Your flight is booked. The hotel room is reserved. Next up: finding things to do in Naples, Florida.
After the arctic blast of a winter we experienced last year in the northern states, my dad, sister and I were itching for a little Florida sunshine. I booked us a last-minute trip to Naples in March for a long weekend of sunbathing, poolside relaxing and sunset watching.
In my family, I’m the go-to travel planner. I was looking for a destination with hotels that could spaciously accommodate three adults, which we found at the lovely Bellasera Hotel. We also wanted a beachfront along the Gulf of Mexico, fine dining, and shopping. We found it all in Naples.
If you are planning a trip to this South Florida city, I’ve compiled a list of five things to do in Naples.
Catch Rays And Watch Sunsets
While researching things to do in Naples, I found there are several public beaches in the area. If you are planning to spend a whole day on the beach, I suggest arriving early to find a parking space. Arriving early also allows you to claim the best spot on the sand.
We found the Naples Municipal Beach and Fishing Pier the most convenient for us. It was a short walk from downtown Naples. You’ll find street parking with metered spaces (if you are lucky enough to claim one).
Though the water was a tad chilly and it was windy at times, we sunbathed and let the waves crash over our toes as we strolled down the beach to the fishing pier. We returned on Sunday evening, when the beach was considerably less busy, to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico.
Be An Ecotourist
From Naples, you easily could set off to explore the Everglades, kayak past mangrove trees, or walk a two-mile boardwalk through the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. By perusing TripAdvisor, you’ll find all sorts of guided tours and cruises to see dolphins, manatees and alligators.
I recommend thoroughly researching before booking these tours. We learned from our sailing captain that the manatees were mostly down in the Florida Keys last winter, so I was very happy we had opted for an excursion other than a manatee-sighting cruise.
The guided tours may be time-consuming and pricey. If you are looking to spend some time outdoors without a hefty price tag, I highly recommend spending a couple hours walking around the Naples Botanical Garden. Adult admission was less than $15 per person when we visited.
At the botanical garden, we explored Asian, Floridian, Caribbean and Brazilian gardens. We walked through the butterfly house and attempted to avoid getting splashed in the children’s garden. We saw tropical palm trees, floating lily pads, bright yellow sunflowers, red roses, spiky cacti, and all sorts of exotic flora. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting botanical gardens I’ve visited.
Eat All The Fresh Seafood Possible
My family ate so much seafood during our visit in Naples. So. Much.
Our first night in Naples, we dined at Sea Salt. It’s a hip seafood restaurant with al fresco dining on Third Street South, an Old Naples dining and retail district. We began our meal with fresh oysters on the half shell and crispy calamari. Then we each selected delicious seafood entrees — Ōra King Salmon prepared two different ways and scallops. Though there is a kids’ menu, Sea Salt is much more of an adult scene. I’d recommend dining here for the sleek and modern design, hip atmosphere, al fresco seating, and quality seafood. The menu lists a couple vegetarian — but no vegan — dishes. Entrees range between $22 and $60.
Our second night took us across the street from Sea Salt to Campiello Ristorante & Bar. This ritzy Italian eatery has a fabulous outdoor courtyard for al fresco dining or drinks at the bar. After dining at Sea Salt, we stopped here and indulged in the extensive wine list. Then we returned for the full meal experience — our best decision of this trip. The service was outstanding — such a professional presentation yet with such personal attention. Everything from our appetizers to desserts was delectable. Again we started our meal with calamari and a light and fresh panzanella salad. My entree — Maine lobster and gnocchi in a truffle butter sauce — was heavenly and easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever eaten. My sister had a salad topped with jumbo shrimp, and my dad’s linguini with tomatoes, basil and Alaskan king crab in a white wine sauce tasted delicious. Entrees here range from $24 to $48.
To celebrate my birthday, I made reservations for T-Michaels Steak & Lobster, a Venetian Bay waterfront steakhouse and seafood restaurant. After valet parking the car and the hostess mistaking my dad for Bill Gates (it happens quite often actually), we settled into the lounge for a round. I sipped my Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc as I looked over the beautiful scenery. By the time we were seated, the sun had set, but the restaurant still had a nice ambiance. I would recommend booking a reservation here in advance (not the day of dining here, as I did) for a pre-sunset seating. We began a tasty and filling dinner with a jumbo lump crab cake, jumbo shrimp cocktail and lobster bisque soup. For my entree, I ordered the petite filet mignon served a perfect medium rare with a sweet potato. My sister said her Chilean sea bass special was delicious. Entrees at T-Michaels range between $22 and $51.
After three large dinners, my dad and I sought lighter fare for our final dinner in Naples. We ended up at Sushi-Thai Too on Fifth Avenue South, the downtown shopping and dining district. The menu features an extensive mix of Thai and Japanese dishes, including a large selection of sashimi and sushi rolls. My dad and I split an Alaskan roll filled with crab, lettuce, avocado and cucumber. We also ordered the flavorful and large-portioned Pad Thai. The restaurant also offers Sushi Boats. I saw one being delivered to another table. It was massive, but probably a great deal for a large party. Entrees here were moderately priced.
Sip Island Cocktails Along The Water
Technically this one is outside of Naples. It’s in Bonita Springs, which is just a short drive up the coast. It’s also on the way to and from the Fort Myers airport.
Coconut Jack’s is a waterfront tiki-hut bar and grill. Sitting on the back deck while sipping my umbrella-embellished strawberry daiquiri, I felt like I was somewhere faraway and exotic. We loved the appetizers, too. The lobster and shrimp ceviche and coconut shrimp served with mango and raspberry sauces brought tropical island flavors to our Florida happy hour.
Set Sail On The Gulf Of Mexico
The highlight of my family’s trip to Naples: a sunset cruise on the Gulf of Mexico.
We set sail from the Naples City Dock with Capt. Doug of Island Sailing. Our sailing adventure began with Chandon in hand as we cruised past luxurious waterfront mansions with sprawling lawns of meticulously maintained landscaping along the canal. Our captain pointed out homes of the rich and famous and answered all our probing questions about Naples, the high-end real estate, and the local wildlife.
Then, following a stark white yacht out to the open water, we watched the sunset over the horizon. As the sky changed to orange hues, we snacked on the spread we had packed of baby carrots, hummus, strawberries, crackers and cheese. We really enjoyed being able to bring along wine and food for the relaxing sail. On our way back, I learned how to steer the sailboat and took the helm as we navigated the dark canal. We had such a personalized and hands-on experience with Island Sailing. I’d certainly recommend sailing charters as one of the best ways to watch a sunset in Naples.
Tips And Other Things To Do In Naples, Florida
- Visit Florida has a full list of Naples attractions
- Naples is known for its high-end boutiques. Here’s the lowdown on where to shop.
- Things to do with kids in Naples
This post is part of the #WeekendWanderlust link-up. To find all the participating blog posts, check out A Brit And A Southerner or Justin Plus Lauren’s Venice Transportation Guide.
If you have been to Naples, share your tips and favorite things to do in the comment section.