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Continued: Finding hidden treasures in Naples, Fla.

  • Article by: ELLEN CREAGER , Detroit Free Press
  • Last update: December 27, 2013 - 12:43 PM

• Naples Pier: Historic fishing pier now mainly used for strolling and people-watching. If Naples Beach there is too crowded, try other spots — there is access at the end of nearly every east-west street (if you can find parking) along the gulf. (12th Avenue S. at the water, www.naplesgov.com, 1-239-213-3062.)

• Artist studios: Art Alliance Naples has 26 working artist studios set up on Shirley Street in North Naples; buy direct from the artists twice a month. Hear a schedule at 1-239-821-1061.

• Tin City: Former fish shacks turned into stores and restaurants. A lot of T-shirts here but some interesting shops, as well. (1200 5th Av. S., www.tin-city.com, 1-239-262-4200.)

• Dream houses: Drive Gulf Shore, Gordon Drive and Galleon Drive to see enormous mansions, including two that sold for more than $40 million last year. Nice cottage, huh?

• Naples Botanical Garden: Best is the Brazilian garden with its colorful mural and pond with lily pads as big as car wheels. A new visitors center and orchid garden will open next fall. (4820 Bayshore Drive, www.naplesgarden.org, 1-239-643-7275.)

• Naples Zoo: See the Snakes Alive demonstration featuring Florida’s native poisonous snakes, and take a little boat tour. I was uncomfortable seeing the zoo’s seven giraffes wandering in a barren pen, but a better habitat for them is planned. (1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, www.napleszoo.org, 1-239-262-5409.)

 

Two side trips from Naples:

• Everglades City: A wonderful antidote to chi-chi Naples, this rural town has airboat tours, mobile homes, the western entrance to Everglades National Park (www.nps.gov/ever) and Smallwood Store, a museum that once was a trading post (about an hour east on Tamiami Trail, Hwy. 41; www.evergladeschamber.net).

• Ave Maria: Ann Arbor pizza magnate Tom Monaghan’s utopian dream of a Catholic town is now seven years old. Created amid farmland 35 miles northeast of Naples, it still looks pretty much like a movie set waiting for action to start. Still, the Ave Maria Oratory church is worth the trip alone to see the architecture (about an hour from Naples; Annunciation Circle, Ave Maria; www.avemaria.com, 1-239-352-3903).

 

IF YOU GO:

Naples is a 50-minute drive south of the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.

Naples tourism information: www.paradisecoast.com

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  • Naples, Fla., stretches along 16 miles of sugar-sand beaches, where tourists mix with snowbirds and locals.

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