Conveniently situated on Florida’s sparking Gulf Coast, Naples is ideally located for visiting many of Florida’s prime attractions. To the north and south of the city you can find an abundant choice of beaches and barrier islands like Marco Island, Ten Thousand Islands, Bonita Springs, Captiva Island, Sanibel Island and Pine Island, all of which are ideal choices for day trippers who enjoy nature and water sports. Inland you will find the outstanding Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Lake Okeechobee, all of which offer outstanding wildlife viewing and thrilling air-boat excursions. When you need a city excursion you can visit Miami, Fort Myers, or Tampa, for great shopping and dining as well as good museums, galleries and children’s attractions.
1.Ten Thousand Islands
Located within the boundaries of the Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands make a wonderful day trip destination for nature lovers. Although there are only a few hundred (not thousands) of islands, you will be so busy soaking up the peace and serenity that you won’t notice the difference. Visitors come to enjoy the beaches, the fishing and a chance to explore the islands by scenic paddling excursions. You can even bring all your own supplies and experience back-country camping on a completely deserted island. Bird and wildlife watching is superb just about all over this watery wonderland.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Highway 41, Naples, FL 34114
Ave Maria can be found by driving about an hour southwest of Naples, where it is the fastest growing planned community in South West Florida. The community is centered about the impressive Ave Maria Catholic Church and University. Anyone interested in architecture will appreciate the gothic architecture of the church which features a marriage of modern steel beams and art deco features. A good way to see the town is to take a 45 minute trolley tour from the town center – please check their website for a schedule. Saturday is Farmer’s Market Day and Thursday afternoons you can listen to live music in the town center. Joining an Orange Jeep Eco Tour will take you through local wetlands for wildlife spotting.
Ave Maria, FL 34142-9668
3.Big Cypress National Preserve
Established in 1974, the Big Cypress National Preserve safeguards and showcases five distinct habitats, each of which is home to a variety of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. For day-trippers, the preserve offers an enormous outdoor playground where you can enjoy all your favorite activities including hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife watching and even off-road vehicle trails. Remote corners of this amazing swamp can be reached by air-boat or licensed off-road vehicles and you can look forward to coming face to face with alligators, crocodiles and turtles, among many other species of wildlife. Big Cypress is easy to access by road in less than an hour from Naples.
Big Cypress Nature Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141, Phone: 239-695-2000
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Conveniently situated about halfway between Naples and Fort Myers, Bonita Springs is a family-friendly day trip destination. Children and adults will enjoy a fun and educational visit to the Nature Center at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, where young visitors can learn all about wildlife conservation and rehabilitation in a fun, hands-on way. You can go on an electric boat trip and have fun at the touch tank in the Dalton Discovery Center. A 2.5 mile beach at Lover’s Key State Park offers ideal conditions for sunbathing, sand-castle building, beach-combing and birding, while energetic visitors can rent a kayak or take kayaking lessons at Kayak Southwest Florida.
Bonita Springs, FL 34135
Captiva Island and neighboring Sanibel Island lie just three miles west of Fort Myers and can be reached via the Sanibel Causeway. Together these two islands are an ideal day-trip destination from Naples, offering visitors an enormous outdoor playground ideal for your favorite forms of sea-side recreation. Completely surrounded by the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Captiva Island is perfect for beach pursuits – you can soak up the sun, build sand-castles and enjoy shelling, swimming, sailing, fishing, paddling, scenic boat cruises and so much more. On-land activities include cycling and exploring the shopping and dining opportunities on Sanibel Island.
Captiva Island, FL 33924
6.Cayo Costa State Park
Visitors who crave the opportunity to explore a majestic nine-mile stretch of pristine beach, completely free of commercial development, should definitely add the Cayo Costa State Park to their list of day-trip destinations. Located in the brilliant Gulf of Mexico, Cayo Costa can only be reached by boat, which makes getting there part of the fun. You can jump aboard the ferry in Captiva/Sanibel Island, Punta Gorda or Bokeelia and find yourself on a picture-perfect tropical island in less than an hour. Once you reach the state park you can spend your day shelling (Costa Cayo is considered one of the best shelling destinations in the world), hiking, swimming, snorkeling, bird-watching and fishing.
