The Heart of Naples, Old Naples

Karen Coney Coplin

The shortest month of the year will be one day longer since it’s a leap year. This month I decided to shine a spotlight on a favorite neighborhood, Old Naples. If you’ve been a resident for some time, you’ll know about many of these tips, or most of these. If you’re a newcomer, welcome!

If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear. In keeping with the 20 something calendar, here are 20 ways to celebrate life in the heart of historic Naples. If readers have other favorites, please send along your suggestions so I can round out this list, making a perfect 29 to match the leap year!

  1. Walk the paths at the Garden of Hope and Courage which is located on the northwest corner of 2nd Avenue South and 8th Street South. There are also places for sound healing and a beautiful lake to contemplate peacefully. It’s a resource putting you in touch with nature. This was originally contemplated for cancer patients to enjoy with a sense of calm.
  2. Venture a little bit east afterwards and enjoy some of the great offerings at the Wynn’s market deli. I can’t stop raving about the spinach mushroom lasagna discovered during the pandemic. And the have every variety of chicken salad, all of which are delicious.
  3. Head south to Cambier Park. Take in an art show or music from the bandshell or people watch and take your kids or grandkids to the park.
  4. The Arthur Allen Tennis Center is nearby, too. The city doesn’t have pickleball courts… yet. The pickleball center on Thomasson is in the county rather than the city proper. Definitely something to watch for, though, for the city.
  5. Heading down 8th Street S. a bit further, City Hall will be to the east and the Norris Center will be to the west. Take a moment to make a wish and toss a coin in the fountain or conduct any of your affairs related to the city, including beach permits. The County has a tax collector’s office there, too, for different options including car registration, etc.
  6. Just across the street, Gulfshore Playhouse currently makes the Norris Center their home while the new state-of-the-art Baker Theater and Education Center is built on Goodlette Road & 1st Ave. S. The Norris Center offers a variety of other educational opportunities for City residents and visitors.
  7. At the end of 8th Ave. S., the famed “Wedding Beach” awaits, with a pretty expansive lawn, pavers, a nearby private lighthouse, and the gentle rolling surf.
  8. A few blocks south on 12th Avenue South, The iconic Naples Pier will be rebuilt to reclaim its spot as the best place to see the sunset. In the meantime, the vantage point from any other avenue will do.
  9. For all of those new to Naples, the avenues run east to westwith every avenue in Old Naples ending at the beach.
  10. Streets run north to south. If it’s a road or way, or circle, it’s not likely that it’s a linear or straight roadway. Palm Circle East &West, and Bougainvillea Road, where I lived for 8 years, come to mind.
  11. Another clue for getting around downtown – anything north of Central Avenue bears an “N” in its address, and anything with an “S” is south.
  12. So, 5th Ave. S. is five blocks south of Central Ave.
  13. And historic 3rd Street South is three blocks to the beach. Gulf Shore Boulevard would be the equivalent of 1st St., since it’s one block from the beach and US 41 is also known as 9th St., which is 9 blocks from the beach.
  14. In season, the Third Street South Association’s Farmers’ Market is held directly on Third Street on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A side note: the chicken salad offered here, also is available in a dozen appealing varieties.
  15. Crayton Cove is next to the City Docks. This area features a number of restaurants and places to stroll and people watch and shop. There is a traffic circle on 8th Street South and the cross avenue is12th Ave. S.
  16. The Landings is a nearby public park and boat launch, located at 1109 9th St. S. Terrific views of Naples Bay are a plus.
  17. k A shout out to the Cove Inn Coffee Shoppe is at the very end of 9th St. S. or US 41. Breakfast is served daily from 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It’s a local favorite with a variety of traditions including New Year’s brunch with complimentary screwdrivers or Bloody Mary’s- only on the first day of the year though. If there is a wait, you can sit out on the deck and watch the seagulls and boats. Ask for a coffee to take and enjoy at the same time. (Cash only.)
  18. The public library on Central used to be the main branch (this honor has been bestowed on Orange Blossom). It nonetheless is an excellent resource and conveniently located for City residents.
  19. You can support local art and art galleries which are dotted throughout all of downtown. If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear.The Artsperts, Juliana and Kristine Meek, are fellow columnists for this magazine and run the acclaimed Harmon-Meek Gallery which has been a Naples staple since 1964. Be sure to take a peek when you are on 12th Ave S.
  20. Before Hurricane Ian, every beach access point at the end of all of the avenues featured benches with different moving (and sometimes humorous) tributes to loved ones who passed. I don’t think I’m alone in wishing that this tradition might return. And maybe you were one of the sponsors of a bench plaque in the past. If so, I’d love to see your photographs and memories.

Email Karen with your article ideas concerning Life in Naples (especially as to local charities and their activities): Follow her on Instagram for more vignettes about Life in Naples: @naplesbythenumbers

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