For those who aren’t familiar with my home state, Florida can be divided quite easily into three cultural sections: North Florida, Central Florida, and South Florida.
North Florida is, ironically, relatively ‘southern.’ The further up the state you go, the closer you get to the southern accent, iced tea all day every day, and restaurants that contain the phrase “watering hole.”
Central Florida is a tourist haven surrounded by middle-class suburbs. Mickey Mouse rules supreme, many people are ‘transplants’ from other states, and native Central Floridians don’t have any hint of a southern accent.
The further south you go, you are suddenly in the land of celebrities, retirement, and glamorous beaches. South Florida is where money talks, sings, jumps, and does a dance if you have enough of it.
One of the richest and most glam cities is Naples. It is a playground for the rich and famous (Steven Spielberg!) and a tourist destination for those of us who are still struggling to pay off our student loans and learning how to make a real dinner for ourselves that doesn’t include a can of Spaghetti-Os.
The streets are oh-so-typical South Florida. Palm trees everywhere, patterns in the concrete, and pink and orange hues for miles. This is the road to the beach, and you can find any kind of shop or restaurant along the way, as long as you’re looking for something expensive and high class. We did manage to find a diner with pancakes the size of my head, though, so that was a success.
The beach itself is beautiful. You won’t find gaudy hotels along the shore, only private homes and businesses. The sand is soft between your toes without being rocky, and the dunes are grassy and gentle. The water isn’t quite crystal clear, but it’s perfectly acceptable and clean. The only thing to note is that you’ll be able to tell who is from out-of-town based on what time of year it is. If they’re in the water? They’re not from around here. If they stick their feet in and scream and run away shouting that it’s too cold and they’ll come back in August? That is a native Floridian you’ve sighted!
When you’re not at the beach, you can head back to your hotel to swim and cool off from your tanning session. This was taken at the Hyatt House, but 90% of hotels will have pools (this is Florida!)
The boats in the marinas bob up and down in the afternoon sun while local birds size each other up on the docks. You can rent a boat or go kayaking or paddle boarding in the surrounding rivers that lead out to the ocean. We even saw dolphins, but I will spare you the picture as the fin is barely recognizable and you’ll mostly just have to say ‘Oh, look, a dolphin!’ out of pity. Trust me, though, WE SAW DOLPHINS!
The best part of South Florida, however, is the end of the day. Not because you are burnt to a crisp and crying because no one in your family believes you that you saw a dolphin, but because you get views like this. The temperature cools down ever so slightly and it’s hard to not pack up your things and move here immediately.