“Hold on to your hats folks, we’re going to do a 360 degree turn!” I think it was at this moment I fell helplessly and totally in love with Captain Harry and Odin, his stupidly powerful 820 hp jet boat.
Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t, when you ‘re tearing through the Gulf of Mexico like a knife through butter.
This is the latest attraction to hit Naples; an hour of white knuckle fun on a boat that has no rudder or prop, just two water jet engines that will take your breath away.
Of course, Naples is not renowned for all this white knuckle shenanigans; this elegant town on Florida’s tropical Gulf coast has a more leisurely reputation for fine dining and art galleries, particularly around Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South, after all, there are no shortage of impressive water facing properties all along its beachfront. That said, you won’t find Naples elitist, (apart from perhaps amongst the mansions in Port Royal) just a charmingly laid back city, still holding on to the vision of its founders Senator John Williams and Louisville publisher Walter Haldeman back in the late 1800’s. They likened the bay area to the famous original in Italy and whilst it may not have the history, the crazy traffic or Vesuvius, there is no lack of elegant Italian inspired real estate wherever you look.
One of its most famous residents Charles Lindbergh had his own landing strip built not far from the pier (today it’s a small park) and there are one or two more local stories you can hear whilst gliding around downtown on a Segway. Taking a Segway tour for a couple of hours is a fun way to orient yourself around town, they’re easy to master and your tour guide will provide a potted history of Naples via a radio headset as you ride along.
Just 45 minutes from Naples, the huge expanse of the Everglades come in to view, a glorious wilderness of water and wildlife that simply mustn’t be missed. In its centre, Everglades City provides the home comforts for sleeping and dining (with a particular emphasis on Stone Crabs), whilst everywhere else is pretty much God’s country for you to explore at your leisure.
A perfect example is to be found at The Ivey House, this fabulous Inn dating back to the 20’s positively leaks with history as it was originally built to house the workers who forged the first roadway through the swamps – The Tamiami Trail as it is today, connecting Tampa with Miami. As well as providing excellent lodging and a surprisingly modern indoor pool, the Ivey arranges guided kayak trips through the swamp. I got up close and personal with more than one alligator eying me with half closed lids as we paddled past them floating in the water, my guide assuring me they weren’t interested in humans they were just lazily waiting for fish to swim by. Yeah right.
I survived nonetheless and to celebrate, ate a hearty meal (Stone crabs of course) at the Oyster House Restaurant, a legend in these parts.
The Everglades provide a breathtaking glimpse into a now protected world of untroubled wildlife, where the colours change depending on the time of day, and birds of all shapes and colours call home. It’s a place where you can quite literally believe you have left civilisation behind.
The Paradise Coast of Naples, Marco Island and The Everglades will provide a spectacular holiday that will be a perfect fit on so many levels whatever the depth of your particular pocket.
Thinking about it, all this and I go and fall in love with a jet boat. Who would have thought!