Fact Sheet: Florida’s Paradise Coast
- Overview & City Areas
- Social Media & Consumer Contact Information
- Annual Festivals
- Arts & Culture
- Family Fun
- Sports Activities
- Getting Here
OVERVIEW & CITY AREAS: Florida’s Paradise Coast – Naples, Marco Island, Everglades City and the Gulf Coast portion of the Everglades – provides travelers an array of vacation and business travel options year-round. Learn a little about each city area here.
Naples is a charming resort city on the coast, offering the ultimate in luxury, fresh local cuisine, great shopping, a thriving arts and culture scene, and much more. Naples was named the #1 Best Destination for Luxury Travelers by editors and readers at USA TODAY’s 10Best travel section and has been named the #1 Small Art Town in the country (John Villani, The 100 Best Art Towns in America,2005), and America’s Best All-Around Beach (Travel Channel 2005), and #2 on Trivago.com’s list of Top 10 U.S. Cities for Quality Accommodations. Naples has been listed in the Top American Cities for Food by readers of Conde Nast Traveler. Naples is also on the 2016 Conde Nast Traveler readers’ choice list at #8 on the list of Best Big Cities in the U.S. The magazine included the population of the entire Paradise Coast/Collier County region to bump Naples into the Big City category.
Slightly more relaxed than Naples, Marco Island is the largest of the area’s “Ten Thousand Islands,” and is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico on one side and pristine mangrove estuaries on the other. Visitors to Marco Island can enjoy beautiful, white-sand beaches, fresh seafood and a variety of water activities including backcountry and offshore fishing, boating and paddling. Marco Island was named the #1 Island in the U.S. and the #4 Island in the World in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Islands awards. Marco Island is home to the luxurious JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort along with a wide range of lodging choices.
Located southeast of Naples and Marco Island, Everglades National Park is the only subtropical preserve in North America, is part of the largest wetlands ecosystem in the United States and it is one of 21 World Heritage Sites in the USA. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center, one of three main entrances to the park, is located in Everglades City, a quaint Old Florida style small town on the edge of the wilderness. It provides access to the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands and Wilderness Waterway sections of the park, where visitors can access this saltwater wonderland area by boat tours, fishing charters and guided paddling adventures. Alligators and crocodiles aren’t the only wildlife you might spot. Bottlenose dolphins, manatees and sea turtles along with a large variety of birds of prey and wading birds are on display in the Gulf Coast Everglades. Just outside Everglades City is the expansive Big Cypress National Preserve, which provides even more and varied outdoor recreational opportunities than Everglades National Park, including hunting, off-road vehicle access, hiking, paddling, biking and several long wilderness drive areas. Big Cypress was the first to receive the National Preserve designation in the U.S. National Park system..
More than 80 percent of Florida’s Paradise Coast, within Collier County, Fla., is dedicated to parks and nature preserves, with much of this area covered by the Everglades ecosystem and its many inhabitants, including hundreds of species of colorful birds, fresh and saltwater fish, alligators, bobcats, Florida black bear and the endangered Florida panther.
WEB SITE, TOLL FREE NUMBER, SOCIAL MEDIA: www.paradisecoast.com, 800-688-3600. Call 239-225-1013 from outside the USA. www.Facebook.com/TheParadiseCoast; Twitter: @ParadiseCoast, Instgram @ParadiseCoast, Hashtag #ParadiseCoast. Additional destination Twitter handles: Meetings: @ParadiseMeeting, Film Production: @FilmingParadise, Sports: @AthletesInParadise
LODGING: Accommodations in Florida’s Paradise Coast range from luxurious Gulf front beach resorts to historic inns along with excellent choices for mid-range and cozy value-priced hotels, trendy boutique hotels, vacation rental homes and condos and outdoor camping sites. For the eco-minded, 19 hotels in the Paradise Coast have received the official Florida Green Lodging designation from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa – the area’s largest beachfront resort – rebranded as theJW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort on January 1, 2017, becoming the first JW Marriott Beach Resort in the continental United States.
BEACHES: With more than 30 miles of soft, white sand beaches, visitors to Florida’s Paradise Coast can enjoy the fun of a crowded shore or find that perfect secluded spot. Favorite options include Naples Beach with its iconic pier stretching 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, Barefoot Beach Preserve, ranked #2 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten USA Beaches for 2015; and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, ranked #9 on that same top ten list; as well as Tigertail Beach and South Beach parks on Marco Island, and many nearby island beaches accessible by boat including Keewaydin Island and the many deserted beach islands within the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park.
