By Kathy Barnett/Managing Editor
When my girlfriend announced she was moving back to her home in Naples, I was crushed. How could she leave me? Then I went to visit her and now I no longer wonder. I would probably never have chosen to go to this particular destination had she not gone before me. And thanks to her, I’ve had the great pleasure of returning again and again. It is indeed the most beautiful destination ever! The beaches, the sunset view from the beach, the clean warm sand underneath my feet at the beach, the soothing lap of the waves crashing against that sand. I can still smell the fresh, clean ocean air. It’s a guaranteed bet that when I need to go to my “happy place,” it’s right there on one of the Naples beaches. In fact, my desktop wallpaper in my office is a photo I took of the grand Florida beach. Alas! You don’t want to look like a lobster when you return home. So, of course, there are many other activities to discover while in the area. There are area attractions, from casinos to national parks to wildlife preserves. Take a tour by bike, boat or airboat. It is all indeed a paradise second to no other.
Naples Botanical Garden
A 170-acre world-class garden paradise minutes from downtown Naples, bringing a world of tropical plants and cultures of the tropics and subtropics to more than 220,000 visitors per year. Themed gardens represent the culture and flora of the tropics with seven distinct natural habitats and ecosystems, and featuring over 1000 species, with special emphasis on the ecosystems between the 26th parallel north and the 26th parallel south. . A hands-on interactive Children’s Garden along with 90 acres of beautifully restored natural habitats, walking trails and a Butterfly Garden offer educational entertainment and enjoyment for people of all ages.
The Water Garden is my favorite, located right in the center of the property. Among the seasonal water blossoms from around the world, a waterfall and fountain, there is also a sound stage where live musical entertainment is featured periodically.
Take time to rest a bit and enjoy the view during lunch at the Fogg Cafe. It is located in the visitor center right on the grounds. In addition to incorporating an exciting garden-to-table inspired menu, the cuisine represents Brazilian, Caribbean, Asian and Floridian themes from each garden. The menu changes seasonally, focusing on exceptional quality and moderate pricing in a fast casual service setting. Open for breakfast and lunch, Fogg Café also features a kids menu, snack options and refined selection of wine and beer. Plan a minimum of two hours to see all the gardens. Admision is only $14.95 each, ages 4-14 are $9.95. Open 9-5. >MORE
A visit to the Paradise Coast means spending quality time submerged, floating or looking at the ocean. Be sure to explore the Everglades by airboat. There are several tour groups available. Paddle in the Ten Thousand Islands, fish in the Gulf and spend the day catching your own dinner. The Ten Thousand Islands section of the Everglades is known as an angler’s paradise, with tarpon, snook, redfish, permit, pompano and other species in abundance. Now you don’t need a drone to see what the beach looks like from up above. Instead, be adventurous and try a once-in-a-lifetime parasailing adventure. Starting from a sitting position on the back of the boats, you will be gently lifted into the air. It’s a smooth ascension and afterward, a smooth descend back to the boat. Fly solo, double or triple. Whatever your choice, as Naples Beach Water Sports says, “It’s for the Time of Your Life!”
Indulge by reserving a Beachfront Suite stay at Edgewater Beach Hotel. Having access to a private section of the beach and the breathtaking view is worth every penny. There are no beach closing hours here. Watch the gentle waves of the Gulf roll onto the shore from your private balcony. Unwind after a full day of water sports or sightseeing in your spacious living room, and enjoy the convenience of the suite’s modern kitchen, featuring a full-size refrigerator, microwave, and a granite counter breakfast bar or a separate dining area. With additional premium amenities including iPod docking stations, in-room safes and wireless Internet access, Edgewater’s Beachfront suites offer the ultimate Naples getaway. The last evening there, the grand finale was watching the sunset from our dinner table at the Coast Restaurant. We made reservations to assure a table by the spacious windows. With a luxureous atmosphere, live piano entertainment, attention to every detail, impecible service, perfectly prepared internationally-inspired cuisine, I can’t really say which was best: the view or the meal. Together, it was truly a memorable dining experience we won’t soon forget.