Things to do in Naples & Marco Island
From world-class art exhibits to top-notch golf courses, these Naples and Marco Island attractions provide the best of Southwest Florida living.
This longtime institution, which philanthropist Myra Janco Daniels started as the Naples Philharmonic in 1997, is the place to see the Naples Philharmonic orchestra, local and traveling ballets, international performers and Broadway touring shows. For visual arts, the onsite Artis—Naples, The Baker Museum showcases thought-provoking exhibits and works from iconic artists like Dale Chihuly, Georgia O’Keeffe and René Magritte.
2. Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Visitors can stroll the boardwalk at the Audubon preserve, stopping to take in views of towering bald cypress trees, marshes, prairies and abundant wildlife. Expect to see up to 60 wading bird species—most famously the formerly endangered wood stork—as well as gators, deer and, if you’re lucky, the elusive ghost orchid that blooms on the cypress trees. Florida panthers are also known to roam the 13,450-acre preserve.
3. Baker Park
Go on a Sunday, and you’ll see families playing Ultimate Frisbee on the expansive lawn, couples lounging on picnic blankets, kids running giddily across the modern playground and small groups huddled inside the Eva Sugden-Gomez Center. The riverside park stuns with its native vegetation and standout features, including a bike repair station, a pedestrian bridge that connects to the mangrove-lined Gordon River Greenway, and a 34-foot-tall knoll for a bird’s-eye view of the entire scene.
4. Barefoot Beach
Yes, the traffic to get to Barefoot Beach can be daunting on weekends. But don’t let that deter you. Visitors are rewarded with one of the last undeveloped barrier islands in Southwest Florida. It’s home to the protected gopher tortoise, whose burrows provide emergency shelter for all kinds of wildlife. You’ll also find plenty of sabal palm, sea grape and gumbo-limbo trees along the 1-mile walking loop—plus, an ample variety of fish, which makes this a great spot to cast a line.
5. Big Cypress National Preserve
Located in the thick of Ochopee’s swamps, this park is home to some of the darkest night skies in the eastern U.S. Camp overnight on one of eight campgrounds, or come for the day to explore the changing ecosystems. Kayak and canoe tours through the waterways are popular, and there are also options for hiking, driving and swamp buggy tours. You can also look into the Everglades swamp tours out of famed photographer Clyde Butcher’s gallery, located within the park.
6. Breakwater Adventures
Led by seasoned captains, one of Marco Island’s top private boat tours picks you up from Goodland Boat Park for 2- to 4-hour rides centered around dolphin spotting and shelling. Adventurers can easily tack on wakeboarding and tubing. Then again, you may be perfectly satisfied to cruise around the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and its network of bird-filled backwaters, mangrove islets, private beaches and storied sites.
7. Clam Pass Park
Though the beach is in the heart of Naples’ shopping and dining, it feels a world away, with its 3/4-mile boardwalk—made from recycled plastic bottles—that curves through the mangroves, leading to the white sand. A free tram is also available to whisk guests back and forth. Once at the beach, head to the concession area and take a right; eventually, you’ll run into a mangrove-lined estuary, where manatees tend to gather.
8. Collier Museum at Government Center
This 5-acre historical park in the heart of Naples offers visitors an insider look at local history. In addition to the information on ancient animal and plant life, the Calusa Indians and pioneer living, an outdoor area features artifacts of frontier life, including a sugarcane press, summer kitchen and Seminole village.
9. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida
The 21-acre Conservancy has been an ecological pioneer and remains a constant behind the many conservation efforts that keep Naples green. In the Nature Center, which was renovated in 2021, your kids can hold a starfish or crab in the tidepool-like touch tanks, marvel at baby turtles in a live display, and learn from scientists via daily nature programs. Book a cruise on the Conservancy’s pontoon to spot birds, manatees and dolphins in their natural environment.
10. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
With designated spots known to attract trophy catches, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, in central Naples, is perfect for fishing. And with picnic areas, wheelchair access and Naples Beach Adventures renting out everything from kayaks to umbrellas, there’s fun for the whole family. Park rangers on staff lead nature tours and boaters can launch from Turkey Bay to explore the estuaries in the Cocohatchee River, which leads to the Gulf.
