Naples Florida Vanderbilt Beach

Judi Travel CaricatureIf you read my previous post about my road trip to the Sunshine State, you already know that it was a grueling few days driving through some bad storms. While my boyfriend L and I were tired and weary from our drive, once at our Seashell Cottage, the sky was bright blue and temperatures hovered in the 70s and 80s making for one glorious winter month in Naples Florida.

Slowing down was easy during our stay. The beauty of being in a warm climate in winter means you can enjoy more activities in the great outdoors. I can see why this part of Collier County ranks high on several “best places to retire.”

According to Travel & Leisure, Naples came in 5th place in “Where to Retire in 2021 Across the United States.”: “This Gulf of Mexico city is known for its beautiful neighborhoods, elegant atmosphere, art galleries, and upscale shopping, as well as its miles of white-sand beaches. Nature lovers have easy access to the Ten Thousand Islands in Everglades National Park, which boasts more than 35,000 acres of mangroves and wilderness for fishing, kayaking, and wildlife spotting. Golf, tennis, museums, and strolling along the pier at sunset also keep residents busy and happy.”

Naples Florida Vanderbilt Beach

The beaches in Naples Florida are some of the most beautiful in the world

Ooh, ooh, ooh, I was definitely one happy snowbird. I know some people think Naples is an expensive place to live. I found fun things to do that don’t cost much and some not at all.

So how did I spend my waking hours?

Morning walks or bicycle rides around Naples Park

Most mornings L and I took a long walk around the community of Naples Park. It was about 2 miles roundtrip to Vanderbilt Beach. We paced up and down the avenues, east and west on the streets, often stopping to admire a house or two or gaze at a tall palm tree or flowering bush. When L was working, I would take one of Seashell Cottage’s cruisers out for a ride, queuing up my iTunes and biking through the neighborhood was a favorite activity.  Each bayfront home off of Vanderbilt Drive was prettier than the next.

Judy on Cruiser Bicycle

Riding the big cruiser bicycle around the neighborhood was a fun activity

Afternoons at Wiggins Park Beach

Wiggins Park Beach was the place to go on sunny afternoons. Only a mile drive from our home away from home, it costs $6.00 to park and once you find a spot it’s only a few steps to the beach. Bathrooms and showers to wash your feet are available on premise.

Body covered in 50 SPF sunscreen. √ Wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses on.√ Water bottles filled to stay hydrated. √ Chairs socially distanced from other sunbathers. √ Mask in bag in case I need it. √

I was ready to relax whether sitting or strolling. I loved watching the different species of birds and my little sandpipers as they scurried across the sand. I also loved collecting shells. There were many interesting ones to be found along the waters edge. One afternoon while looking downward I noticed a sand dollar. Ooh, ooh, ooh, I was so excited. Just as I dipped my fingers into the water to pick it up a small wave came and grabbed it away. Sadly, I looked for that sand dollar again and again, but never found it.

Birds on Wiggins Park Beach

Bird-watching on the beach

Contemporary vibes in Downtown Naples

Every location in Naples seems to be either north or south on Tamiami Trail (which is Route 41) or east or west of it. To get to Downtown Naples we drove about 15 minutes south. Parking is at a premium in the Downtown and we were lucky to find a free spot without a meter or garage. 5th Avenue South is the hip and cool area with popular restaurants, hotels and shops. We had a quick outdoor bite at 5th Avenue Coffee Company & 6th Street Diner, which we decided afterwards has a more appetizing menu for breakfast than lunch. We both agreed we should have gone back to Molto Caffe & Trattoria where we dined last year.

“Do you want to walk?” I asked L after eating. He sat and rested while I meandered on 5th to The BLUE MUSSEL, known for its unique shell collection and other beachy gifts and home accents.

5th Avenue in Naples Florida

Downtown Naples 5th Avenue has a hip and cool vibe

Saturday in Historic Old Town Naples

I thought I had died and gone to heaven as we drove into the Historic Old Town on our first Saturday in Naples. Literally one house had a huge “Paradise” sign on its fence! “That’s it, I found my Paradise!” I said to L pointing straight at the letters.

Paradise sign in Naples Florida

I found Paradise in Historic Old Town Naples

OMG, look at that home with its lush landscaping,” I cried out to L. “Keep your eyes on the road,” he replied. “OMG, that house is even prettier,” I said as we passed what looked like an old Southern plantation. Each home was more magnificent than the next. I felt like I was in the Botanical Gardens with all the flowers and well-aged palms with intricately twisted trunks.

It took several tries around the area to find a metered spot. (Note: Once you pay, the meter company will text you when it’s about to run out.)

Landscaping in Old Town Naples

The landscaping in Historic Old Town Naples was filled with colorful flowers

A visit to the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market

Old Town is busy on Saturday mornings because that’s the day they host the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market. We wandered through to see what different vendors had to offer. One was making paella, another Greek food. There was an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls and cut flowers too. I was enticed by one vendor to purchase baby turnips — similar to radishes, they make a delicious addition in tossed salads.

Not finding anything for breakfast, we waited in line for an outdoor table at Jane’s on 3rd, an in-demand brunch and lunch place that I’ll tell you all about when I share my culinary adventures in a future post.

3rd Street Farmer's Market in Naples Florida

3rd Street Farmer’s Market is held on Saturdays

With our meter about out, there was no time to waste. Once our tummies were full, I made a dash to two stores across the street.

Ooh, ooh, ooh, being a card-lover I had to go inside The Paper Merchant, where I found thousands of unique cards for all occasions, including one of the biggest selections of birthday cards for grandkids. Note to self, remember this in the future if I ever become a grandma! Equally enticing but with a higher price point was Four Winds Gallery of Fine Native American Art & Jewelry. I treated myself to a pair of tiny man-made opal posts. Since adorning daily masks I find it challenging to wear hanging earrings anymore.

A casual walk on Naples Pier

The wonderful thing about the Historic Old Town of Naples is that it is so close to the beach. We took a left and a second left and a right and found the famous Naples Pier. This landmark was originally built in 1888 and is 1000 feet long. Fishing is allowed without a license so we saw quite a few guys with their rods and buckets waiting to make a catch. It’s a popular place to watch a Naples sunset and equally beautiful to sit and watch the sailboats on a sunny afternoon.

Judy on Naples Pier

Naples Pier is a landmark on Florida’s Gulf Coast

The best way to end the day

Speaking of sunsets, the best way to end a day in Naples is sitting on the beach watching the sun go down. That’s exactly what L and I did on our last Friday evening in Florida. “It’s the first thing on my list of fun things I want to do in Naples and a month’s gone by and I haven’t done it yet,” I said to L. “It’s 5:30 pm and the sunset is an hour from now. Let’s grab our beach chairs and drive to Wiggins Park Beach and sit and watch the sunset.”

There were no clouds in the sky so I knew it would be a good night. Indeed it was. Click, click, click went our iPhone cameras as the sun floated through the blue waters at 6:25 pm.  What a great finish for a glorious stay. “I think I found the place where I want to spend my retired winters,” I said to L.

Naples Florida sunset

Watching the sunset is a peaceful way to end the day

Will I? Shall I? Can I? One thing “I know for sure” as Oprah always says, my month long stay in Naples Florida made me rethink my priorities, goals, and how I want to fill my soul during my life after 60.


P.S.: Coming soon in future blog posts… I’ll be sharing highlights from my mindful visit to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and will also take you on a culinary adventure to some of Naples’ great places for dining and takeout.