Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn [email protected]
There’s an old joke where a preacher is asking his congregation to raise their hands if they want to go to heaven. Many do raise their hands, but one man does not. The preacher asks the man why he didn’t raise his hand. “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” asked the preacher. And the man replied, “I thought you were asking, who wanted to go right now!”
Many of us are not ready to go to heaven right away, but I’d go to Paradise, No April Fools, that is, Florida’s Paradise Coast anytime. It is the area inclusive of the West Coast Florida Cities of Mediterranean style Naples, and the tropical Marco Island
Naples offers upscale and funky shopping at their Fifth Avenue South: Florida’s own version of Rodeo Drive. Shopping in the historic Third Street South area, one might find the perfect piece of art in one of kind shops. I was surprised at the Tommy Bahama store where a restaurant and bar separated the men’s from the women’s clothing sections. That’s the way to shop! T.B. is famous for their drink of the day, often in martini format, with names like, Frost Bite, Kiwi-Tini, Cayman Cooler and Watermelon Splash. I was tempted to sample one, but dining at the award winning Sea Salt was waiting.
Sea Salt is an upscale restaurant known for fine beverages and a sophisticated culinary experience. After tasting a selection from the extensive menu it’s easy to see why Sea Salt received Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2009 and 2010, and named one of the Top 20 Best New Restaurants of 2009 by Esquire.
I could have spent the evening at Sea Salt, but then I would have missed a charming musical production by the Naples Players of “I Do, I Do” at the Sugden Community Theatre in the Fifth Avenue South district. (That show is long gone but check out their upcoming shows.) Another diversion is a pleasurable stroll through the Naples Zoo, with their Black Bear Hammock, Tiger, Lion and Giraffe exhibits, along with their Alligator Bay.
For a real break from reality an airboat ride on Lake Trafford gets you up close and vegetation slapping personal, with the folks at Airboats and Alligators. The extended drive north east to Lake Trafford is worth the effort for the natural vegetation and creature viewing on this west coast head water of the Florida Everglades, known as Corkscrew Swamp.
For your headquarters in paradise, The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club offers a family owned yet expansive hotel complex right on the beach; a Naples novelty. Owned and operated by the Watkins family since 1946, the comfy rooms have an historic old Florida feel about them. With plantation shuttered windows overlooking several pools and ocean views, you feel relaxed and right at home. And as the name describes a fine golf course is adjacent. Also unique to Naples, is the hotels HB’s, which is the only beach front dining restaurant in the City of Naples, and has been awarded a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2005-2010.
Once ensconced at a resort I usually like to leave the car parked and do nothing on a schedule, and know that my needs are met at the hotel; whether it is finding snacks and forgotten sundries from the gift shop, dining options, or the comfort of viewing a lazy sunset, or a favorite movie on the flat screen.
A Florida Paradise Coast getaway is a little bit of heaven, with shopping, attractions, fine dining, resort accommodations and relaxing seaside, letting any stress evaporate into the gentle ocean breeze. I can see why AARP named Naples-Marco Island the 10th best place in the country to retire and live.
For more information before you go check out: www.paradisecoast.com
Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club: http://www.naplesbeachhotel.com/
Sea Salt Restaurant, Naples: http://www.seasaltnaples.com/
Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens: www.napleszoo.org
Airboats & Alligators: www.laketrafford.com/tours.html 1-239-657-2214
Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa: www.hiltonmarcoisland.com or 1-800-445-8667
Mr. Terry Zinn – Travel Editor
Past President: International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association
3110 N.W. 15 Street – Oklahoma City, OK 73107