February 23, 2019

Nature, Dining Part of Paradise Coast Travel Experience

Collier County, Florida’s Paradise Coast, including the communities of Naples and Marco Island, has more than 80 percent of its acreage dedicated to parks, preserves and nature sanctuaries. With direct flights available from cities such as Toronto, Chicago, Dallas and Baltimore, it’s a popular getaway for eco travelers looking to enjoy water and wildlife while having access to comfortable vacation amenities. For example, a frugal transportation option for visitors is the Naples Bay Water Shuttle. At just $5 per day, travelers can get on and off the boat at various community stops as many times as they see fit. Many use it as a cost-effective way to pub hop, shop the stores or simply enjoy the town’s coastal scenery. Other money-saving vacation options are available as well. (See also: Going Green on the Road)


Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge are just a few of the Paradise Coast’s nature attractions, making it a terrific bargain for travelers with an America the Beautiful Pass from the National Park Service. The $80 card provides access to all federal recreation lands, providing a serious savings avenue for frequent adventure travelers. Those who arrive with their own kayaks can enjoy the Paradise Coast Blueway, a network of public paddling trails designed to provide explorers an up-close-and-personal peek at area birds, plant life and water dwellers. For those that feel more secure with a formal tour, Naples Marina and Excursions offers nature-knowledgeable guides available for fee-based experiences. If paddling your way to the area’s bird hangouts is more than your joints can handle, the company also offers multi-person sunset nature cruises for $35 per ticket.


For a family-friendly activity that helps fund real science while providing a full afternoon of entertainment, consider booking a tour with The Dolphin Explorer project on Marco Island. At $59 per ticket, vacationers embark on a three-hour excursion to collect actual scientific data about the local dolphin community to be uploaded from the on-board computer. Tots and teens are actively engaged for the duration of the experience, via interactive spotting with the crew, identifying specific creatures through unique fin markings, a scavenger hunt activity, a shelling break on a private island beach and stitched commemorative patches with which to remember the day. Dolphin-study.com has further details. (See also: Family Vacation Experiences for Science Buffs)


Tommy Bahama fans will want to check out the chain’s original café on Third Street South in Naples. Splurge on their macadamia-encrusted snapper with a coconut shrimp appetizer, or keep it cheap with their protein-packed, vegetarian bungalow salad for $8. Additional artisan sides are available for just $5 each, including cauliflower mash, plantain chips and grilled asparagus. The venue’s daily Island Time happy hour offers superior value as well, with discounted cocktails and small plate treats starting at $5. (See also: Where to Find Great Grub for Less)

McCabe’s Irish Pub and Grill located on Fifth Avenue South offers fun, affordable fare as well. Several pre-meal snacks are available for less than $9, including spinach-artichoke dip, fried green tomato slices and cheesy potato skins with sour cream. An extreme mushroom flatbread and generously-sized Mediterranean salad are also available for roughly $11 each. For a diverse offering of Asian dishes at a great price, Charlie Chiang’s has appetizers starting at $4, several soup selections at $3 each, and a number of noodle entrees available for $10. (See also: How to Score Vacation Food at Affordable Prices)


Double Tree Suites by Hilton offers an affordable family overnight option with room packages starting at less than $200, including breakfast for two adults and two children younger than 12.  The venue also has complimentary hot cookies available throughout the day, and a fee-free coffee and tea bar in the lobby. Honeymooners searching for an affordable splurge may want to consider the historic and newly-remodeled Inn on Fifth. Offering luxury rooms for as low as $239 at certain times of year, the venue is conveniently located in a sought-after downtown shopping district. With a next-door community theater, free valet parking and walkable beach access, it’s an affordably-decadent option for a weekend excursion.

Photo Credits: Trek Hound