Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades
By Rick Ferren
Orchids & Egrets, Inc.
Naturalists lead half-day and full-day trips to the Everglades, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Collier-Seminole State Park, the Ten Thousand Islands, Chokoloskee Bay, Corkscrew Swamp, and other wilderness areas. Pickups are made at all Naples area hotels, and travel is by air-conditioned van and quiet, low-impact boats. Take a camera, a zoom lens, and plenty of film. There are many opportunities to see and photograph manatees, alligators, and many species of birds. Lunch is included on full-day tours.
Naples Princess Cruises
The 90-foot Naples Princess and 90-foot Naples Royal Princess are easy, comfortable ways to learn about the nature that surrounds the city of Naples. Naturalists from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida describe mangroves, birds, fish, and other animals during two-hour cruises through Naples Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. A portion of the ticket price is donated to the conservancy.
Sightseeing boats and fishing excursions leave from the dock of this former clam shelling plant. Complete with wooden buildings and plank sidewalks, it's also an enjoyable place to browse for souvenirs in 40 shops and enjoy moderately priced seafood restaurants overlooking the waterfront.
Formerly Jungle Larry's African Safari Park, this 52-acre wildlife and nature attraction includes tram tours through botanical gardens, bird, alligator, and animal shows, a petting zoo, a playground, picnic areas, boat rides, and wildlife lectures.
A number of public and semiprivate courses in the self-proclaimed golf capitol of the world welcome visitors. Call ahead for available tee times and greens fees. Some semiprivate courses may restrict play to members and guests on weekends and other peak times.
Boyne Usa South
18100 Royal Tree Parkway. 18-hole, par 72 public course on the edge of Everglades National Park. Phone (941) 732-5108.
6680 Weston Way, Naples. Semiprivate 18 holes, par 70, designed by Mark McCumber. Phone (941) 353-3699.
Hibiscus Golf Club
175 Doral Circle. 18 hole, par 71 public course. Phone (941) 774-0088.
Ironwood Golf Club
4710 Lakewood Boulevard. 18 hole, par 54 championship par 3, designed by Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp II. Phone (941) 775-2584.
Lely Resort-flamingo Island Club
8004 Lely Resort Boulevard. 36-hole, par 72 public course. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the course's hallmarks are hourglass fairways and fingered sand bunkers. The par 3, 159-yard No. 15 is one of Naples' most challenging holes. Phone (941) 793-2223.
1450 Mainsail Drive. 18-hole, par 72, public course, designed by Bruce Devlin and Bob Von Hagge. Phone (941) 394-2581.
4450 Bay Creek Drive, Bonita Springs. 36 holes, each 18 par 72, designed by Tom Fazio. Phone (941) 947-4600.
Riviera Golf Club
48 Marseilles Drive. 18-hole par 62, public executive course designed by Estelle Gifford. Phone (941) 774-1081.
Like other Florida coastal resorts, Naples restaurants highlight fish and shellfish from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Adventurous diners can also experience Thai, Japanese, Italian, French, Mexican, Persian, and other ethnic cuisines. A number of trendy cafés, bistros, pubs, wine bars, and coffee houses are tucked among the boutiques in the Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South shopping zones, and the Tin City complex on Naples Bay. Others are on the busy Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41).
Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro
847 Vanderbilt Beach Road. The joy at discovering exotic Middle Eastern cuisine in a transient resort town is booted up to pure pleasure with the dining experience. Iranian native Michael Mir's small shopping center restaurant near Vanderbilt Beach and the Ritz-Carlton Naples Hotel is adventure from appetizers to dessert. Beef, lamb, chicken, duck, quail, pheasant, and seafood go Persian with orange saffron sauce, orange zest, almonds, pomegranate and walnut sauces, basmati rice, feta cheese, mango chutney, sesame, chick peas, yogurt, and saffron. The Sunday brunch buffet is an excellent opportunity to explore the full range of this fascinating cuisine. Casual. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily. Reservations for large groups. Moderate. Phone (941) 5557.
Registry Resort. 475 Seagate Drive. If all you've ever asked of a rack of lamb is a dollop of mint jelly on the side, and for dessert, a traditional dish of strawberries with whipped cream on top and a slab of shortcake underneath, German-born Chef Wilhelm Gahabka has some imaginative new ideas for your old favorites. At Lafite, a lovely, formal European dining room off the lobby of the Registry Resort, Chef Gahabka's roasted Colorado rack of lamb has a caramelized onion garlic herb crust, spiked with apple mint chutney and Merlot lamb jus. Old faithful strawberries are sweet-and-soured with balsamic vinegar, black peppercorns, and Muscat wine.
Other surprises in his "aggressive American cuisine with continental touches" repertoire include Florida Gulf shrimp in crisp pappadam and arugula red onion slaw; pompano in roasted sesame ginger macadamia crust; and seared filet mignon with porcini pesto sauce. A harpist plays, service is impeccable, the wine list is impressive. It all adds up to a memorable special-occasion dining experience. Very dressy. Reservations are suggested. Very expensive. Phone (941) 597-3232.
