Hibernating during the cold Canadian winter month of January, I and my wife Ellen escaped to the deliciously warm city of Naples, where we took two different tours.
A guide can bring a tour to life with in-depth knowledge of the area and an enthusiastic delivery as with Leslie Coburn's 31-mile 8:30 a.m.
Naples Trolley Tour
. Although the tour allows one to get on and off at 21 stops along the way (it's a two hour loop) we opted to stay on the trolley and return later. Here are some of the things that we learned:
Naples has the highest number of homes listed at over $10 million dollars in the United States. The owners tend to be entrepreneurs between ages 45-54, typical of the exclusive Pelican Bay area north of the city. Some owners include:
, also known as Judge Judy (she likes to eat at Mel's Diner not far from her home),
, mystery writer
There are no private beaches in Naples. Parking is free, except near the beaches where there is metered parking. Naples offers over 90 golf courses.
The Naples Zoo
at Caribbean Gardens is nationally accredited and more than a walk-through zoo. This non-profit, charitable attraction offers entertaining presentations. The next day we returned and enjoyed a Primate Expedition Cruise which was a guided journey past islands of monkeys, lemurs and apes.
If you are artsy, you will enjoy the
Philharmonic Center for the Arts
Naples Museum of Arts
. The center features both the performing and visual arts. The museum has 15 galleries showcasing world-class paintings, sculptures and other art forms.
The Naples Trolley Tour costs $27.00 for an adult, Children 4-12, $12.50, and under 4 free. The last pick-up of the day is at 3:30 p.m. If you go to their website you can print off coupons for a reduced rate.
Next, we took this half-day, 55-mile narrated AAA/CAA approved excursion through
Big Cypress State Preserve
ending with an exciting airboat ride on a Carolina skiff on the Barron River through the unique 10,000 islands everglades. Fifty-year old Kenny Hill, who reminded me of
was our guide. Here are a few things we learned on the Everglades Excursion Tour:
Florida has a population of about 2 million alligators, one for every ten people in the State. Alligators can hold their breath for 3-4 hours under water, so avoid the edge of the water.
Alligators can travel up to 30 miles across land. Florida has 3 million acres of Everglades. The Mangrove trees that are found in the everglades convert salt water to oxygen. It's the only tree that can live in the everglades.
The Everglades is where salt water and fresh water meet. No alligators live here because they don't like salt water. When we took the one-hour airboat ride over the water through the everglades on our Carolina Skiff, captain Jerry Dipasquale of
Totch's Airboat Tours
had our adrenalin flowing as he whisked us and four other passengers through the "Mangrove Jungle" at speeds reaching up to 30 mph.
We were pleasantly surprised to see
Great Blue Herons
along the shoreline.
even landed on our skiff when we slowed down. Before we returned to Naples, Kenny took us on a tour of the small village of
at the mouth of
. It's the "Stone Crab Capital of the World." It consists of about 500 people, many descended from the original "Glades People" that settled here in the 1870's.
This four-hour, half-day tour costs $95.00 and children 4-12, $60.00. Under 4 are not encouraged due to the length of the tour.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, the Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.