Costa Cayo State Park, FL 33924
7.Edison and Ford Winter Homes
For a break from beach activities you can spend a day admiring the historic homes, gardens and museums of the Edison and Ford Winter Homes in Fort Myers. The beautiful old winter holiday estates of two of America’s most celebrated geniuses are surrounded by 20 acres of beautiful botanical gardens and offer day-trippers an intriguing peep into the ground-breaking inventions of Edison and Ford. Besides touring the substantial Edison Historic Homes and gardens and the Ford Winter Estate, you can also tour the fascinating Edison Botanic Research Laboratory and the Museum, which features a 1916 Model T Ford. Young visitors (and adults) can get creative in the Spark!Lab.
Edison and Ford Winter Homes, 2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901, Phone: 239-334-7419
8.Everglades National Park
No visit to southern Florida would be complete without experiencing the wonders of the Everglades National Park. The park covers an incredible 1.5 million acres of wetland and offers an unrivalled nature experience for visitors. From Naples, you would need to enter the park at the Gulf Coast Visitor’s Center at Everglades City. Here you can join a sight-seeing boat tour which will take you deep into the heart of the mangrove swamps of the Ten Thousand Islands. You can also choose to admire this beautiful area by kayak on a guided Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Eco Tour. Another option for wildlife enthusiasts is to drive the very scenic Loop Road through the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Everglades National Park, Everglades City Entrance, FL 34139
9.Florida Panther Refuge
The Florida Panther Refuge offers sanctuary to Florida’s last remaining panther population which is estimated to comprise less than 250 animals. This is no zoo, and although visitors should not expect to come face to face with a wild panther, the refuge is a great place to visit for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. While most of the refuge is closed to the public to allow the wild cats and other wildlife to go about their business as nature intended, there are two hiking trails you can explore, where you may come across tracks or even spot buck, bear and other animals and birds. During Spring Open House you can go on guided buggy tours, swamp hiking and birding tours.
Florida Panther Refuge, 12085 SR 29 South, Immokalee, FL 24142, Phone: 239-657-8001
Fort Myers is a popular coastal town on south Florida’s sparkling Gulf Coast which offers lots of attractions for day trippers. Water babies will be in their element in Fort Myers where you can choose from a long list of nautical attractions including sight-seeing and sunset boat excursions, fishing charters, guided kayaking excursions, thrilling jet-boat and jet-ski rides and much more. For a break from water activities you can visit the Railroad Museum of South Florida in Lakes Regional Park, which also offers hiking and nature trails. The IMAG History and Science Center, Manatee Park and the Edison and Ford Winter Homes are also excellent Fort Myers attractions for the whole family.
Fort Myers, FL 33916
11.Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
The Gamble Plantation Historic State Park is located in Ellenton, approximately two hours north of Naples. The park is home to a beautifully restored antebellum mansion which once stood at the heart of a thriving sugar plantation. To learn about the history of the home and experience a taste of plantation life during the 1840’s you can join a guided tour of the estate (Thursdays through Mondays). There is no charge to visit the estate, which is open daily from 8am to sunset, and many visitors bring along a picnic to enjoy in the beautiful gardens. There is also a Visitor’s Center and Museum which opens Thursday to Monday.
Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, 3708 Patten Ave, Ellenton, FL 34222, Phone: 941-723-4536
12.Historic Stranahan House Museum
The historic Stranahan House in Fort Lauderdale was built in 1901 and offers visitors the chance to step back in time to the early pioneer days in south Florida. You can join a guided tour of the house to learn all about how Ohio-born Frank Stranahan and his wife Ivy helped shape the future of Fort Lauderdale after establishing a trading post on the New River and befriending the local Seminole tribe. The historic house museum is open to the public every day of the year barring a few holidays and tours are conducted at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm each day.
Historic Stranahan House Museum, 335 SE 6th Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, Phone: 954-524-4736
It would be a great shame to visit Naples and not take the time to see legendary Key West. Driving from Naples to this southern-most tip of the U.S. along US1, which is widely considered to be one of the most scenic drives on the planet, will take four to five hours one-way. A better idea for day trippers would be to jump aboard the Key West Express Ferry in Fort Myers, which will get you to Key West by late morning; the return journey leaves the island at 6pm, which gives you about five to six hours to explore the tiny island. Better still, stay overnight and visit the Oldest House Museum, stroll along famous Duval Street, have a drink at Sloppy Joe’s and definitely make time to savor some Key Lime Pie.
