There are only two cities in Florida that I know of that are named after cities in Italy; Naples and Venice. This post will be about the former.
Going south on the west coast, Naples is the last large city you’ll encounter. It’s the county seat of Collier County, having supplanted Everglades City decades ago. That happens more often than you’d think, that changing county seats thing.
I’d heard that Naples has lots of golf courses, and according to Discover Naples, it has more per capita than anywhere else. Which also means that Naples has a ritzier population than most cities in the state. It’s one of the best maintained cities I’ve seen in Florida.
I’ll wager another of the attractions is that there are several pockets of nature nearby. Like Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Picayune Strand State Forest. It also has one of the top ten busiest parks in the state, Delnor-Wiggins Pass. I was there on a Monday around noon, and it took half an hour to get in. I’ll bet on weekends it fills up right after it opens.
Plenty of culture, too, with museums and art galleries scattered hither and thither. (see Google map)
- Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (375 Sanctuary Road West)
- Saint Agnes Catholic Church (7775 Vanderbilt Beach Road) (FL 100)
- Children’s Museum of Naples (15000 Livingston Road)
- Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (11135 Gulf Shore Drive)
- Naples Museum of Art (5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard)
- Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida (4760 Tamiami Trail N # 7)
- Picayune Strand State Forest
But I’m all about the historical, and Naples has that too. I don’t know how much has been lost over the years, but there does seem to be a significant amount of historic structures in the area. The one historic district covers both commercial and residential buildings. Make sure to talk a walk to the end of the 1,000 foot long pier, ’cause you’ll get an amazing view of the Gulf and Naples when you get there. (see Google map)
- Naples Historic District (Roughly bounded by Ninth Avenue S, Third Street, Thirteenth Avenue S, and Gulf of Mexico) (NRHP)
- Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Depot (1051 5th Avenue, South) (NRHP)
- Von Liebig Art Center (585 Park Street)
- Naples Mercantile Building (1177 3rd Street South) (AGFHA)
- Palm Cottage (137 12th Avenue, South) (NRHP)
- Neugebauer House (3930 Fort Charles Drive) (FL 100)
- Collier County Museum (3301 Tamiami Trail East)
There are a couple of NRHPs on the outskirts which you may be able to get to, if you have the means. The ruins of the Horr House looks to be in a gated subdivision. Key Marco Estates, I believe. So unless you know someone living there, you’re unlikely to be able to get in. But I think it might be accessible by bicycle. I’d check first, since even with a bicycle, the house is some ways from the entrance. The other site is the remains of the Keewaydin Club. No roads to it; your only option is a boat. I don’t even know if you can land on the island it’s on. You might only be able to see it from offshore. I think there are tour bouts that go there, if this is any indication. Should anyone actually makes it there, tell me how it goes, will you? (see Google map) (see Google map)
- Corban House / The Haldeman Creek House (FL 100)
- Rookery Bay – Environmental Learning Center (300 Tower Road)
- Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (300 Tower Road)
- Capt. John Foley Horr House (North side of Whiskey Creek Drive) (NRHP)
- Keewaydin Club (North end of Key Island) (NRHP)
Head southeast out of town on US 41, ’cause we’re going into the Everglades. There’s a bit of driving before you get there, though. In the meantime, you’ll be passing through a region I’ve covered previously. That is, the whole Everglades City area. I’m including the sights below, in case this is your first time through, or you want to revisit some of them. There’s also Monroe Station, which I need to get to one of these days. (see Google map)
- Collier-Seminole State Park (20200 Tamiami Trail East)
- Big Cypress Bend
- Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (Janes Scenic Drive)
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Monroe Station (Tamiami Trail and Loop Road) (NRHP)
- Everglades National Park
If you decide to travel the length of the Tamiami Trail to Miami, your last gas stop is at the SR 29 intersection. Make sure you top off your tank, get munchies and avail yourself of the facilities before you get past. It’s about 60 miles of wilderness before you’ll see signs of civilization again.
This is the only large section of the state I’ve not visited. There’s not been enough on the way to entice me. It’s just one very long drive to Miami. I know I’ve said I like to just drive, but even for me, I need a bit of stuff along the way to break up the monotony. The road is kind of historic, since it follows the original route from Miami to Naples. Another thing I’ll get around to eventually, but not high on my priority list.
Should you go this way, you’ll get to Miami in about an hour. Well, Tamiami first, where you can see the Frost Art Museum, I suppose.
- Frost Art Museum (10975 Southwest 17th Street)
So, that’s southwest Florida done. I’ll be getting to the less south part (Sarasota and such) in a while, never fear. Until then, see you on the road!
Route length: 100 miles