12 Unique Things to Do in Naples & Marco Island

by Paul Joseph  |  Published November 28, 2017

Separated by just 15.7 nautical miles, the city of Naples and Marco Island off the Gulf of Mexico are two of the most popular stop-off points for visitors to southwest Florida. With both home to beautiful white sand beaches, full-service waterfront resorts and an abundance of wildlife, the area is a magnet for those seeking a tranquil holiday destination amid beautiful surroundings and with plenty of opportunity for exploration and adventure.

Mysterious domed structures on the isolated southern tip of Marco Island (Photo: Andy Morffew via Flickr)

Inevitably, the temptation to stick to the area’s well-trodden path is strong. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a wealth of more unusual things to see and do here, both on the mainland and on Marco Island itself. We’ve picked out 12 of the best.

1. Historic Palm Cottage

For a fascinating glimpse into how Naples residents once lived, this charming, rustic cottage will satisfy your every curiosity. Built at the tail end of the 19th century for Walter N. Haldeman, one of the original founders of Naples, the cottage is one of the oldest anywhere in Naples but retains most of its original, carefully preserved features, including 3,500 square feet of artwork, furnishings and tools spanning over 100 years. Now owned by the Naples Historic Society, it opens its doors to visitors keen to explore its intriguing confines, as well as the neatly maintained gardens at the back of the home. Guided tours take around 40 minutes

LOCATION Corner of 12th Avenue South and Gulfshore Boulevard, Naples HOURS Tues-Sat 1pm-4pm

Historic Palm Cottage

A sign outside the Historic Palm Cottage (Photo: Joe katrencik via Flickr)

2. Naples Train Museum

Ranked number 6 in the New York Times Travel Section “Best things to do in Naples”, Naples Train Museum pays homage to the crucial role that trains and the railway have played in Naples’ daily life down the years. Located on the same site as The Naples Depot in the city’s downtown districts, the venue was once a train station before being converted into a privately-run indoor museum. It is heavily geared towards children with an eclectic mix of train-themed memorabilia and activities including outdoor train rides that alternate between a live steam engine or a diesel engine. Inside, the museum has a total of ten simultaneously operating trains, with plenty of buttons to push to make the accessories come to life. The museum’s layout is updated monthly. Admission is free for children under 3 years, $3 for children aged 3-14 years, and $7 for adults and children over 14 years.

LOCATION Seaboard Coast Line Railway Station, Corner of Fifth Avenue South & Tenth Street South HOURS Fri-Sat 10am-2pm (1 Nov-30 Apr) Sat 10a-2pm (1 May-31 Oct)

Naples Train Museum

An exhibit at Naples Train Museum (Photo: Naples Train Museum)

3. Bar Tulia

Dedicated Naples foodies flock to the upscale, pedestrian-friendly avenue of Fifth Avenue South to enjoy the city’s best dining options. Among the array of eateries that line the fashionable street, one of the most highly regarded is Bar Tulia. Situated next door to its older sibling, the similarly revered Osteria Tulia, an Italian farmhouse-style restaurant, Bar Tulia is a brick-and-wood gastropub and cocktail bar that serves up a mouth-watering selection of Italian-style small plates, known as ‘Sfizi’ in Italian, as well as larger dishes. Among the food menu highlights are Roman Ramen, Fluke Crudo, Charred Octopus and Bucket O Chicken. The bar also serves an impressive choice of craft beers and house-crafted classic cocktails such as the award-wining Basilica and Last Dragon.

LOCATION 462 5th Avevenue South, Naples HOURS Mon-Fri 4pm-1am Sat-Sun 4pm-12am

Bar Tulia

Bar Tulia during a busy service (Photo: Michael Caronchi)

4. Barefoot Beach Preserve

Situated between Naples and the city of Bonita Springs, tucked away from any highways and high-rises this 343-acre country park is a corner of tranquillity amid Florida’s hustle and bustle. One of the region’s last undeveloped barrier islands, it feature vast tracks of natural land that are perfect for idyllic walks. Families are drawn here, too, by the gentle, shallow waters, helping make it a regular fixture on lists of America’s best beaches. But the main attraction for many are its myriad animal spotting opportunities, ranging from bottle-nosed dolphins swimming in the distant waters to Gopher tortoises dotted along the nature trail running between the sand dunes.

LOCATION 505 Barefoot Beach Boulevard, Bonita Springs

Barefoot Beach Preserve

A pelican tip-toes across the sand at Barefoot Beach Preserve (Photo: DeaShoot via Flickr)

5. Cars on 5th Show

Each year, the Naples Chapter of the Ferrari Club of America plays host to a prestigious car show featuring hundreds of exotic and collector automobiles from the Italian marquee’s rich back-catalogue as well as numerous other distinguished car brands. Some 50,000 car lovers regularly attend the event, which as well as showcasing the motor industry’s magnificent history also helps raise money for several local charities. This year’s line-up is expected to be more impressive than ever, with several new Ferrari 488GTBs and Spiders set to be in attendance, along with a strong British contingent including Jaguar, Lotus, Triumph and Bentley. Be sure not to miss the show’s grand finale, which sees all car owners start their cars at 4pm sharp for a resounding Drive-Off.