DINING: Named by Conde Nast Traveler as one of America’s Best Food Cities, foodies can take advantage of the many distinctive dining options throughout the Paradise Coast including fresh-off-the-dock seafood at waterfront cafes, sophisticated cuisine at five-star restaurants and numerous locally-owned, independent restaurants. Known as the Stone Crab Capital of the World, Everglades City provides restaurants throughout Florida with this fresh delicacy from October 15 through May 15 of each year, Florida’s official stone crab season. About forty of the area’s locally-owned restaurants belong to the Naples Originals, an organization that promotes the concept of locally owned and operated restaurants. Naples Restaurant Week has both a winter and spring edition. During the week, over 25 of the area’s top restaurants offer a specially curated three-course prix fixe menu for $35.
ANNUAL EVENTS & FESTIVALS:
Downtown Naples New Year’s Art Fair, January 7-8, 2017Southwest Florida Nature Festival – January 13-15, 2017Naples Winter Wine Festival, January 26-29, 2017Swamp Buggy Races, January 28-29, 2017Everglades Seafood Festival, February 10-12, 2017Chubb Classic PGA Champions Tour, February 14-19, 2017Naples National Art Festival, February 18-19, 2017Naples Craft Beer Festival, early March, 2017Naples St. Patrick’s Day Parade, March 11, 2017Downtown Naples Festival of the Arts, March 18-19, 2017Marco Island Seafood Festival, March 24-26, 20117Mercato Spring Fling & Food Festival, April 2, 2017U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, April 23-30, 2017StayInMay Arts Festival, April 25-May 14, 2017Summer Jazz on the Gulf Free Concerts – one each in June, July, August, Sept. 2017Naples July 4th Parade – July 4, 2017Naples July 4th Fireworks at Naples Pier – July 4, 2017BrewHaHa Craft Beer Festival at Mercato, October 2017Pro Watercross World Championship, October 27-November 25, 2017Marco Island Craft Beer Festival, November, 2017Stone Crab Festival, October 27-29, 2017Celebrate the Arts Month, November 1-30, 2017Florida Panther Festival, November 4, 2017Swamp Buggy Parade, November 4, 2017Swamp Buggy Races Fall Classic, November 4-5, 2017Naples International Film Festival, early November 2017Old Florida Festival, November 18-19, 2017Christmas on Third Street South, November 20, 2017Celebration of Lights on Third Street South, November 21-22 & 24-25, 2017Christmas Walk & Tree Lighting on Fifth Avenue South, early December, 2017Swamp Heritage Festival, December 2, 2017Naples Christmas Parade, early December, 2017Naples Christmas Boat Parade, December 9, 2017New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Naples Pier, December 31, 2017
Visit our Events page to see more festivals.
ARTS & CULTURE: Visitors can enjoy the Paradise Coast’s thriving arts scene which features exciting exhibits at institutions such as The Baker Museum at Artist-Naples, renowned Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery, the Naples Art Association Galleries and the Marco Island Center for the Arts. For live music and the performing arts, head to Artis—Naples, home of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, Broadway productions, concerts and other performances, Sugden Theatre, home of the Naples Players, or TheatreZone and Gulfshore Playhouse for musical and dramatic performances. Opera Naples performs between November and May. The rich history of the region, from the ancient Calusa civilization to turn of the century Gladesmen and pioneers is on display at the area’s many historical museums. The Naples Botanical Garden, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center are brightened by regular and traveling art displays.
Each November is designated as Celebrate the Arts Month. The growing Naples International Film Festival kicks off a month packed with arts and cultural activities and performances.
SHOPPING: From historic districts to waterfront plazas, the Paradise Coast offers visitors a variety of shopping options, including:
Trendy Third Street South has art galleries, fashion houses and boutiques, antiques, jewelry, home décor and outdoor cafes and restaurants, all within walking distance of the beach. This area includes Gallery Row, a collection of art galleries located near the intersection of Broad Street and Third Street South.
Fifth Avenue South Fifth Avenue South is a dynamic, pedestrian-friendly area featuring a variety of art galleries, as well as clothing, gift and design boutiques, restaurants and bars, the Sugden Theatre and the von Liebig Art Center. The Street was named the #2 Best Alfresco Dining Neighborhood in the U.S.A. by editors and readers at USA TODAY’s 10Best travel section.
