by Alyssa Morlacci | April 28, 2021
The Arts & Adventure Collide in Paradise Coast
From 30 miles of white sand beach to studios brimming with local art, Florida's Paradise Coast stirs the wild and cultured at heart.
Few things can keep our attention in today’s tech-obsessed world, but a sunset witnessed from the Naples Pier is one of them. A painter would find it challenging to recreate all of the colors that fill the sky during this nightly spectacle; perhaps that’s the reason so many artists are drawn to Florida’s Paradise Coast in search of inspiration.
Paradise Coast, which encompasses Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City on Florida’s southwest coast, abounds with natural beauty. Thirty miles of white sand beaches hug the Gulf of Mexico while native flora and fauna expand east throughout the Everglades, creating a diverse range of open-air experiences. On the coast, spend the day parasailing off Vanderbilt Beach, go shelling at South Marco Beach, charter a boat for a fishing excursion or dive Florida’s Paradise Coast Reef in search of the snapper, cobia and grouper that call the artificial reef home.
In the Everglades, explore an unspoiled maze composed of estuaries, mangroves, swamps and forests where endangered wildlife like alligators and the Florida panther, as well as native botanicals such as ancient cypress trees, remain.
Hike across the 2.5-mile boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary north of Naples. Canoe through more than 230 square miles of mangrove forest at Ten Thousand Islands, to which Marco Island belongs. East of there, take an airboat ride through the nearly 730,000 acres of protected swamp at Big Cypress National Preserve or explore Everglades National Park, America’s largest subtropical wilderness, which stretches out to the east of Everglades City.
Beyond the Paradise Coast’s innate gifts—from the breathtaking beaches to the enchanting Everglades—its coastal communities teem with luxurious shopping and dining options. Stroll downtown Naples’ historic Fifth Avenue South, just blocks from the beach, where upscale boutiques are framed with Mediterranean architecture, and bistro seating spills out onto the sidewalks. Dine at award-winning restaurants led by Michelin-starred chefs serving up seafood fresh from the Gulf or tee off at one of the top-rated golf courses peppered throughout Naples and Marco Island.
A hub for arts and culture, Paradise Coast celebrates the artists who call the area home with no shortage of galleries, museums, public art displays, annual craft festivals and so much more. Travelers to Naples will be greeted by installations of public art that set the scene for a day spent gallery hopping at Third Street South’s Gallery Row, with a concentration of works by area residents, followed by an exploration of the Naples Art District, which features local artist-owned studios. There, you can watch artists at work, take a class, make a purchase or just simply enjoy. When given the option, support local businesses during your visit to the Paradise Coast, as many have taken the “Paradise Pledge” in order to elevate their health and safety precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Find a list of participating businesses at paradisecoast.com/paradisepledge.