by Chris Burkard – President of Burkard Yacht Sales, Vice President of the Marine Industries Association of Collier County and Owner of Naples Waterway and Wildlife Tours
Naples, Florida is an amazing place. The locals call it our “little slice of heaven” or “our paradise.”
Much of the architecture is of Italian inspiration, as our namesake city across the pond would certainly imply. Our weather is subtropical with only the rare cold front able to drop the temperatures into the “cold zone” and even then, the cold temperatures rarely survive past midday.
Our shopping and dining are world class, yet quaint. We have managed to keep the heavy commercialization out of Naples that has overtaken many of our larger coastal neighbors.
We are also home to one of the nicest beaches in the entire world due to our white powdery sand, warm waters, amazing coastal wildlife and spectacular Gulf sunsets.
Most people that live and visit already know this and our best-kept little secrets are not so best kept. What you may not know, and is truly a kept secret, is that Naples is home to one of the largest Mangrove Forests in the world, “The Ten Thousand Islands.” This mangrove forest is home to some of the most spectacular coastal birds, marine mammals and fish found anywhere on our planet.
The mangrove forest acts as a nursery, attracting breeding adults, and is home to millions of juveniles. We are a mecca for boaters, anglers, bird watchers, nature enthusiasts, shelling enthusiasts, adventure seekers, sun worshipers and beach goers.
Our waters and coastal areas teem with life. It is not unusual to spot bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the surf while a bald eagle or osprey circles overhead searching for a meal of fresh fish.
I have encountered deer swimming across from the mainland to Keewaydin Island, our coastal barrier island that runs from Gordon Pass almost to Marco Island.
Our waterfront is truly a beautiful and spectacular thing to behold. The best way to experience our amazing coastal waters is by boat. Many enjoy cruising our beautiful waterfront communities to take in the beautiful architecture. Others enjoy visiting our local waterfront restaurants.
Keewaydin Island is unique in that its southern end has a beach that faces the Gulf of Mexico and a beach that faces towards the mainland. When the breeze is light and Gulf waters calm, anchoring on the Gulf side is a great way to spend a day swimming, shelling and relaxing. If the conditions area bit too choppy on the Gulf side, you have the option of anchoring or beaching on the inland side. Others just want to enjoy the wildlife.
There is no shortage of eagles, hawks, bottlenose dolphins and manatees to observe. The Ten Thousand Islands are also home to whitetail deer, panthers, bobcats and raccoons. Although these animals are more reclusive than the birds and dolphins, sightings are rather frequent.
There are several areas inshore and near shore where water skiing and knee-boarding can be fun and a great source of exercise.
Offshore, deep blue holes offer scuba diving and spearfishing opportunities. Fishing in our area is world class and anglers from around the world come here to ply their skills against snook, tarpon, red fish, grouper, snapper and many other species.
Naples is home to a robust assortment of marine related businesses. There are numerous tour boat operations that offer sightseeing, fishing and wildlife tours. If you are a bit more adventurous, and you have boating experience, there are also many boats available for rent. Naples is also home to a booming boat and yacht sales industry if you are so inclined to enjoy our waters on a much more frequent basis.
I highly suggest taking advantage of our resources and getting out on our waters. You’ll see Naples in a whole new way while creating enjoyable memories that will last a lifetime.