Florida’s Paradise Coast Trip Review: Rest, Relaxation, and Waterfront Perfection

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Rest.

It’s what we all need from time to time. Life is hectic, and it’s not always easy to stop. At home it’s easy to get caught up with all the things on the to-do list, even on days we not only want but need to rest and recharge. My husband and I are guilty of this all the time, especially since we both work from home. We are also the parents of four small kids, and that makes it absolutely impossible a little more difficult for us to recharge.

When Florida’s Paradise Coast reached out to offer me a chance to escape, I couldn’t say no. As a born and raised Florida girl, I summered every year during my childhood in Florida’s Paradise Coast. Memories of white sand beaches, beautiful weather, and a laid-back lifestyle flooded my mind, and I knew my husband and I needed not only a chance to recharge and rest but also a chance to share this overshadowed Florida area with all of you.

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Naples, the Everglades, and all the gorgeous areas that make up Florida’s Paradise Coast invite you to relax, but many people forget to consider them when making vacation plans. Thoughts of mice with big ears, princesses and their castles, and the incredibly popular beaches in areas such as Miami and the Florida Keys often come to mind first. It’s what makes Naples the perfect destination when you want to relax.

A Touch of the Keys

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When we first arrived in Naples for our long weekend of fun in the sun and relaxation, we were greeted warmly by the staff at the Lemon Tree Inn. A quaint boutique hotel hidden beautifully out of sight by it gorgeous landscaping, we were provided a lovely gift bag from Paradise Coast – and it even had sweet gifts in it perfect for our little ones after we forgot to stop and pick up gifts for them – welcoming us to the Paradise Coast.

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We immediately fell in love with this sweet little hotel the moment we were handed a real key. Not a key card, but a real key (no making trips to and from the lobby to have our keys re-keyed a dozen times!). The walk to our room was sweet. A darling little bridge surrounded by lush landscaping, a lovely pool, and guests sitting on the colorful Adirondack chairs outside each room made us feel as if we were back in the Keys.

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Our room had a private terrace with a screened porch so we could sit out front each morning with our coffee while we people-watched, chatted with our neighbors, and just enjoyed the beautiful lemon trees and wildlife that spent so much time hanging out.

Family-Friendly Naples Zoo

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The last time we were at a zoo, we had all four of our kids and don’t remember seeing anything but the potential hazards that might mean band-aids, tears, or bickering for the kids. Part of our weekend in Naples included a visit to the Naples Zoo, and it was spectacular.

We strolled hand-in-hand through the zoo’s naturally covered walkways, took in all the cool animals lazing their way through naptime, and we really got to see the zoo. It was perfect – and we even thought about how much fun our kids would have if they’d been with us. The trees and natural walkways kept us perfectly shaded, and it was the most enjoyable afternoon. There was so much to learn – even for us native Floridians – and a darling little gift shop on the way out.

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We are often so busy with our everyday life we haven’t the time to stroll anywhere, which made our time at the zoo even more enjoyable. We spent a few hours meandering the walkways, speaking to zoo employees about the animals and the gorgeous landscaping – and we learned that all the giraffes here are male – and finally found our way back to where we began. It was a slow, perfect afternoon – and I recommend you do it yourself or with the kids.

Dinner Date

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Following our sweet afternoon date at the lovely Naples Zoo, we spent some time driving around the city to check out the sites before it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations. We loved the Waterside Shops. All of my favorite shops in one place is hard to ignore, and I decided a quick stop in Lilly Pulitzer for a new dinner ensemble was not an option.

Armed with a Venti Blonde Roast from Starbucks and a new dress for dinner, we headed back to our quaint hotel located only two blocks from the infamous Fifth Avenue South in Naples. We dressed for dinner and arrived at Ocean Prime on Fifth Avenue in time to make our 6:30 reservation. The staff greeted us warmly, took us to a lovely table with a perfect view of Fifth Avenue complements of the floor the ceiling windows – it’s helpful to know Complimentary valet is located behind the restaurant off 6th Avenue – and quickly offered us a wine list.

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Extensive and perfect, the wine list featured all of our favorites. Each armed with a glass of our favorite red Malbec, we ordered. It was our first time visiting the Ocean Prime in Naples, but certainly not our first time to visit Ocean Prime. We ordered all of our favorites, including the shrimp cocktail, the filet Mignon – 6 oz. for me and 8 oz. for my husband – with the always perfect loaded baked potato and black truffle mac and cheese.

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My husband loves mac and cheese, and he makes it his mission to find the best mac and cheese anywhere we go. His vote for this mac and cheese beat out others he’s had in Vegas, New York, Hawaii, and LA. It was his favorite moment.

Dessert included the most spectacular carrot cake – perfect for breakfast the next day if you can’t finish it all – and a decadent Berries and Bubbles cocktail. If you’ve never ordered this cocktail, run – don’t walk – to Ocean Prime and order it. You’re welcome.

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Our dinner date was perfect. The location spectacular, the staff friendly and helpful without being intruding, and the atmosphere superb. We hated to say goodbye, but we didn’t have any kids to go home to – so we wanted to make the most of our evening.

Our date night ended with an Uber ride to the Ritz-Carlton where we spent a few hours sitting in the lobby bar with yet another glass of wine. The view was spectacular, and the company even better. It wasn’t quite 11 when we remembered we’re parent to four little kids, and it was way past our bedtime.

Saturday Funday

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Let me tell you about our darling room at the Lemon Tree Inn. With our amazing enclosed porch in front of our windows combined with our plantation shutters, we were able to sleep until well past 9 because our room never turned light. We always rise with the morning light on the weekends – always – and never need an alarm. We slept so late with so much perfect darkness that we almost missed our chance to grab breakfast by the pool. Thankfully, my husband had time to run out and grab a few cups of coffee and some pastries for us to enjoy while we dressed.

