I think we might actually have arrived in paradise! No matter what your idea of paradise might be I reckon you would find it here. Naples is a pretty upmarket place, and I wasn’t sure we would entirely fit in, but I needn’t have worried. There is something for everyone here and everyone is so friendly. This is not the busy season as the weather is somewhat unfavourable but for us it is perfect. On the subject of the weather, if you haven’t been to Florida in August before then don’t expect the wall-to-wall sunshine we are led to believe is the norm here in the sunshine state! It’s hot…super hot, usually about 32-35 degrees all day long and it’s humid and muggy. You’ll easily get a sweat on just walking to the car! The rain is a daily occurance and some days is worse than others but usually you can expect some spectacular thunder storms and torrential rain from about 3pm until about 5pm. As long as you know what to expect then you can plan your days around the weather and if you’re caught out in the rain, you dry off pretty quick in this heat!
I made an itinerary for our trip, there are places we wanted to go and things we really wanted to do and also a few work related items that have had to take place too. I always think it’s good to plan what you are going to do and when, that way you know you will get to the end of the trip and everything is covered! I’m not a fan of winging it and also with 5 of us, if we need to be up and out early then it’s good to know in advance. So what have we enjoyed so far…?
American breakfast – We have actually made several trips to Publix and stocked up on plenty of food for breakfast but you have to enjoy a good old American breakfast at least once on a trip here. Trip Advisor has been our friend on this holiday and we are yet to experience a bad restaurant. I read about EJ’s Bayfront Cafe and their award winning breakfasts so it was a must do on our first morning here and it didn’t disappoint. If you ever get to go, try their Banana Stuffed French Toast Platter – it is a party on your plate and a breakfast you wont forget in a hurry!
Naples Beach and Pier – The pier is quiet by UK standards…no amusements or rides, no sticks of rock or kiss me quick hats! There is lots of fishing going on and a quiet serenity that is blissful. Pelicans bob about in the water and the sea quietly laps below you as you whimsically stare out to sea! The huge $multimillion mansions look out onto the white sandy 10 mile stretch of beach and you can’t help but imagine what it might be like to live inside. There are protected turtle nests on the beach and lots of unusual shells for the children to collect. I’m painting a pretty dreamy picture here but I have never been anywhere quite so idyllic! Catch the sunset at the pier one night and it gets even better.
Lowdermilk Beach – This beach is slightly further into Naples Town and has a few more amenities, a small cafe and a couple of playgrounds. Car parking throughout Naples is quite pricey at $2.50 per hour but most hotels run a shuttle for free which is handy. One of our most amazing moments on this trip happened as we walked onto Lowdermilk beach on Monday morning. There we were dragging our deck chairs, parasol and picnic up the beach when Archie shouted ‘Dolphins!!!’ There in front of us was a small family of dolphins, just a few metres out from the shore diving through the water. To be honest I couldn’t quite believe what I had seen and I had to go home after that I would still have been happy!
Trip to the Everglades – Andrew and I visited the Everglades on our trip back in 2002 and we knew we wanted to bring the kids along to experience the thrill of the airboat ride! Archie is an anxious boy and I had to sit with him before we went to explain what we would do and how safe it was. We watched a video and he reluctantly agreed to have a go. We went to Wooten’s where we could do an Airboat ride, a Swamp Buggy ride and visit the Animal Sanctuary and Alligator show. It’s only about 40 minutes drive from Naples and well worth the trip. The Airboat ride was thrilling and Archie said it was the best thing he had ever done (high praise indeed!). We saw some alligators out in the mangroves and the swamp buggy ride was both entertaining and educational. The animal sanctuary is small but the alligator show was pretty scary – edge of the seat stuff! We all got to hold a baby alligator too. Check out the Wooten’s website as you can get some money off your entrance on there.
Naples Zoo – This place comes pretty high on the top 10 things to do in Naples so we knew we had to make a visit. Being out of season meant we could wander round the park at our leisure see all the animals really close up with no queuing or craning our necks to catch a glimpse of something that may or may not be a lion! I had two favourite parts of our trip to the zoo – the boat trip round the lake to see the primates – the monkeys and apes were fab! Secondly the children all got to feed the giraffes. For just $5 all three were able to feed them some lettuce and it was a brilliant experience. The staff at the zoo were amazing and I don’t think I have ever been able to get so close to animals and see them so chilled out and happy. If you get to go to Naples zoo then you can get coupons for money off your entry ticket in many of the ‘what’s on’ magazines that are free to pick up around the town.
I think that’s enough for now – the storm has just about passed and we’ve got some more adventures to go on!
You can read about the final part of our trip here