Key West, FL 33040
14.Koreshan State Park
The historic Koreshan State Park is a good day-trip destination from Naples, offering a combination of history and outdoor recreation. Here you will be able to learn about the Koreshans, a religious sect which established the Koreshan Unity Settlement on the banks of the Estero River in the current Fort Lauderdale region, back in 1893. You can tour the carefully-restored historic buildings before enjoying a day of recreation in a tranquil outdoor green space. Activities in the park include paddling, boating and fishing as well as picnicking, hiking, wildlife observation and geo-caching. Younger children can enjoy the children’s playground.
Koreshan State Park, 3800 Corkscrew Rd, Estero, FL 33928, Phone: 239-992-0311
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Located 84 miles northeast of Naples, Lake Okeechobee is a brilliant destination for a fun family day trip. This enormous inland lake offers outdoor enthusiasts unlimited choices for outdoor pursuits including the 109-mile Lake Okeechobee Trail for hikers and cyclists. The Okeechobee Battlefield Historic Park and the Du Puis Management Area also offer excellent hiking trails. You can take an airboat ride on the lake, visit the Herbert Hoover Dyke (which harnesses the waters of the lake) or go canoeing or kayaking along Fisheating Creek to get up close and personal with a variety of wildlife. The Sugarland Express Tour through a local sugar farm and mill is also worth adding to your itinerary.
Lake Okeechobee, FL 34972
Marco Island is an idyllic day trip destination for beach lovers and water sport enthusiasts. This Gulf Coast barrier island is linked to the mainland by road bridges south of Naples, which makes it easily accessible for a day of fun beach activities. The west coast of Marco Island is known for its long sandy beach where you can soak up the hot Florida sun, swim in the warm azure waters, do some shelling or take long, relaxing beach walks. If you enjoy kayaking and paddling you will find a network of inland waterways to explore as well as the beautiful lagoon at Tigertail Beach Park. Wildlife enthusiasts can take a walk along the boardwalk at Briggs Nature Center to admire native Florida wildlife
Marco Island, FL 34145
For a day of fun exploring in one of the most quaint and unusual villages in Florida, you need to make your way to the historic fishing village of Matlacha, which you will find on the Pine Island Road between Cape Coral and Pine Island, west of Fort Myers. Not much has moved on in the last few centuries on Matlacha Island, where a small population of fishermen and artists maintain the atmosphere of an 1800’s fishing village. To learn about the village you can join a guided walking tour of the quaint and eccentric homes, bars, boutiques and art galleries. It is fun and quirky and nothing like any other village you are likely to find in Florida.
Matlacha, FL 33993
Naples residents for visitors who are looking for a stimulating day out can hit the Interstate 75, through Big Cypress National Preserve and part of the Everglades National Park and be in Miami in less than two hours. If you only have a day in Miami the best way to see the main attractions is to join one of the many guided tours available; choose whichever tour best suits your interests and sit back and enjoy one of the most eclectic cities in the U.S.
Highlights of your Miami day trip should include a visit to the South Beach Art Deco district, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami Seaquarium and some shopping and dining at the Bayside Marketplace.
Miami, FL 33101-3255
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Pahokee is the only town with direct access to wonderful Lake Okeechobee, where nature lovers can enjoy a fun day out. One of the best ways to appreciate the lake is to pull on your hiking boots or grab your bicycle and set off to explore the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, which runs along the top of the Herbert Hoover Dyke, offering hikers and bikers a marvelous 35-foot-high view of the lake. Other good vantage points offering views of the lake can be found in the Canal Point Park. If you enjoy hiking in forested areas you can visit the DuPuis Management Area where you can take a scenic drive, cycle, hike or picnic.
Pahokee, FL 33476
Easily accessible by road from Fort Myers, Pine Island offers day trippers an idyllic island setting for a wide variety of water sports and other marine activities. Almost completely surrounded by the warm tropical waters of the Gulf Coast, Pine Island is an angler’s delight and is renowned for excellent fishing, particularly in Pine Island Sound. Although the island does not have beaches, canoe and kayak enthusiasts have acres of mangrove swamps and three aquatic preserves to explore. The Sanibel Island Cruise Line on neighboring Sanibel Island offers guided snorkeling and paddling excursions. To gain an altogether different perspective of the island you can go for a scenic boat cruise with Tropical Star Cruises.
