Thoughts on our May 2012 Naples Vacation:
Rather than post a belated trip report regarding our May 2012 trip to Naples, I’d like to hit a few of the high points and note a few of the things that were irritating.
We stayed a week at the Falling Waters Beach Resort which is at the junction of the Tamiami Trail and Collier Bvld, which is south of Naples. It is pretty convenient to Marco Island. The condo was 1800 square feet with another 400 square feet of screened in patio. A great and sparsely-visited pool scene. A very nice place.
Many of the choices we made were based on TripAdvisor ratings.
The Fort Myers airport is a good airport. Quick and easy to get in and out of.
Beaches: The beaches all earned a grade of A+. We visited TigerTail, Clam Pass and Delnor- Wiggins Beach. We couldn’t pick out a favorite because they were all absolutely fantastic. We found a ton of live shells in the water, which we gently returned. My wife found a live 8 inch whelk, which was the only whelk we found all week. We found hundreds of live conch. The beaches were absolute fun, and a highlight of the trip.
We took a 4 hour four person charter out of Fort Myers Beach and had a great time. It was around 500 dollars, but it might have actually been worth it. We found at least 15 manatees, but they don’t photograph very well out in the bay. Mostly snouts poking above the water for a few seconds. But we were able to rustle up two or three dolphins, who were more than glad to surf in our wake for a few miles. We got a ton of pictures of them and it was nothing less than astonishing to have dolphins amusing themselves while amusing us. These boat captains really seem to know where to go to find the good stuff, I will say that. Much better than us just renting a pontoon boat and just hoping for the best.
We did an airboat tour at Wooten’s, which has airboats on the Everglades, and swamp buggys on the Cypress National Swamp, which is just across the highway. A good time had by all. Next time, I would try to find airboats that only accommodate our group of four rather than the big bus-like airboat we were on. Interestingly enough, the Everglades side had zero mosquitos, but the Cypress Swamp side had trillions of them—so many that the swamp buggy couldn’t go fast enough to save us from grief.
We took the tram tour at Shark Valley. We didn’t see the hundreds of alligators basking in the sun that others had reported just a few weeks before, but we sure did learn a lot about the Everglades from the tour operator. It was an absolutely different Everglades than we had experienced at Wooten’s. The summer rains hadn’t really started yet, so the Everglades at Shark Valley were relatively dry. The alligators we did see were pretty close and didn’t mind us taking their picture.
We got a takeout lunch at Grouper and Chips, which is a real dive restaurant. But the lunch was very good—everything they say it is.
We had lunch at Fernandez the Bull, a nondescript shopping mall Cuban restaurant, which was great. We went back a second time and really ran up a bill!
We did the stone crab at Pincher’s—the one in Tin City. The restaurant was nice and the food was good. Tin City was good—there were some different little shops in there that were worthwhile.
The roadways everywhere around Naples are wide and open, but the traffic lights are ridiculous. I believe that half my vacation was spent waiting at red lights. When lights are red for two to three minutes, all it does is make people more determined not to get caught at the light in the first place, which means they will run the red lights more frequently. I saw a lot of that. By trying to make things safer for motorists, the State of Florida has made things much worse. The traffic itself was never very bad, no matter what time of the day we were driving.
Downtown: We cruised through the streets and byways of 5th Avenue and downtown Naples. We didn’t really stop and walk around. I guess there wasn’t anything that really commanded our attention. I kept waiting for our wives to order me to park somewhere, but they never did. That probably saved me hundreds of dollars right there. Honestly, good restaurants and a walkable downtown are available to us at home, so the Naples downtown scene wasn’t as enticing as I thought it would be.
We also did a side trip to Key West. We left at 0400 hours and arrived just after 9:00 a.m. We stayed in a bed and breakfast and were able to do all the non-snorkeling activities associated with Key West. Many bars. Dinner at Blue Heaven. Very nice.
The following evening, we were in Miami for a Marlins game. That stadium is very utilitarian and sterile—almost nothing outside the stadium besides parking structures. No local neighborhood flavor to speak of. The Cuban sandwiches we got inside the stadium were very generic and unworthy of their Cuban heritage. The gift shop inside the stadium was quite small—about five times smaller than we have for the Detroit Tigers. They would only let customers in as other customers left—that’s how small it is. The game was under the roof, but the air-conditioning is questionable inside the stadium. There was a certain humid haze hanging in front of the lights all night. The air-conditioning could not remove this water vapor from the air. It seemed that by the sixth inning, the air-conditioning had been turned off altogether and even our wives were uncomfortably warm.
We visited Sanibel Island. We had stayed a week there seven years ago and had an itch to go back. We spent some time on Bowman’s Beach and had a wonderful dinner at the Bubble Room. I don’t know why that restaurant gets such middling reviews. It gets an “A” from us, just based on the fascinating décor. The food isn’t so bad either and the service was very personable.
We hope to return to the Naples area next year. But if we aren’t able to, it is good to know that we managed to get a lot done in the short time we had available. If you are able to live in Naples or are able to spend a lot of your time there, please make sure you take a minute every day to thank your lucky stars that you are able to live in such a wonderful place.