradise by the sea.

About the time you begin to feel as if you’ve experienced all that Naples and Marco Island have to offer, you’ll likely discover there’s even more that you want to see and do before you leave. Thank goodness there’s always next year, because one thing’s for sure…once you visit this glorious spot on the magnificent Southwest Coast of Florida, you really can’t imagine not returning for an encore!

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