McCabe's Irish Pub
The Inn On Fifth, 699 Fifth Avenue South, downtown Naples. While you quaff your Harp and Guinness you can admire the old Irish pub ambience and listen to pipers and singers from Ulster and the Irish Republic playing rollicking traditional tunes. Dig into Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, potato-leek soup, and nontraditional fusions like Brie dipped in Guinness, fried golden brown and topped with raspberry sauce. Dinner daily. Inexpensive. Phone (941) 403-7170.
5200 Tamiami Trail North. Savannah, the restaurant, was inspired by a 1994 visit to Savannah, the city, by Margaret and Alexander Neumann. They were so impressed by the hospitality they enjoyed in the Georgia port city, they decided to open a restaurant where they could share Georgia and South Carolina Low Country cooking with tourists who had never experienced it. They re-created the languid Old South ambience with ceiling fans, polished hardwood floors, Oriental carpets, interior windows and shutters, and lithographs and pastel watercolors of early nineteenth century Savannah scenes, and plants and flowers native to the Georgia and Carolina coasts. The extensive menu includes Midnight summer salad (a bow to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt's best-selling tell-all book about a scandalous 1980s Savannah murder), blue cornmeal-fried oysters, Savannah shrimp and crawfish cakes, oyster stew with tasso ham and grits, southern fried chicken, meatloaf, bread pudding, and Jack Daniels chocolate ice cream. Lunch, dinner daily. Dressy. Reservations suggested. Expensive. Phone (941) 261-2555.
8920 North Tamiami Trail (US 41). Truffles is a tried-and-true Naples old-timer. The informal eatery has been on the scene since 1978. Truffles continues to attract its regulars with a combination of deli sandwiches and soups, meal-size salads, and pastas, steak, chicken, pork, seafood, and other hearty entrees, and diet-busting desserts. Casual. Lunch and dinner daily. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (941) 597-8119.
Vesta's Restaurant And Bakery
424 New Market Road, Immokalee. Surrounded by the Immokalee produce fields, this bustling dining room practices southern-style homecooking like you would find in a small town in Alabama or Georgia. Lunchtime plates are filled with meatloaf, fried chicken, hickory-smoked ribs, and barbecued pork with sides of mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, turnip greens, tomatoes, and other freshly picked vegetables. Farm workers and other locals stoke up for the day with biscuits and sausage gravy, country fried steak, grits, eggs, and Mexican-style omelets with fiery jalapenos and onions. Breakfast and lunch weekdays year-round, dinner in winter. Inexpensive. Phone (941) 657-3311.
Cove Inn On Naples Bay
900 Broad Avenue South. Includes 102 efficiencies with refrigerators and microwaves, plus a heated pool. Close to public beach, Naples Bay, downtown shopping and restaurants. Moderate. Phone (941) 262-7161. Fax (941) 261-6905.
The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
851 Gulf Shore Boulevard North. In a city as young as Naples, the Naples Beach Hotel is as old as the Pyramids. The forerunner of today's hotel went up in the early 1900s. Its new life began in 1946 when Henry Broadwell Watkins Sr. retired from his Ohio cap gun business, immigrated to Naples, and bought the original Naples Hotel. The original hotel was closed when the new facility was opened at its present location. More than half a century later, Watkins's grandson, Michael Watkins, presides over a family enterprise that enjoys a unique niche in Naples history.
The 315 guest rooms in several low and mid-rise buildings facing the Gulf are cheerfully decorated in bright tropical colors. Guests play tennis and golf on an 18-hole course, enjoy sailing and windsurfing, swim in the Gulf and the freshwater pool. They dine inside or poolside and watch the sun go down at the Sunset Beach Bar. A thoroughly relaxed, unpretentious vacation destination. Very expensive. Phone (941) 261-2222.
Olde Naples Inn & Suites
801 Third Street South. Features 60 efficiency suites, with refrigerators, near downtown and public pier and beach. Amenities include heated pool, bikes, laundry, concierge services. Moderate. Phone (941) 262-5194.
475 Seagate Drive. A cushy place to come home to after a long, hot day in the Everglades, the 475-room high-rise, has 50 furnished villas. Facilities include three heated outdoor pools, seven restaurants, shops, an 18-hole golf course, lighted tennis courts, health club, sailing and other watersports. The hotel is not directly on the beach. However, a three-quarter mile boardwalk and a free tram that operates continuously during the day take guests to Clam Pass Beach County Park. Very expensive. Phone (941) 597-3147, toll free (800) 247-9810.