Located on the Gordon River leading into Naples Bay,Tin City is an eclectic, tin-roofed shopping area featuring nautical and nature-themed gift shops, clothing and souvenir shops and casual seafood restaurants on the water.
Waterside Shops is a beautiful, upscale center accented by flowing water and fountains that is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. Top brands with stores at Waterside Shops include Hermes, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Cartier and many more.
Naples’ Treasure Trail along Tenth Street in the Naples Design District is a collection of consignment and resale shops often featuring top-name designers.
Other shopping options include Bayfront, Village on Venetian Bay, Mercato, Coastland Center Mall, the Naples Outlet Center, and just north of Naples and south of Southwest Florida International Airport, Miromar Outlets, Gulf Coast Town Center and Coconut Point Mall.
Locals know some of the best shopping in the area can be found at the gift shops at several area attractions and at resort hotels. Nature and animal-focused children’s games, stuffed animals and toys can be found at the gift shops for Naples Zoo, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. You can shop at all three without having to pay an entry fee. Another “insider” shopping tip: the gift shops at several resorts can be gold mines for unique gifts and clothing. Check out the shops at both Ritz-Carlton resorts in Naples; The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, featuring the colorful pottery of Jim Rice – known for his fish plates and much more; and the shops at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.
FAMILY FUN: Multi-generational families can enjoy the array of activities, attractions and events throughout the Paradise Coast, such as the Naples Pier, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Naples Botanical Garden.
One of the most interesting activities for families is a cruise on the Dolphin Explorer, which allows passengers to serve as “Citizen Scientists” assisting dolphin researchers with the ongoing 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project. This experience was recognized in the 2013 National Geographic book “100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life.”
In addition to the beautiful beaches lining the Naples and Marco Island coastlines, there are numerous boat and Waverunner tours for dolphin watching, shell collecting, sightseeing and viewing the sunsets, as well as airboat rides in the Everglades.
The Sun-n-Fun Lagoon water park at North Collier Regional Park offers water slides and a lazy river for tubing through the park. Check schedules, as the park is primarily open during local school breaks.
Author and photographer Karen T. Barlett’s “A Mostly Kids Guide to Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades,” available on Amazon.com, is filled with great recommendations for family fun.
SPORTS ACTIVITIES: Baseball lovers can take advantage of the Paradise Coast as a spring training location, as the ballparks hosting the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins are just a short distance north of Naples near Southwest Florida International Airport. The Paradise Coast is a popular destination for sports league events and tournaments for kids as well as adults, with many events hosted at North Collier Regional Park. Naples hosts The Pro Watercross World Championship in the fall featuring high-speed jet skis along with the U.S. Open Pickelball Championships in April, both highly anticipated events for sports enthusiasts to participate in or to watch as spectators.
GOLF: There are 91 18-hole golf courses in Florida’s Paradise Coast, which has placed the area as the destination with the most golf holes per capita in the U.S. Close to two-thirds of those courses are private; however, several area resorts allow their guests to play at their private courses. Golf enthusiasts can select from multiple resorts with their own courses, stay in accommodations that have affiliate relationships with private clubs or choose from the area’s excellent public golf courses. Resorts with courses include LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort, Naples Grande Beach Resort, Marco Beach Ocean Resort, The Ritz-Carlton, Naples and The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, GreenLinks Golf Villas at Lely Resort and Quality Inn & Suites Golf Resort. Top public courses include the TPC Treviso Bay, the Flamingo Island and Mustang courses at Lely Resort, Panther Run, Arrowhead, The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club’s course (newly renovated and the oldest in Naples), and more.
The International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) named Florida’s Paradise Coast the Golf Destination of the Year – North America for 2014.
Three professional tournament events are held in the area each year. Greg Norman’s PGA-sanctioned specialty team play tournament, The Franklin Templeton Shootout – also known as the Shark Shootout – is held at Tiburon at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples in December; The Chubb Classic PGA Champion’s Tour Tournament is held each February at TwinEagles in Naples; and the CME Group Tour Championship, the season ending event for the LPGA Tour, comes to Tiburon Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples in November.
NATURE: The beautiful waters of the Paradise Coast offer a variety of activities for visitors. The largest artificial reef in the hemisphere was deployed several years ago off the coasts of Naples and Marco Island. Thirty-six artificial reef modules make up six reef complexes offshore from Marco Island, Naples and northern Collier County. These structures have matured quickly, developing ecosystems filled with marine life and even more opportunities for fishing, spearfishing, and diving in the Gulf waters.
