Holiday on a beach towel

ANUSHYA MAMTORA | Updated on December 27, 2012

Pristine beaches await

Welcome break: A roadside cafe in Naples, Florida.

It was a charming sight - pretty homes with sloping roofs, surrounded by green patches dotted with blooming hibiscus, and the bay for a backyard. Little yachts bob in the waters, waiting to be taken into the sea. There is something fascinating about a small beach city. The local food, quaint tuck shops, abundance of palm trees and spring flowers, and heart-warming smiles. For those who take pride in a summer tan, lounging on a beach towel in Florida is a vacation winner. But while locals and visitors usually head to Miami, it is the virgin coastlines that captivate with their pristine beauty. Picturesque Naples is one such beach city, flanked by the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Florida Everglades on the east. Here you find holiday homes of corporate biggies and Hollywood celebrities. But it equally enthrals with its simplicity and undiluted natural beauty.

Getting around

When a quaint blue trolley cruised along the road, I knew I had hit upon the perfect way to explore Naples. Yes, it works like the conventional hop-on, hop-off tours, but the spirit is entirely different. You have enough space to sit, the ride is short and breezy, and the driver doubling as a guide has a sense of humour to flip for. This repeated itself on each of the trolleys I changed during the tour.

White sands, gorgeous views, endless golf courses, waterfront resorts and restaurants, and dedicated shopping districts - Naples is a haven for the laidback vacationer.

Whether it is browsing through Tin City for enchanting souvenirs, soaking in water sprays or fishing at the pier, shopping at luxury boutiques in The Village on Venetian Bay, or browsing through antique shops and art galleries at Downtown Naples, there is enough to do.

You can spend an entire day hopping off at these hotspots and savouring some local delicacies along the way. I bought souvenirs made of shells to add to the collection I pocketed at the beach, and gorged on the famous local favourite ‘banana custard’. My options as a vegetarian were limited, but my friends feasted on a delectable range of seafood.

Tryst with adventure

For those who love an action-packed holiday, Naples is a stone’s throw from several wonderful wilderness spots — Everglades National Park, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, Picayune Strand State Forest and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge among others.

Everglades was on my itinerary. I was excited at the prospect of taking a kayak or canoe on an eco-trip through the mangrove tunnels, spotting alligator and wading birds. Although my enthusiasm was dampened by a thunderstorm, it didn’t stop me from getting a feel of the reserve forest.

Feeding Holter the Giraffe a bunch of carrots and petting Walter the Rhino were the highlights of my trip. If you have the time, you can join the turtle walk that the city supports, hang out at the zoo, or participate in the many organised trekking and forest exploration trips.

After soaking in the cheerful spirit at Naples, I know I have to head back — for one more helping of scrumptious banana custard, and an Everglades adventure.

Published on December 27, 2012

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