Naples visitors see how the other half lives
“Rich men come to Naples to see how poor they are,” joked Capt. Doug of Island Sailing, which took my family on a sunset cruise during our five-day excursion to the Sunshine State earlier in March.
As we cruised down an inner canal before sailing the Gulf of Mexico, we passed by sprawling McMansions with meticulously manicured landscape and stark-white yachts docked alongside jet skis. These beautiful, waterfront homes sit on lots worth millions of dollars and attract some of the world’s wealthiest to call Naples home (or likely one of their several homes).
At 8.9 percent, Naples, Fla., had the third-highest concentration of millionaires-per-capita in the United States in 2013, according to business and finance publisher Kiplinger. And, that became abundantly clear when driving along Gulf Shore Boulevard. All the homes within walking distance of the beach are expansive and gorgeous.
The Southwest Florida city’s wealth is apparent in the real estate, but visitors will also notice designer garments at high-end boutiques, a number of art galleries and haute couture fashions at the city’s open-air Waterside Shops and in Old Naples’ Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South retail and dining districts.
Prices at restaurants pointed to a wealthy patronage, too. At Sea Salt, a seafood restaurant with al fresco dining on Third Street South, our fish entrees ranged between $36 and $38. Across the street at open-air Italian restaurant Campiello, our pasta dishes cost $30 for a light and delicious linguini with Alaskan King Crab, tomatoes and basil in a white wine sauce and $45 for melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with Maine lobster and spinach in a truffle butter sauce.
Waterfront living, luxury retail, more than 80 golf courses and first-class fine dining may appeal to some millionaires who have made Naples home, but the area’s eco-tourism is also an attraction for residents and visitors alike.
Naples is located near Everglades National Park, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Reserve, Picayune Strand State Forest and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where a two-and-a-half mile boardwalk winds through the swamp for visitors to see animals including alligators, white tail deer and owls up close.
From Naples, visitors can take guided tours to the Everglades that include a 45-minute drive into the Everglades and an hour airboat ride. Some full-day tours include a cruise to see manatees and lunch — alligator is on some menus!
Cruises to see mangrove trees, manatees and dolphins are also available, but do your research — we learned from our sailing captain that the 74-degree water was too chilly for the manatees. The Florida sea cows must prefer warmer water and have mostly stayed in the Florida Keys this winter.
If there isn’t enough time to explore the Everglades, Naples also has a botanical garden, zoo and a bird garden with more than 200 exotic birds. The Naples Botanical Garden consists of Asian, Floridian, Caribbean and Brazilian gardens, a children’s garden with a fountain kids can run through, and a butterfly house. Through May 11, the garden has an impressive LEGO exhibit that includes a rose made of more than 41,000 LEGO pieces.
Whether you are a millionaire or pauper, sunsets are free, and one of the best places to end a beautiful day in Naples is at the pier on 12th Avenue South and the nearby beach.
Wish you were here,