Toast the sunset in pretty Naples
People often ask me about getaway destinations that don’t involve a drive of more than 200 miles from West Palm Beach. There are, fortunately, several options — Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Vero Beach come to mind. But one of my favorites is Naples, about 150 miles via I-95 and Alligator Alley. The drive is less than 2½ hours.
The city, with a population of 22,000, is comfortably wedged between the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades.
With its perfectly manicured golf communities, neo-Mediterranean mansions, luxury hotels (including two Ritz-Carltons) and downtown streets lined with boutiques, galleries and restaurants, the city has all the finery of wealth. But Naples has family appeal, too, with its sandy beaches, water park (www.napleswaterpark.com) and Golisano Children’s Museum (www.cmon.org), where kids can learn through play about the swamps of the Everglades, banyan trees and the effects of water and the colors of the rainbow.
Naples boasts an especially lovely historic fishing pier at the west end of 12th Avenue South. You don’t need a license to fish off the pier, parking is ample and it is a perfect perch to watch dolphins.
Shell collectors comb the shoreline — which is also a wonderful spot for a game of volleyball, have picnic, or to watch the sunset.
Unlike Key West, where the sunset celebration takes on a circus-like vibe on Mallory Square, the Naples celebration is more refined. As the sun sinks toward the horizon, residents and tourists make their way to the shoreline, often with beach chairs in hand, to catch the show.
Some tote a bottle of wine and stemware to toast the day’s end.
The city’s sunset played a prominent role in its naming. Naples was developed in the late 19th century when Walter N. Haldeman, owner, publisher of the Louisville Courier- Journal, and General John S. Williams, a prominent Kentucky politician, sailed into Naples Bay. They chose the name for the city because the sunset reminded them of those they had seen in Naples, Italy.
History lovers will want to check out the antiques-filled Palm Cottage, 137 12th Ave., (www.napleshistoricalsociety.org), Naples’ oldest house was built in 1895 and was once Walter Haldeman’s summer cottage.
A good place to stay downtown, in the heart of the Old Naples shopping area, is the Inn on Fifth (innonfifth.com), which has 119 guest rooms and suites, including 32 luxurious Club Level Suites in a separate private building. Guests can walk everywhere —restaurants, shops, galleries, the theater and even the beach.
Another prime downtown location, one of my favorites, is Bellasera (www.sunstream.com). Inspired by a Tuscan village, Bellasera has 100 guest rooms with kitchens and screened lanais.
Both the Inn on Fifth and Bellasera have restaurants and spas.
If staying in a hotel on the beach is what you prefer, there are many good options, including the Ritz-Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com), Edgewater Beach Hotel (www.edgewaternaples.com), LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort (www.laplayaresort.com), the Naples Grande Beach Resort (www.naplesgrande.com) and the Vanderbilt Beach Resort (www.vanderbiltbeachresort.com). All have good restaurants and lounges and most have spas, as well.
The Spa at the Naples Grande Beach Resort (www.naplesgrande.com/spa), for example, offers customizable treatment packages for special events, including Mother’s Day, which comes up soon. A complimentary glass of champagne comes with Mom’s treatment.