Naples and Ft. Myers are neighboring cities, about 35 miles apart, on Florida's southwestern coast. Naples is the more upscale of the two, and has a historic downtown located a few blocks from the water that's populated with restaurants, boutiques, and hotels, though the most popular lodging borders the shore. There's another cluster of waterfront hotels and high-rise condos on Marco Island, just south of Naples. Off the coast of Fort Myers, there are low-key properties on Pine Island and the adjacent islands of Sanibel and Captiva, as well as a good deal of wildlife, including the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The gateway to the Everglades is Everglades City, located about 35 miles southeast of Naples. A number of small islands around Naples and Ft. Myers are only accessible by boat.
WHEN TO GO
January through April is the peak season for visitors. May through December, beaches and attractions are less crowded and rates drop by 30 to 50 percent.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car, the most direct routes are I-75 south from Tampa and I-75 north if you're coming from Fort Lauderdale or Miami. For a picturesque alternative route from Miami, take U.S. Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) through Big Cypress National Preserve, a U.S. Scenic Byway. Nonstop flights land at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers (www.flylcpa.com). A taxi ride from the airport to Naples will cost about $40–$45; $10–$20 to downtown Fort Naples; $40 to Fort Myers Beach; $50 to Sanibel Island; $60–$70 to Captiva Island. Otherwise, the Alligator Alley Express shuttles from the airport to Naples (www.alligatoralleyexpress.com, $27 one way, $44 round-trip). If you don't mind a stopover to change planes in Atlanta or Miami, you can fly into Naples Municipal Airport (www.flynaples.com).
Lee County is large and spread out, so most fly-in visitors find that a rental car is the best mode of transportation, especially to reach the Everglades and the more secluded beaches. On the vintage Naples Trolly, drivers share information and local history during two-hour tours with 21 stops, including the Ritz-Carlton 15 miles north of downtown. Daily fares are $19 for adults and $8 for children 4 to 12 (239-262-7300; www.naplestrolleytours.com). You can navigate some of the Fort Myers area on Lee Tran public buses for $1 per ride or $3 per day (239-875-8726; www.rideleetran.com). From mid-April through mid-December, the Fort Myers Beach Trolley runs along Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach from Summerlin Square to Bonita Springs, with four stops in between and a 25 cent fare.
On bike-friendly Sanibel Island, you can cycle 25 miles of paved paths, including the Rabbit Road Trail, Bailey Road, and scenic routes through Pioneer Cemetery and J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Rentals are available on the island at Billy's Bike Rentals (239-472-5248; www.billysrentals.com) and at the Bike Route in Fort Myers (239-481-3376; www.thebikeroute.com). Bike maps are available at the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce. From Fort Myers, you can ride the Summerlin Road Bike Path ten miles, landing northwest of the Sanibel Causeway. If you take your bikes to Gasparilla Island by boat or car, you can cycle the Boca Grande Trail, which runs right through the 1880s Victorian town of Boca Grande and parallels the old Seaboard Coast railway line along the full length of the island.
Naples Marco Island Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau
3050 North Horseshoe Drive
Tel: 800-237-2273 or 800-688-3600
Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Naples Visitor & Information Center
2390 Tamiami Trial North
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau
12800 University Drive, Suite 550
Tel: 888-237-6444 or 239-338-3500