Naples, on the Paradise Coast of Southwest Florida, is a popular destination for both winter snowbirds and vacationers. There are many reasons why — this stylish and upscale community offers great restaurants and shopping in a sophisticated downtown, plus beautiful beaches and top-rated golf courses.
Whether you love to get out of the water or the links, there is something for everyone including arts, culture, and fun annual events like the world-famous Swamp Buggy Races, Naples Craft Beer Fest, the Stone Crab Festival, and the Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade.
While it is busy year round, Naples really bustles from December through April. We have visited in both summer and winter, and rounded up some of the best things to do in Naples Florida.
Things to do in Naples, Florida
The central hang out spot, and the best place to catch a sunset, is at the famous Naples Pier. Parking can be tight so if you want to park at the pay lot near the Pier you should get there early in the day. Otherwise, you can likely find street parking on 5th Street and walk over.
You don’t need to pay to access the Pier, and fishing off the pier is allowed without a permit. There are even sinks and stations for cleaning your catch. Even if you don’t fish, it is fun to take a walk to the end to watch the pelicans diving for their meal. You may even luck out and see some dolphins. Just stake out your spot early if you are going for sunset and grab a snack at Cosmos Cafe on the pier.
While there is a beach at the Naples Pier, it is narrow and a little crowded. If you aren’t staying at a beachfront resort, another great option is Lowdermilk Park. While you need to pay by the spot to park, access to the beach is free. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas on the beach.
The beach is lovely and the park offers a concession stand, showers, restrooms, picnic tables, two children’s playgrounds, and even beach volleyball.
Pure Florida Boat Cruise
If you want to go fishing, take a dolphin cruise, ride on a jet boat, rent jet skis, or even take a shelling eco-tour, Pure Florida is the place to look. Boats leave out of the historic Tin City shopping district so you can grab a lunch of Stone Crab claws before heading out or a drink when you return.
If you want to get out on the water but also get up close and personal with wildlife and nature, consider a kayak tour with Rising Tide Explorers. This is Southwest Florida’s only biologist owned and operated adventure company.
They offer kayak rentals, kayak tours, and boat tour with biologists. These tours go into winding mangrove tunnels, a bird rookery island, ancient sand dunes, and you can even go shelling on a remote section of Keewaydin Island.
If you love to shop, you are in luck in Naples. There are many pockets of places with great shopping, from planned centers to parts of downtown Naples. Each has its own unique personality.
Tin City is a historic area that reminds us a lot of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco or Seattle, but on a smaller scale. You will find restaurants, specialty shops, and a mix of kitschy souvenir stores.
For upscale waterfront shopping, The Village at Venetian Bay, offers a mix of boutiques and familiar brand names, combined with a number of indoor and outdoor waterfront dining options.
The main shopping districts downtown are found along 5th Avenue South and 3rd Street South. These streets are also lined with a mix of great restaurants, many of which offer indoor and outdoor seating. On 3rd Street South you will find Tommy Bahama and upscale boutiques selling your fill of Lily Pulitzer. Fifth Avenue South also offers boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.
If you are visiting with kids that love waterslides, you may want to cool off at the Sun-n-Fun Lagoon. This classic water park offers four pools, a lazy river, a splash playground, and five water slides. While it may not measure up to the mega water parks in Orlando, it is still good for a hot afternoon.
Another kid pleaser is the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. This accredited zoo is home to animals like lions, giraffes, monkeys, pythons, and bears. You can also book an animal encounter with lemurs, honey badgers, anteaters, and giraffes.
Naples Botanical Garden
The Naples Botanical Garden covers 170 acres and is home to plants from around the world. The Gardens also offers fun annual events like Night Lights (Christmastime), April Foolin’ in the Garden, and Garden Nights.
When we were there in December, our plan was to attend the Night Lights and we bought tickets in advance (as recommended since it sells out), but unfortunately it was pouring rain. While the event is rain or shine, we decided we would rather not get drenched!
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Remember a few years ago when there was that YouTube video circulating of a panther running past a person on a boardwalk in Florida? Well that was at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Don’t worry, that isn’t a common event.
Located about 30 minutes east of Naples, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is home to alligators, otters, deer, turtles, and obviously panthers! You can walk into the Everglades ecosystem on the 2.5 mile boardwalk through flat woods, wet prairie, and into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America.
If you are willing to travel a little further south into the Everglades, there are plenty of opportunities for airboat tours in Everglades City and beyond. We decided to try a 30-minute tour with Wooten’s Everglades airboat tours.
These tours go through the mangroves and grasslands, with a high likelihood of spotting alligators. Thy also offer a 30-minute Swamp Buggy Tour that brings you through the river of grass of the Everglades.
Extend Your Stay
Want to combine a stay in Naples with other nearby destinations? Check out our recommendations for the best Florida Gulf Coast vacations or here are some ideas.
Just 30-45 minutes south of Naples is the vacation paradise of Marco Island. You will find everything from high rise hotels to beach houses. There are similar things to do in Marco Island, but I’m a little partial to the wide white sand beach on Marco Island.
Sanibel & Captiva
Just 30-45 minutes to the south, outside of Fort Myers, the wildlife refuge on Captiva and the amazing shelling on Sanibel are a great draw for nature lovers.
Perhaps you want to move from the quieter West Coast to the cultural hot spot of South Florida’s east coast — Miami and Miami Beach. There is so much to do in Miami from food tours and art walks to people watching on South Beach and visiting world-class museums. Miami is just a two hour drive away across Alligator Alley.
Where to Stay in Naples
Naples Grande Beach Resort
If you are looking for an upscale stay, we enjoyed our stay at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Just keep in mind that if prefer the beach over the pool, you will need to walk a long boardwalk to get to the beach or take a golf cart shuttle. Don’t worry though, it is worth it as the beach is beautiful.
Residence Inn by Marriott
On our recent stay, we needed something a little more moderate so we chose to stay off the beach in the centrally located Residence Inn by Marriott. We were able to use points for a spacious two-bedroom suite and our stay included a buffet breakfast and the hotel had a decent pool for a Residence Inn.
Where to Eat in Naples
Naples is a great destination for foodies, especially sea food lovers. There are great brunch spots like The Local and Jane’s on 3rd, as well as delicious dinner options like my favorite, 7th Avenue Social. See my list of recommendations for where to eat in Naples.
Have you been to Naples? Do you have any favorite things to do? Please let your recommendations in the comments below to help other visitors.