LOCATION Fifth Avenue South, Naples DATES 10 February 2018

Cars on 5th Show

Young and old alike enjoying the automobiles on display at Cars on 5th (Photo: DeaShoot via Flickr)

6. Walking Tour of Naples’ Historic District

This tour takes you on a potted journey through Naples’ most historic neighbourhood, stopping off to admire notable landmarks while your guide regales you with fascinating tales about how the city has changed since the turn of the 20th century. The bulk of the tour will be spent along Third Avenue South, a beautifully landscaped thoroughfare that is often described as the birthplace of Old Naples. Here you can admire the colourful original beach cottages delightful houses, pretty courtyards and antique fountains as you walk.

HOURS 9.30am & 11am Thurs-Fri

7. Tin City

If it’s chain stores you’re seeking, look elsewhere. Tin City offers you the chance to step back in time to an era when rustic, maritime character and charm were at the heart of Naples’ fishing industry. Overlooking the working docks of Naples Bay and spread across four tin-topped buildings, this unique shopping district features some 40 vendors specialising in antiques and local handmade novelties, including a huge range of quirky, nautical-themed trinkets. As well as the myriad opportunities for picking up gifts and souvenirs, there are also some excellent eateries serving freshly caught seafood.

LOCATION 1200 5th Ave South, Naples HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-9pm; Sun 12pm-5pm

Tin City

The specialty shopping district of Tin City (Photo: h2kyaks via Flickr)

8. Naples Winter Wine Festival

The Naples Winter Wine Festival, the most successful international charity wine auction in the world, is returning to The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples in the New Year. The event will bring together renowned vintners, chefs and Master Sommeliers with wine enthusiasts and philanthropists for a three-day festival themed “All We Need is Love” in order to raise millions of dollars for underprivileged and at-risk children. During the last 17 years the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), the founding organisation of the Naples Winter Wine Festival has raised over $161 million and impacted over forty non-profit agencies and the lives of over 200,000 children through annual grants and collaborative strategic initiatives.

LOCATION The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, 2600 Tiburon Drive, Naples DATES 26-28 January 2018

Naples Winter Wine Festival

A festival-goer is poured a glass of red at Naples Winter Wine Festival (Photo: Naples Winter Wine Festival)

9. Collier-Seminole National Park

When it comes to getting in touch with nature, there are few better places in Florida than this magnificent National Park, located a short drive south of Naples’ city centre. Rich with vegetation, tropical trees and wildlife that are typical of the Everglades, the park is quite simply one of the jewels in Florida’s crown. Visitors can enjoy a huge range of outdoor activities including hikes, canoe rentals, fishing and overnight camping, while there are also several picnic areas where you can even fire up a barbecue using on-site grills. For a spot of history, the park is also home to the Bay City Walking Dredge, built in 1924 and used to construct the Tamiami Trail highway linking Tampa to Miami.

LOCATION 20200 Tamiami Trail East, Naples HOURS Mon-Sun 8am-7pm

10. Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples

Spread over some 38,000 square feet, this fun-packed interactive museum is the perfect family activity for a rainy day in Naples (not that there are many of those). Created as an immersive learning environment for children, the museum features a huge range of exhibits, programs and events. Journey through the swamps of the Everglades, weave through a maze, climb a two-story banyan tree, or experiment with the water play station. Kids can also role-play by dressing up as a weather forecaster, a farmer, a chef, a fisherman, an artist, an architect or even a veterinarian. There’s a charming Garden Café too, where you can grab lunch, snacks or drinks.

LOCATION 15080 Livingston Road, Naples HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 11am-4pm

Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples

Kids playing around a maze at Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (Photo: Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples)

11. Fishing trip from Marco Island

Surrounding Marco Island are waters awash with a full cast of the Gulf of Mexico’s tropical sea life, including such exotic species as sea turtles, barracuda and spadefish. For keen anglers looking to get up close and personal with the area’s abundance of fish, there are a number of companies providing fully-equipped offshore fishing excursions from the island, whether it be backwater fishing, reef fishing or even wreck fishing. Guests can curate their trip according to their preferences, numbers and needs.

12. The Revs Institute

Car enthusiasts don’t have to look far to spot some seriously impressive four-wheeled models in this part of Florida, especially along the Naples seafront promenade where flamboyant sports cars are regularly paraded by their proud owners. But for those wanting to experience a more immerse celebration of all things auto, this impressive museum is home to some of the world’s most important cars. As well as a museum, the institute is also a distinguished site for automotive research, but most visitors come to see such marvels as a 1927 Bugatti Royale and a 1948 Ferrari 166 Spyder Corsa.

LOCATION 2500 Horseshoe Drive South, Naples HOURS Tues, Thurs & Sat 10am-4pm