280 Vanderbilt Road. Opened in 1985, the Ritz-Carlton Naples has been at or near the top of every national and international "best hotels" list ever since, and collected bushels of Mobile five-star and AAA five-diamond awards. This is definitely not a place to walk through the lobby in your bikini and flip-flops. The imposing Spanish-Mediterranean hotel, with 463 ultradeluxe guest rooms and suites, faces 3 miles of secluded Gulf beaches. Guests have golf privileges at several nearby courses. They can lounge around a freshwater pool designed like a small lagoon, play tennis, go sailing and windsurfing, park the youngsters in kids programs, get a massage and beauty treatments and sit down to the ultimate in gourmet dining and sophisticated entertainment. Like other Ritz-Carltons, the Naples hotel displays a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century English paintings and porcelains that would be prized by any major museum. Very expensive. Phone (941) 598-3300. Fax (941) 598-6690.
The Inn On Fifth
689 Fifth Avenue South. Opened in 1998 in a restored Spanish-Mediterranean building at the epicenter of the Fifth Avenue shopping and dining zone, the inn's 87 guest rooms and six suites have private balconies and many deluxe features. Amenities include a heated pool, fitness center, full-service spa, valet parking, concierge services and a business center. Guests have golf privileges at several nearby courses. McCabe's Irish Pub, adjacent to the inn and part of the same business, was built in Ireland, disassembled, and shipped lock, stock, and Guinness from the Old Country. Expensive to very expensive. Phone (941) 403-8777. Fax (941) 403-8778.
Sea Shell Motel
82 Ninth Street South. This 30 room motel has efficiencies with refrigerators, microwaves, and cable TV. It has a heated pool, tennis court, coin laundry. Inexpensive. Phone (941)262-5129. Fax (941) 263-0182.
955 Seventh Avenue South. The first of what is projected to be a chain of small, residential-style hotels opened in downtown Naples in 1998. The owners hope to make their niche in the highly competitive resort hotel industry by emphasizing high-quality, and personalized, superior service. The Naples flagship has 58 large, attractively furnished guest rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, a boardroom-style meeting room, 24-hour security, and free parking.
Rates include complimentary continental breakfast. Afternoon wine and snacks are available. The hotel is a short walk from the Fifth Avenue and Third Street shopping areas, the Tin City waterfront dining and entertainment area, and the Municipal Pier and beach. Expensive. Phone (941) 435-9600 and toll-free (800) 859-3939.
Vanderbilt Beach Resort
9225 Gulf Shore Drive North. Renovated in fall 1998, the friendly, kicked-back motel has 65 guest rooms and two-bedroom apartments on popular Vanderbilt Beach. About half the units have kitchens. Guests' amenities include a heated pool, boat ramp, tennis court, and coin laundry. Moderate to expensive. Phone (941) 597-3144, toll-free (800) 243-9076.
Vanderbilt Inn On The Gulf
11000 North Gulfshore Drive North. This inn contains nearly 150 beachfront rooms, including 16 efficiency apartments with kitchens. Amenities include a heated pool, wading pool, rental boats, dining room, and lounge with live entertainment. Adjacent to Delnor-Wiggins State Recreation Area. Moderate to expensive. Phone (941) 597-3151, toll-free (800) 643-8654. Fax (941) 597-3099.
Bluebill Vacation Properties, 26201 Hickory Boulevard, Bonita Springs, FL 34134. Phone (800) 237-2010. Fax (941) 992-9552.
Century 21 Olde Naples Realty, 2204 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL 34103. Phone (941) 261-2121, toll-free (800) 421-3112. Fax (941) 262-3439.
Florida Choice Vacation Home Rentals, 865 Fourth Avenue South, Naples, FL 34102. Phone (941) 434-8887, toll-free (800) 511-8362. Fax (941) 434-8978.
Naples Area Vacation Rentals, 3761 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL 34103. Phone (941) 261-7548, toll-free (800) 736-8579. Fax (941) 262-2357.
Crystal Lake Rv Subdivision Resort
160 County Road 951, Naples, FL 34119. Includes 489 full-service sites on a lake. Has a heated pool, whirlpool, laundry, game room, clubhouse, shuffleboard. Pets are permitted. Inexpensive. Phone (941) 353-4212.
Endless Summer Rv Park
2 Tina Lane, Naples, FL 34104. Features 120 full-service sites with heated pool, laundry, picnic area, shuffleboard. Pets are permitted. Inexpensive. Phone (941) 643-1511.
Lake Trafford Marina
6001 Lake Trafford Road, Immokalee, FL 34142. Includes 64, full-service hookups on 1,500-acre recreational lake. Boat ramp, marina, fishing boats, air boat tours. Pets are permitted. (See Lake Trafford, page 280). Inexpensive. Phone (941) 657-2401.
Naples Rv Resort
3180 County Road 84, Naples. More than 300 full-service sites. Clubhouse, cable TV, heated pool, playground, picnic area. Pets are permitted. Inexpensive. Phone (941) 352-2101. Fax (941) 455-7271.