Two decades ago, a strip mall, parking lot, and acres of invasive plants stood on this land, hosting crowds of shoppers bustling through their daily routines. Now, serene greenery has once again reclaimed the expanse, replacing the concrete and metal with 170 acres of flourishing gardens and pine flatwoods. Naples Botanical Garden's 90-acre preserve is home to seven ecosystems, including untouched forests, marshes, and mangroves, where hundreds of animal species and more than 300 species of native and exotic plants dwell.
Cultivating a diverse array of subtropical flora, the seven garden habitats enchant and educate adults and children alike. Visitors meander along 2.5 miles of walking trails, dropping into the Lea Asian Garden to admire a northern Thailand riverside scene and relax at the Balinese--temple water garden, spying on frogs trying to have a conversation with their own reflections. Throughout the Kapnick Caribbean Garden, guests stroll beneath a vine-covered arbor and through the coconut grove, which showcases plants from Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific that had great economic impact on the islands. Wee ones splash in jets of water in the Smith's Children’s Garden, where they can visit a butterfly house, caper about treehouses, and drop by the healthy-eating garden to ask organic vegetables why there are no mummies in the food pyramid. In addition to engaging the senses, the botanical gardens enlightens minds of all ages with myriad educational programs and events.
Reel Kind Fishing charters boats on which adventurers explore backwater wetlands, protected freshwater, and saltwater regions that are home to diverse marine life. Along with licensed and experienced captains, the company supplies rods, reels, tackle, and bait, ensuring that even novice fishers can participate. Tour-takers might nab snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, and tarpon, the four of which can be housed together in a jumbo aquarium for a fish reality show, as long as a sassy blowfish joins the mix. Each boat seats up to three people for half-days, three-quarter days, or full days, with the vessels heading either inshore or offshore near the Gulf of Mexico. Explorers might bring a hat, sunglasses, snacks, and jackets, according to the weather, and smocks depending on how neatly their co-tourists can eat.
Home to a fleet of luxurious wave-tamers, Sailboats Unlimited has been making the warm blue waters accessible to would-be mariners for more than 25 years. With a two-hour sunset sail, cruisers will sally forth on the 40-foot center-cockpit sloop, Danmark, which is Coast Guard–certified and fully crewed for up to 18 passengers and their extra pairs of sea legs. Erstwhile sailors are encouraged to assist the crew in manning the vessel if they so please, and pleasure seekers are free to relax on deck, lounge under the shaded bimini and dodger, or whistle jazz-fusion sea shanties in the spacious salon. Guests can take in the beautiful ocean sunset while feasting their eyes on a menagerie of wildlife. Cruises will be scheduled as they fill based on expressed interest and available dates.
Luxury and expense often go hand in hand. Not so at Vantage Yacht Club, where members and prospective members alike test the waters of yacht ownership without diving in. Guests have a number of options when it comes to setting sail: they can rent boats for a few hours for a picnic on the waters surrounded by their local scenery. They can also choose to lease them for a whole season, or commission a longer Vantage Voyage, which require a larger commitment because their destinations may range from Australia to Spain.
Finseeker Guided Adventures leads kayak eco-tours, beach-based fishing expeditions, and fishing charters. Tour-goers board single, sit on top kayaks to explore the mangroves in local estuaries while on watch for manatees, alligators, and birds of prey. For fishing trips, flyfishers and spinfishers can search for tarpon, trout, and redfish in the backcountry waters.
Seasoned fisherman Chris Abdo of Fish Backwater Charters captains crews as they rummage the Rookery Bay coast in pursuit of aquatic treasures. Parties of up to three can mine waters for specimens such as redfish, snook, sea trout, mangrove snapper, and goldfish crackers, depending on which species are in season. The company furnishes guests with a fishing license, bait, tackle, rods, and reels, and keeps gullets moistened with supplies of bottled water. Fisherfolk who wish to elongate their sea excursion or furnish a citywide fish fry may extend trip lengths for an extra fee.