11. Everglades Excursions
Get a sense of the real, wild Florida as you glide through the sawgrass and along mangrove-lined corridors on a “safari wagon” (a.k.a. an airboat). Narrated full- or half-day tours depart from Marco Island and Naples and take you through the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge to learn about the ecosystem and local history. The tour stops at a wildlife sanctuary, where you’ll have the chance to hold a baby gator.
12. Everglades National Park
This 75-year-old park covers more than 1.5 million acres, stretching from Everglades City to Miami. It’s the largest wetlands area in the world and has nine distinct habitats teeming with wildlife. There are ample ways to explore this place that’s singular on earth—rent a kayak or canoe to see it all from the water, take a guided hike, cruise around by tram, or sleep under the park’s super-starry skies by camping overnight.
13. Florida Adventures and Rentals
With jet skis, kayaks and stand-up paddleboard rentals, this outfitter allows you ample opportunities to take in the splendor of Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge from the water. Or, if you’d like a guide to show you around, you can book a boat tour to explore the Ten Thousand Islands, stopping on the secluded beaches to hunt for rare shells and watch dolphins along the way.
14. The Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center
Thanks to a major donation from philanthropist Janet Guttman Cohen in 2018, the expanded museum now hosts permanent and traveling exhibits, along with lectures from survivors and scholars. Hear stories from local Holocaust survivors and their descendants; read letters and underground newspapers passed between concentration camps; and step inside the Boxcar Exhibit, a Holocaust-era railway tram that used to travel to schools and community sites sharing this vital history.
15. Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON)
This 30,000-square-foot museum is all about interactive learning. There’s a vet clinic, where they try their hand at healing furry friends; an ABC Tot Lot for the littlest ones; the Rocket Design Station, where kids don spacesuits and get a primer on aerodynamics; and an Everglades exhibit, with lifelike sounds of nature and a twisty mangrove system to climb through. Look into the monthly Exceptional Nights, when lighting, sound and crowds are limited for children with sensory sensitivities.
16. Lely Resort Golf & Country Club
One of the top public courses in the region, Lely’s par-72 greens offer varying levels of difficulty. For a smooth ride, try Mustang. If you’re in the mood for a challenge, the abundant water on the Flamingo course makes for a riveting round. There are also ample opportunities to up your game, with a driving range almost as big as a football field, plus practice bunkers, a putting green and a pro shop to stock up on golf balls, tees and anything else missing from your golf bag.
17. Marco Island Center for the Arts
This center is all about supporting local artists, with three galleries showcasing everything from paintings to ceramics, plus classrooms for art classes. The team also hosts community events throughout the year, including car and chalk art festivals, music shows, an annual wine tasting in March and a golf tournament in May.
18. The Marco Island Historical Museum
The experience starts as you approach the building, which is painted with a series of murals that detail the island’s rich history—from the Calusa Indians’ roots 4,000 years ago to the Mackle brother’s explosion of residential development in the 1960s. Inside, exhibits showcase rare artifacts, like the Key Marco Cat, a wooden Calusa icon unearthed in 1896 in what is regarded as the most important archaeological dig in Florida history.
19. Museum of the Everglades
Head out to Everglades City for a lesson in early Florida culture. Once a laundromat, the pink, paneled structure now operates as a museum, where you can learn about the history of Collier County with a focus on Everglades City (the original county seat) and nearby Chokoloskee. Learn about the Calusa and Seminole people that originally claimed this land and the early settlers who set up camps near the coast.
20. Naples Art District
The area off Shirley Street is home to more than 100 working artists. Hop between studios to meet creatives, like Anna Rac and her abstract paintings; Timothy Parker, with his otherworldly figurative works; Tyler MacDonald, who shapes guitars from sustainable woods; and musician Jan Edwards, who has a posh studio in the arts neighborhood. From November to early May, the first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month is the best time to go to see all the artists in their element.
21. Naples Botanical Garden
Top landscape architects collaborated on the gardens that fill this 170-acre, sustainable gem. Vignettes cover tropical modernism in the Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Brazilian Garden (designed by Roberto Burle Marx protegé Raymond Jungles), Southeast Asia’s jungly vegetation in the Lea Asian Garden, aqueous plants in the Monet-inspired Water Garden, and subtropical scenes in the Scott Florida Garden. The onsite cafe and shop (with rare orchids during season and plant-related gifts) are stellar, too.
