Located at the southern end of Florida’s Gulf Coast, just before it shatters into the Everglades and 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Preserve, Naples brings together the best of Florida in one glittering, sunswept package. Start with the beaches: 17 miles of soft white sand and emerald Gulf water lined with laid-back resorts and golf courses. Old Naples is a picture-postcard town of pastel stucco buildings set with fountained courtyards, outdoor cafes, and boutiques. Though best known for its upscale shopping, the real news in Naples is food: dozens of small, chef-driven restaurants have opened in the past year, transforming the scene from staid to spirited.
Where to Stay
Located in the heart of Naples, the 119-rooms Inn on Fifth impresses with big-resort amenities like spacious bathrooms, a pool with food and cocktail service, complimentary beach shuttle (complete with chairs and coolers), and a full-service spa. Book a Club Level suite and you’ll have access to a lounge where breakfast is served late and Champagne flows freely. Summer rates start at about $200 and more than double during high season; Club Level rates are exactly twice the regular rate.
It’s the details that set 474-room Naples Grande apart from other large-scale resorts, like the giant waterslide that rocks the kid’s pool, the spa’s zen-inducing outdoor sanctuary, the boardwalk that weaves through a mangrove forest to the beach, and an outdoor restaurant perched right on the sand. There’s even a golf course. Special deals abound on the website and include winter rates that start around $300 and a summer stay for $159 per night.
Where to Eat and Drink
This buzzy Fifth Avenue restaurant is also one of the city’s most stunning, with a curving marble bar, handcrafted mosaics on the floor, and tufted leather banquets. The food is equally curated, with fish flown in each day from Europe and beef—Wagyu—weekly from Australia. Don’t let anyone talk you out of ordering a soufflé for dessert. Expect to pay between $11 and $38 for starters, mains are $36-$59 and worth the splurge.
Set with twinkling lights and shady trees, the outdoor garden at this Paris-inspired brasserie will have romantic types swooning. Inside, the vibe is lively and welcoming. Classic bistro fare—steak frites, cassoulet, garlicky steamed mussels, and trout amandine—are well prepared and generously portioned. Starters are all under $20; mains run the gamut from $22 to $45.
Trulucks serves big steaks and some of the freshest stone crabs around--and locals know it’s also the place to come for indulgent old-school desserts like Baked Alaska, multi-layer carrot cake, and Key Lime pie. Expect creative after-dinner drinks like the raspberry-hued Voila, which arrives in a cloud of dry-ice smoke, and the black walnut-infused Upper Manhattan. Just as nice is the nightly live music.
Ladies who lunch flock to Sea Salt to nibble gorgeous fresh salads studded with pristine tuna, pink shrimp, and oysters; those with bigger appetites can dig into updated classics like a lobster Reuben. The fries and freshly baked bread are also fabulous. (Mains $17-$24.)
What to See and Do
Beaches in Naples are some of the prettiest on the Gulf; some have services, others are wonderfully undeveloped. Just a few blocks west of downtown, Naples Beach fronts calm water. You'll want to bring your own drinks, food, and chairs: no vendors are allowed on this sea grape-lined expanse of coastline except on the pier. When they’re tired of swimming and building sandcastles, kids can play in one of two playgrounds at Lowdermilk Park, where you'll find bathrooms, showers, and a snack bar.
Hundreds of dolphin live in the calm bays that dip in and out of the coastline. Guests aboard The Dolphin Explorer, which is crewed by a team of marine biologists, get to spend three hours learning all about these friendly mammals that gleefully surf the boat’s wake as it zips through the water. It pays to keep your eyes peeled: the first passenger (or the youngest child on board) who spots a yet-unnamed member of the pod (or newborn calf) gets naming rights. (Tickets from $45.)
The 2.5-mile long boardwalk set atop the boggy landscape within Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary offers views of alligators, an ancient bald cypress forest, thousands of species of birds, and, if you’re lucky, a glimpse of the rare Florida panthers that live within the park and have been known to startle early morning visitors. Kids programs (think live snakes and other reptiles) and ranger-led tours are free with park admission. ($14 for adults; $4 for kids.)
Shoppers will find both national brands and local boutiques scattered throughout Naples. Tony Third Street South is home to a collection of one-of-a-kind shops like Gattle’s, where you can find fancy gifts, French tea towels, and La Perla nightgowns; Marissa Collection carries designer fashions from Armani to Oscar de la Renta. On Fifth Street South, you’ll find beachy gifts at Blue Mussel, preppy duds (including Nantucket Reds) at Castaway Clothing, and a wide selection of colorful scarves at Marilyn’s. Set with stunning fountains, the Waterside Shops impress with luxe brands like Lululemon, Tiffany & Co., Nordstrom, and Louis Vuitton. Bargain shoppers will dig Saks Off 5th, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Kate Spade, and the other shops within Miromar Outlets.