In desperate need of another cup of coffee, we decided to take a stroll down Fifth Avenue to enjoy the gorgeous morning. We grabbed coffee at The Brick Coffee & Bar and sat down al fresco to people watch and talk about how we might never go home. With our coffee finished, we decided it was time to visit the Naples Botanical Gardens.

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What an experience. We could begin every morning with a coffee and a walk through the gardens. They are simply breathtaking. We watched a Tai Chi class in the shaded grassy by a lovely lake. We strolled through the gardens taking in the gorgeous smells, the beautiful sights, and discussing how unfair it is we ended up with permanently brown thumbs unable to keep even faux plants alive.

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We never wanted to leave this gorgeous garden, but lunch reservations had other plans for us. We made the short drive down to Tin City with enough time to explore the adorable indoor shops filled with artisans and homemade gifts before being seated at Riverwalk Restaurant at Tin City. The hostess sat us by the water where we were delighted to see a dolphin playing a game of peek-a-boo with passing boats and paddleboarders.

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We see dolphins every single time we are on the water in Florida, yet it never gets old. As we watched the dolphin play, we enjoyed ice cold beers and a cool breeze – and the most insane shrimp nachos you’ve ever had. Blackened fish tacos and peel and eat shrimp rounded out lunch, and it was perfect. There’s nothing more enjoyable than a meal on the water except a meal on the water you want to go home and recreate every day.

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With the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, we made the decision to explore more of downtown Naples. Fifth Avenue is famous for a spectacular reason, but it’s the side streets and other avenues with so much ambiance. We took a stroll down to the beach to see the pier. We walked through neighborhoods with gorgeous homes and more jasmine than you can imagine, and we realize that nowhere in the world smells as good as Naples.

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We did a little shopping – because how can you not with so many spectacular little shops to choose from – and sightseeing before stopping at a few darling locations to try a glass of wine…or two.

Dinner With a View

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We were able to choose our own location for dinner Saturday evening, and we struggled. There were so many amazing options, and we were in firm agreement we could live in Naples and never eat at the same place twice inside of six months. Ultimately, we decided to take the advice of most everyone we spoke to while we were there – Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar. The recommendation came with the same comment over and over again, “You must try the Crispy Mahi-Mahi,” so that’s what we did.

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Since it was a few miles away, we Ubered right over to the Village Shops on Venetian Bay where Bayside is located. We were not disappointed when we were seated on the second floor at a romantic table for two up against a half wall made entirely of glass with the bay immediately beneath us. The sun was setting on the other side of the bay, and it was spectacular.

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And the crispy Mahi? It was everything fresh seafood dreams were made of. Dinner consisted of glasses of Sancerre, gorgeous salads, the crispy Mahi and blackened Mahi with a piccata sauce followed by another glass of wine seated on the plush couches while we listened to live music and enjoyed the company of one another.

Sunday Funday and a Reluctant Goodbye

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Have I mentioned yet how well we slept on our bed at the Lemon Tree Inn? We never sleep well in hotel beds – they just don’t compare to home – but this was a different story. Sunday morning was another late sleep for us, followed by a minor temper tantrum when my husband told me I have to pack, we have to go home, and we can’t stay in Naples forever (what can I say…Naples really spoke to me!).

We once again meandered out to grab a coffee by the pool, stopping to chat with some of our neighbors as we passed. Many of them have been guests of the Lemon Tree as long as they can remember, coming back every year to get that little taste of old-world Florida Keys in the heart of downtown Naples.

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We – reluctantly – loaded our car, but we got over it fast. We decided we wanted to spend the morning on the beach one more time, so we stopped for a Venti Blonde Roast at Starbucks and walked to the beach. It was a cool, quiet morning. We walked along the edge of the surf for a while before turning around. The cool white sand was perfect, and the sound of the soft waves crashing as we spent time walking on the nearly empty beach was the perfect start to a Sunday morning.

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But, nothing compared to the end of our stay. Our final stop was at Riverwalk’s sister restaurant, The Dock. With the most spectacular Bloody Mary Bar you’ve ever seen, we knew we were in for a good time. Of course, I can’t pass up a mimosa with Sunday brunch, so that happened. Our table was right on the water and came equipped with its own perfect morning breeze.

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My husband knew right away he wanted Chicken and Waffles – and he also knew as soon as he took his first bite he’ll never order it anywhere else for fear it just won’t make the cut. It was the perfectly cooked piece of chicken. I ordered the eggs benedict made of crab cake. It’s a perfect twist on a Sunday classic – and it perfectly complemented our seat on the edge of the water.

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The Bloody Mary bar did not disappoint. You get to choose your vodka, make your own drink, and you get to do it your way. Allow me to recommend you use this time to make it as many ways as you can until you find the perfect combination. The staff at The Dock was so much fun, and we had the best time with our waitress. We couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. In fact, we may have meandered a bit more than usual before heading home.

Florida’s Paradise Coast knows how to make you feel right at home in Naples, and it’s so much more than you could ever imagine. Couples, singles, friends, and families alike will enjoy all that Naples has to offer. The simple beauty of such an elegant city makes it the perfect vacation destination. You can’t go wrong, and we’ve already made it our mission to spend a long weekend in Naples to rest, recharge, and live our best lives by the water when we feel life is getting too hectic at home.

Thank you, Florida’s Paradise Coast, for the perfect weekend of rest, relaxation, and the ability to recharge.

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