22. Naples Depot Museum
Once a passenger station for the Seabord Air Line Railway, the Naples Depot Museum houses exhibits on the railroad boom in Southwest Florida. Visitors can tour the old station, including the segregated waiting rooms, and see menus, cutlery and souvenirs from the train lines that ran through this state. The team is currently working on the city’s first permanent Black history exhibit at the museum.
23. Naples Historical Society Walking Tour
On this 1-mile walking tour through the Naples Historic District, a docent leads you down the historic Third Street South and along the streets of Old Naples to learn about the city’s original movie theater, general store and the Naples Hotel, which, in its heyday, hosted guests including former First Lady Rose Cleveland.
24. Naples Pier
Jutting 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico, the Naples Pier has been a landmark since it was built in 1888. Back then, it was the only way in and out of the city. It has long been great for a romantic stroll or fishing. The pier is now being rebuilt after it was damaged by Hurricane Ian. Nearby beach entrances, such as from Fifth Avenue South, 12th Avenue South, and Horizon Way remain open to access the water and stunning sunsets.
25. Naples Princess Cruises
These elegant charter yachts take you around the Gulf and Naples Bay, where you see the spectacular homes of Port Royal and the area’s natural beauty. The team also runs a catamaran, Miss Naples, for shelling, sightseeing and sunset cruises. Just over the Jolley Bridge in Marco, you can board the Marco Island Princess for tours around the Ten Thousand Islands. Private charters are also available.
26. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Part botanical garden, part zoo, this Naples landmark is now accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and participates in national breeding programs for vulnerable and endangered species, like the African lion cubs born in 2019. That’s why the exhibits and animal encounters are top-notch, with plenty of opportunities to get up close with endemic critters and global furry friends, including the giraffes, which kids can feed.
27. Picayune Strand State Forest
As the first of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects that started 20 years ago, the 55,000-acre forest illustrates how the Everglades were torn apart, and how people are now trying to piece the vital ecosystem back together. Equestrians can explore the forest via horseback on the 22-mile Belle Meade Tract, or opt for the 3.5-mile Sabal Palm Hiking Trail to take in the natural sites on foot.
28. Revs Institute
With more than 100 models built between 1896 and 1995, Revs is a world-class car history museum. A staff of full-time professionals keeps cars in pristine condition, and the facility houses an enormous archive of engineering drawings, corporate records and other artifacts. Aficionados love seeing the collection’s rare machines, like the first-ever Porsche racecar and a 1929 Du Pont Speedster. Buy tickets ahead (walk-ins aren’t permitted), and opt for a two-hour guided tour for a deep dive.
29. Rising Tide Explorers
Naples native Ryan Young leads a crew of biologist-trained nature guides who offer a series of kayak and boat tours through Rookery Bay’s mangrove forests, freshwater marshes, and pinewood flats. You can also book a sunset paddle where you see hundreds of birds descend on the namesake rookery at sundown or an archeological cruise that goes to rarely accessed sites.
30. Salt Island Seaplanes
Part boat, part plane, these vessels take off from the water and lift off to about 1,500 feet, giving passengers a bird’s-eye view of the scenery below. Head to the Naples Airport to book a seaplane for a flight to local spots up to Captiva Island in Lee County. The planes can also go as far as the Keys and Miami for those looking to go beyond Southwest Florida.
31. Tiburón Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón
Golf legend Greg Norman designed the two 18-hole, par-72 courses at this resort. For those more inclined to watch golf rather than play it, Tiburón annually hosts the grand finale of the LPGA Tour season and the CME Group Tour Championship in November, and the PGA Tour’s QBE Shootout in December. Nearby, the resort recently added a waterpark (open to guests only) and poolside restaurant and bar, Ría, for Latin-inspired fare.
32. Tigertail Beach Park
This Marco Island beach is known as one of Florida’s most important winter shorebird sites. Look out for the reddish egrets, piping plovers and royal terns as you scour for seashells on the shore. Check out the butterfly garden and grab a kayak or paddleboard to ply the calm waters, where manatees swimming idly below may poke their heads up for air.