Pine Island, FL 34607
21.Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum
Boca Grande is located on Gasparilla Island, one of Florida’s western barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico. You can access the island by car from Fort Myers for a day of recreation and relaxation for the whole family. Besides enjoying the beaches, visitors to the island should not miss a tour of the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, which was previously known as the Gasparilla Island Light Station and is the oldest structure on the island. The lighthouse has been guiding sailors since 1890 and now boasts an interesting museum and gift shop for visitors to enjoy. Other activities on the island include riding the scenic Boca Grande Bike Trail and visiting (and climbing) the newly-restored 1927 Gasparilla Light House.
Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum, 170 Park Ave, Boca Grande, FL 33921
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Surrounded by the tropical waters of the Gulf Coast, Sanibel Island is a wonderful destination for an active family day trip. The island is surrounded by beautiful beaches and criss-crossed by a network of inland waterways offering a wide variety of marine activities for all ages. A couple of the most popular beaches on the island include Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass Beach, both of which offer sensational shelling opportunities. There are several protected waterways through the mangroves where you can go canoeing, kayaking or paddling. Other island activities include a scenic drive through the Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Round off your day with a visit to the lovely Botanical Gardens at the Sanibel Moorings Resort.
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
Siesta Key is located off the coast of western Florida, where it beckons visitors to come and find out why its Siesta Public Beach is repeatedly named the best beach in the country. It will take you around two hours to drive to Siesta Key from Naples but you will be rewarded for you effort when you find yourself on a picture-perfect tropical island paradise which offers a long beach lapped by the sparkling waters of the Gulf Coast. While the beach is perfect for swimming, soaking up the sun and building some brilliant sand castles, more active visitors can explore the island’s wonderful waterways on an Adventure Kayak Tour. The island offers great laid-back dining venues and bars and sensational Gulf Coast sun sets.
Siesta Key, FL 34242
Tampa bay is a vibrant and exciting destination to add to your list of Naples day trips. Located 160 miles north of Naples, you can reach this bustling city in about two and a half hours on the I-75N. Once there you will be dazzled by the large selection of fun family activities including thrill-a-minute Busch Gardens, Zoo Tampa, Florida Aquarium and the Glazer Children’s Museum. If you are planning to see them all it would be wise to purchase a Tampa Bay City Pass for reduced entrance fees at a host of attractions. In addition to all these crowd pleasers you can visit the Tampa Bay History Center, the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.
Tampa, FL 33601-3686
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A scenic 90-minute drive north of Naples will get you to famous Venice Beach where you can spend a day exploring over fourteen miles of beaches and enjoying a wide variety of marine activities. Visitors come from all corners of Florida to enjoy excellent shelling on the beaches of Venice and shark’s teeth are also often found. You can spend an hour or two strolling down the beautiful downtown boulevards which date back to the 1920’s and are lined with stately homes, boutiques and restaurants. Other attractions in Venice include the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Shamrock Park, where you can go hiking, biking and wildlife watching along the beautiful inland waterways.
Venice Beach, FL 90291-0296
25 Best Weekend and Day Trips from Naples, Florida
- Ten Thousand Islands, Photo: tyler/stock.adobe.com
- Ave Maria, Photo: gnagel/stock.adobe.com
- Big Cypress National Preserve, Photo: jerzy/stock.adobe.com
- Bonita Springs, Photo: Stephen Orsillo/stock.adobe.com
- Captiva Island, Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com
- Cayo Costa State Park, Photo: lnichetti/stock.adobe.com
- Edison and Ford Winter Homes, Photo: reisegraf/stock.adobe.com
- Everglades National Park, Photo: Jan/stock.adobe.com
- Florida Panther Refuge, Photo: Suzanna/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Myers, Photo: travelview/stock.adobe.com
- Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Photo: spiritofamerica/stock.adobe.com
- Historic Stranahan House Museum, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Key West, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Koreshan State Park, Photo: SailingAway/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Okeechobee, Photo: JAG IMAGES/stock.adobe.com
- Marco Island, Photo: poladamonte/stock.adobe.com
- Matlacha, Photo: emf_images/stock.adobe.com
- Miami, Photo: Ana/stock.adobe.com
- Pahokee, Photo: Sky Antonio/stock.adobe.com
- Pine Island, Photo: csfotoimages/stock.adobe.com
- Port Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum, Photo: russellg10/stock.adobe.com
- Sanibel Island, Photo: Sheri Swailes/stock.adobe.com
- Siesta Key, Photo: SaulGoodman/stock.adobe.com
- Tampa, Photo: VIAVAL/stock.adobe.com
- Venice Beach, Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: genotar1/stock.adobe.com