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It was Florida’s wildest frontier, a tangled mangrove coast where the Calusa built an empire. Clues to their existence – ceremonial masks – have been found in modern archaeological diggings. This is the southwestern-most point of the Florida peninsula, its natural lands tropical and mysterious, home of the Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp and some of the world’s rarest orchids. Early settlers were hardy folk looking to lie low, establishing small communities like Chokoloskee and Goodland on barrier islands. In the late 1880s, downtown Naples, sitting on a bay, was developed into a community to rival “the bay in Naples, Italy,” attracting ...

It was Florida’s wildest frontier, a tangled mangrove coast where the Calusa built an empire. Clues to their existence – ceremonial masks – have been found in modern archaeological diggings. This is the southwestern-most point of the Florida peninsula, its natural lands tropical and mysterious, home of the Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp and some of the world’s rarest orchids. Early settlers were hardy folk looking to lie low, establishing small communities like Chokoloskee and Goodland on barrier islands. In the late 1880s, downtown Naples, sitting on a bay, was developed into a community to rival “the bay in Naples, Italy,” attracting socialites from around the country. When millionaire Barron Gift Collier came to town, he invested heavily in building up the area, even offering to build a road across the swampy wilderness to the east, now known as the Tamiami Trail. Naples has always attracted wealth and fame, and thus the downtown district offers upscale shopping and top-notch art galleries, and the region is known for its performing arts, fine art galleries, and five-star hotels.

Sandra Friend
About the Expert

Sandra Friend has written 12 books about Florida, including the Explorer's Guide (Countryman Press) series to Florida.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year-round