The Southwest Florida Region
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Island and Inland Intrigue in Old Florida
Florida's Southwest Region
With unspoiled alabaster beaches, exotic wildlife and lush subtropical foliage, southwest Florida - comprised of Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties -- combines the sophistication of a pampered island resort with the relaxed style of Old Florida. From the Ten Thousand Islands that lie in tranquil azure waters off its coast, to the vast wilderness preserves that claim its southern reaches, Southwest Florida luxuriously rolls out the welcome mat, beckoning visitors to enjoy idyllic beach getaways and captivating backcountry adventures.
In Collier County, families can enjoy beachcombing along the pristine shores of Naples and the Ten Thousand Islands. Public beaches offer plenty of picnic facilities, playgrounds, showers and other amenities for a memorable day in the sun and sand. Setting off from Marco Island, the largest inhabited isle of the Ten Thousand Islands, visitors can explore a maze of mangroves and marshes. Or head for Collier County's wild back country on guided airboat tours through the Everglades.
In Fort Myers, visitors biking or driving down McGregor Boulevard will soon discover how the town came to be known as the "City of Palms." Originally a cattle trail, the scenic boulevard is now lined by nearly 1,800 royal palms, some planted by the city's famed winter resident Thomas Edison.
Sparkling off the Lee County coast, Sanibel and Captiva Islands are among the best known islands in the region, popular for their excellent shelling and captivating beaches. But visitors will also find picturesque paths and historical gems tucked along Sanibel Island.
Boca Grande is a snapshot of "Old Florida." This sleepy Southern town located on the seven-mile-long Gasparilla Island has succeeded in maintaining its quaint fishing village atmosphere. As a result, visitors can wander through numerous historic shops and inns that have been in business for nearly a century.
The sophisticated seaside retreat of Naples, in Collier County, stridently protects its "old Florida" charm by guarding its natural resources and preserving older districts, so that visitors can now bicycle through the city's quiet neighborhoods to explore its diverse architectural past. Spot intriguing widow walks and open porches around homes built nearly a century ago or bright tin roofs and wide verandas of down-to-earth Florida cracker-style homes. In Old Naples, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, cyclists can ride past unchanged, turn-of-the-century homes where members of Naples' original families still live. At day's end, join locals at the landmark Naples Pier and watch as the dazzling Gulf Coast sunset illuminates the beachfront estates known as "Millionaires' Row."
Tucked amid the Ten Thousand Islands strung along the southernmost reaches of the Gulf of Mexico, visitors will find Marco Island. Although today a popular beach vacation destination, the island still retains remnants from its days as a turn-of-the-century Indian trading post.