We recently discovered a little known secret about family holidays to Florida: Naples, Marco Island & the Everglades, or Florida’s Paradise Coast as it’s very aptly named. We might have been tempted to keep it to ourselves, but truthfully, this particular part of Southwest Florida is too good not to share.
Florida’s Paradise Coast is the perfect breathing space to slow down, chill and shape a holiday to your family’s mood. This is a sublime part of the state and when it says, ‘ONLY Paradise will do’, believe it. Although, it’s also incredibly well connected, which makes it a good fit for those classic two-centre family holidays to Florida, that start with theme parks and end on beautiful beaches.
And the beaches here are beautiful: all 30 miles of them, glimmering ribbon-like along a stretch of the Gulf of Mexico which is almost as famous for sunsets as soft, white sands.
Wake up to the ocean and a sense of absolute well-being
There’s no doubt that waking up to the ocean, endless sunshine and beaches as far as the eye can see, inspires a sense of well-being, that you’ll get used to, very quickly. Plus, warm, friendly locals love to share their space, and helping you make the most of every minute of a holiday is practically an artform round these parts.
A laid-back beachy vibe and cool, cultured cities
Although, what might really surprise you about Florida’s Paradise Coast is the way its laid-back, beachy vibe blends with cool and cultured small cities like Naples, as well as the wilds of world famous Everglades National Park, not to mention some remarkably lovely islands. In fact, if we’re being precise, there are Ten Thousand Islands at home in this part of the state: just one of many revelations almost custom-made to astonish your kids!
All family holidays to Florida need a little Naples in the mix
But let’s talk more about Naples, because it’s hard not to be interested in somewhere that was recently named ‘Best Beach Town in the US to Live In’. And that’s just one of several accolades awarded to this charming, small city with its smart downtown district, elegant shopping streets and eclectic mix of designer stores, art galleries and artisan shops.
‘Healthiest and Happiest City in America’ is another title Naples works hard to live up to, something that’s particularly noticeable in its incredible choice of places to eat. Naturally, Italian food has a strong presence in a city with so much Neapolitan in its name. However, it’s really the fresh-off-the-dock seafood which could be described as Naples’ culinary signature.
Fresh-off-the-dock-seafood to artisanal ice cream
Of course, there are some stunningly chic restaurants where you can put its ‘Stonecrab capital of the world’ claim to the test. But, Naples is just as conscientious of its foodie reputation when it’s serving you up a perfect Grouper sandwich in a beach bar or fuelling your day on-the-hoof with its outstanding street food.
Although we’re hazarding a guess that kids might love artisanal ice cream from Kilwins Naples on 5th Avenue South, most of all. The flavour combos are extraordinary, and a walk down to the beach at the bottom of the street to catch a sunset, ice cream in hand, is a perfect end to another perfect day in paradise. So be prepared for this one to become your go-to, after-dinner stop every night of your stay.
When nothing will do but beaches, make for Marco Island
Nothing if not varied, Florida’s Paradise Coast lets you move effortlessly from urban adventures to easy-going island life, without missing a beat. Idyllic Marco Island is the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands we mentioned, and home to some of the loveliest beaches in the world, as well as mangrove-lined estuaries of the Everglades, and the clear, clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
If you want to hang around and be an islander for a little, it’s also a great holiday base. Alternatively, you can just as easily dip in, take it up on its wonderful water sports, go sailing off the beaches or simply make time to get to know its cute fishing village, and the locals lucky enough to call this little patch of paradise home.
Nowhere makes exploring Everglades National Park easier
Nowhere else makes Everglades National Park more accessible than Florida’s Paradise Coast, so adding wildlife and the wonders of nature to your holiday is as easy as joining a local tour. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest wetland eco-system in the US, this mysterious, unspoiled and remarkable environment is also a wonderland for curious kids.
Wave Runner tours are fun for older children and teenagers, as no experience is necessary and incredible guides take you to places only the locals know. They’re also one of the ways to spot dolphin, as well as some of the 350 bird species that inhabit the Everglades. Particularly keen eyed kids will often catch glimpses of alligator and crocodile too. However, touring the peaceful mangrove-lined waterways is a remarkable memory-maker all by itself.
Wildlife, waterparks and one-of-a-kind museums
Speaking of dolphin, you’ll be pleased to know that the pristine waters edging Florida’s Paradise Coast are their natural habitat and even younger kids can have close encounters aboard the marvellous Dolphin Explorer. Crewed by experts whose research is used worldwide, these cruises blend education and excitement in equal measure, and to date they’ve been endorsed by over 3,000 enthusiastic young dolphin spotters.
There’s plenty to do, without even trying
Between guided tours of Everglades National Park, days on the beach, island hopping, and getting out on the water, there’s plenty to do without even trying in this region.
But when that family attraction craving strikes, Florida’s Paradise Coast is more than happy to help. Waterpark keen kids will love Sun-N-Fun Lagoon in Naples, a blissfully cool breather in warmer weather. Alternatively, stay dry and discover another Southwest Florida first at Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. Or simply lace up your boots and stride out on a family hike through Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: one more place to see remarkable wildlife, at home, in the wild.
Where to stay on holiday in Florida’s Paradise Coast
- Naples Bay Resort & Marina features five swimming pools and a lazy river, as well as a choice of guest rooms, suites and cottages, all of which are perfect for families.
- Naples Grande Beach Resort sits just a short and easy walkway from the beach, making it ideal for families and kids of all ages.
- Enjoy dinner in vibrant downtown Naples, then simply stroll back to the luxury boutique Inn on Fifth, set right on elegant 5th Avenue.
- You’ll find Hilton Naples close to downtown so it’s a good choice for dining and shopping
- Thanks to waterslides and various pools, The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón is a perfect luxury hotel for families.
- After a complete renovation, The Ritz-Carlton, Naples is better than ever. It still sits oceanfront, but now has a new lobby and Champagne Bar, featuring a Signature Champagne Tasting Experience.
- JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort sits on three miles of pristine private beach. This luxury resort balances relaxation, family fun and entertainment, and features no fewer than 12 restaurants, as well as two championship golf courses.
Plan your holiday to Florida’s Paradise Coast
As Florida experts for over 35 years, Virgin Atlantic Holidays can help you plan a dream trip to Florida’s Paradise Coast. To find your perfect holiday, visit virginholidays.co.uk or speak to their team of experts at your local store
Best time to visit
Florida’s Paradise Coast is warm and sunny year-round. For best accommodation deals, visit in low-season, between May and November.
How to get there
Orlando/Kissimmee is an easy 4-hour drive from Florida’s Paradise Coast, Tampa is 2.5 hour drive, and Miami is just 2-hours away by road.