In addition to miles of Gulf front beaches, the area’s many bays and rivers provide a network of waterways for boat cruising, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, fishing or relaxing. The Paradise Coast is a paddler’s heaven, featuring a variety of easy to tough waterways for adventurers to navigate. The Wilderness Waterway is a 99-mile waterway from Everglades City to Flamingo, and takes at least one week to traverse, with no civilization to be found along the course.
From backcountry flats fishing to offshore charters into the Gulf of Mexico, fishing is an incredibly popular activity throughout the Paradise Coast. Professional fishing guides provide private or group boat charters, offering anglers a chance to catch tarpon, snook, redfish, grouper, kingfish, snapper, grouper and other popular game fish. The renowned waters of the Ten Thousand Islands are perfect for kayak fishing, with a number of multi-day fishing and camping eco-trips available in the winter season.
Marco Island's beach and the surrounding deserted barrier island beaches sand bars offer some of the best shelling in the world, with prizes such as whelks, olive, scallops, and hundreds of other varieties of shells. A number of tour operators provide short boat trips to deserted sand bars and beach islands that are covered in shells and free from crowds, providing a relaxed atmosphere to search for these treasures.
The Ten Thousand Islands stretch endlessly from Marco Island's southern edge, winding past Everglades City and Chokoloskee all the way down to Flamingo at the southern tip of Florida's mainland. A large percentage of the Ten Thousand Islands is located within the boundaries of either the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge or Everglades National Park, providing a haven for numerous rare and endangered animal and bird species. Area parks include Everglades National Park’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City and the Shark Valley entrance on the Tamiami Trail halfway to Miami; Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge; Collier-Seminole State Park; Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park; Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, with a beautiful white sand beach named as the #9 beach in the U.S. for 2015; Picayune Strand State Forest; Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary provides access to the world’s only remaining old growth bald cypress forest. For visitors looking to explore these parks and preserves, there are many ranger-led and self-guided tours, in addition to paddling, hiking and swamp buggy excursions.
Everglades National Park, with its Gulf Coast Visitor Center entrance in Everglades City, contains both temperate and tropical plant communities, including sawgrass prairies, mangrove and cypress swamps, rare orchids, pinelands and hardwood hammocks, as well as marine and estuarine environments. The park is known for its rich bird life, particularly wading birds such as the roseate spoonbill, wood stork, great blue heron and egrets, as well as birds of prey including ospreys, bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites, Everglades snail kites and more. It is also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist in the same habitat. Everglades National Park has been designated a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance.
MEETINGS: Meeting planners are increasingly sold on Florida’s Paradise Coast as a location for meetings, conferences and incentive gatherings. The beauty of the destination and its diverse range of locations, services, support and activities for attendees set the stage for picture perfect events. The Naples, Marco Island and Gulf Coast Everglades area provides the perfect backdrop for groups, conferences, association meetings, family gatherings and more. Planners are attracted to the many values available at the area’s excellent hotel and resort-based conference facilities, and the area’s small city charm is enhanced by world class amenities often found only in much larger destinations. Begin planning at www.ParadiseCoast.com/meetings.
GETTING HERE: Air: Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) provides nonstop service to 44 destinations on 14 air carriers. J.D. Power’s 2015 North American Airport Satisfaction Study shows RSW ranks as the #1 medium size airport in the country. The study, in its 10th year, measures overall traveler satisfaction in the areas of terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check and terminal shopping. RSW’s score was 792, the highest in the entire study for 2015 – the average was 752 for medium and 719 for large airports.
Direct international service is available between RSW and Dusseldorf (DUS) on Air Berlin; RSW and Toronto on Air Canada rouge and WestJet; RSW and Ottawa on WestJet; RSW and Montreal on Air Canada rouge; and to the Caribbean destinations of San Juan (SJU) on Sun Country; Nassau, Bahamas (NAS) on Silver Airways; and Cancun (CUN) on Sun Country.
Highways: Located just two hours from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, four hours from Orlando and three hours from Tampa, Florida’s Paradise Coast is easily accessible from some of the state’s largest cities via I-75, including the Alligator Alley portion between Naples and Ft. Lauderdale, and U.S. 41, the Tamiami Trail, which provides a scenic route through the Big Cypress portion of the Everglades between Naples and Miami.