What’s Waiting For You in Paradise Coast
For the traveler who can’t quite make up their mind, Paradise Coast offers an experience that can be upscale, untamed and unbelievable.
It’s hard to imagine a place equal parts glamour and grit, with a landscape as rugged as an alligator’s back, a history as deep as the Gulf of Mexico and a city as polished as a diamond. But on the lower half of Florida’s Gulf Coast lies a slice of Sunshine State life at its most authentic, and for those who know, it’s pure paradise.
Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, affectionately known as Paradise Coast, are home to some of the state’s most diverse travel experiences from 30 miles of white-sand beach to an untamed wilderness teeming with wildlife and ecotourism adventures to world-class shopping, dining and resorts all set to a glittering backdrop steeped in Old Florida charm.
Perhaps the most iconic habitat in Paradise Coast is Everglades National Park. The River of Grass, as it was named by environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, is a Florida pilgrimage of sorts. Wildlife enthusiasts of all ages visit to hike through cypress swamps and enjoy air boat rides along the wide sawgrass-lined waterways in the hopes of catching a glimpse of alligators rolling or roseate spoonbills coming in for a landing.
Don’t forget to look up when visiting Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge, as shell hunters may spend hours strolling the shoreline to collect treasures like Atlantic calico scallops or Florida fighting conchs washed up by Gulf Coast storms. Aside from shelling, the area’s mangrove-filled preserves, estuaries and beaches offer some of the state’s best fishing and wildlife watching with snook and tarpon dancing in the waters and herons and sea turtles nesting on land.
On Marco Island’s Tigertail Beach, sunset chasers post up along the boomerang-shaped slice of shore until the moon slowly emerges. Further north, Clam Pass is one of Naples’ most beautiful beaches with a thicket of red, white and black saltwater mangroves surrounding the park.
Maybe Paradise Coast remains so special because the area’s past is as intertwined with its present as the patterns on a scotch bonnet shell. Right now, history and art buffs alike will appreciate an exhibition at the Marco Island Historical Museum featuring the ancient Key Marco Cat, considered one of the best examples of Pre-Columbian Native American art ever unearthed in North America. Calusa Indians carved the 6-inch-tall feline statue from hardwood some 1,000 years ago, and anthropologists found it perfectly preserved more than a century ago in an airtight layer of mud.
Just down the road, Everglades City is home to a different kind of icon. The Old Florida enclave is known as the stone crab capital of the world with its classic waterfront seafood houses, where the state’s signature claws are pulled up from the surrounding waters. Dig into more of the town’s history at the Museum of the Everglades, a funky pink structure showcasing millionaire entrepreneur Barron Collier’s vision for turning the remote outpost into a sportsman’s paradise.
For another storied outing, stroll Naples Pier, constructed from Brazilian ipe wood, which keeps it cool in summer months. The rustic seawalk stands in its original location and has become a favorite gathering spot for fishermen hoping to score grouper and visitors just enjoying the Gulf views.
After a day spent wandering the city or the Everglades, retreat to the area’s signature luxury resorts. At the J.W. Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, curl up with a book under one of their thatched beach huts or indulge at the gastro-pub and gaming emporium. The nearby Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa doesn’t disappoint when it comes to luxe treatments, creative cocktails and pleasant places to park yourself for a day of relaxation.
Naples is the only city in the world with two Ritz Carlton resorts, one set among rolling fairways and the other overlooking a pristine shoreline. On Naples’ Fifth Avenue find a corridor of independent boutiques, high-end retailers, international art galleries and local artisans. A bevy of acclaimed restaurants compete for diners’ palates with standouts like Bar Tulia with modern Italian fare and HobNob Kitchen and Bar serving a classic American menu. For an unforgettable sundowner, head to the beach and grab a black cherry paloma at the Turtle Club at the Vanderbilt Resort as the sky fades to pink.
Whether it’s the finer things, the wilder things, the historical things (or all the things) that move you, a trip to Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades is something you’ll never forget.
To learn more visit paradisecoast.com.