Earlier this year, this family’s wanderlust took us to the glorious sunshine state of Florida in the U S of A.
We’ve visited her many times before. We’ve revelled in the delights of Mickey’s kingdom in Orlando, we’ve discovered the magic of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, we’ve dipped our toes in one of the most glorious beaches on the west coast at Sarasota, we’ve chilled out in the southern tip at Key West and we’ve marvelled at the glory that is Miami and the east coast.
But this time we wanted to discover somewhere new so on a recommendation we headed for Naples in the south west corner of the state.
We stayed for a week in a rented villa and barely touched the sides of places to see and the things to do. It’s a fabulous place for families wanting to kick back and chill out.
We visited in early August with its cobalt blue skies and storms which light up the night then disappear as quickly as they arrived.
It was a real adventure.
So here are some of the favourite things we discovered to do while we were there, in no particular order:
5 things to do in south Florida with kids:
1. Airboat trip on the Everglades
Wild, beautiful, untouched and a chance to get up close and personal with nature.
The Everglades sit right on the southern tip of the west coast and are a subtropical wetland, home to crocodiles, alligators, birds and a host of threatened species.
An airboat tour is fun, educational and the best way to view the Glades as you skim over the surface of the vast expanse of water.
Airboat captains are very knowledgeable and passionate about the area they patrol. You won’t always see a croc, but your captain will make sure your trip is interesting and fun all the same.
Great fun; although the boats are very very noisy as they’re powered by a giant propeller on the back of the boat!
2. Barefoot Beach at dusk
We picnicked on this beach at dusk by happy accident but it remains one our happiest memories of the trip.
Barefoot Beach is in the wonderfully named area of Bonita Spring. It isn’t the greatest stretch of sand in the region but it won our hearts for two simple reasons: It’s relatively quiet (there were no facilities on the beach where we set up so you bring what you need) and it’s an undeveloped nature reserve – turtles hide under your car in the car park so you need to be careful when leaving!
We stumbled on it on the way home from a day out and only had a couple of hours to go before the sun went down but we thought we’d explore it anyway.
The road leading to Barefoot Beach is worth the journey alone; you drive through what feels like the poshest gated community of million dollar homes you’ve ever seen, as huge holiday palaces loom up through the palm trees and you wonder who on earth can afford them and where on earth the road will take you.
Well it takes you to a quiet and unspoilt beach where we watched the sun go down while the kids played in the sea. And it was all kinds of beautiful.
A public beach with a private beach feel. Just make sure you pack up and go before the bugs come out to play!
3. Dolphin spotting on a catamaran
What can be nicer than kicking back onboard a 53 foot catamaran, watching the world sail by and spotting dolphins frolicking in the sea as they chase after you?
Well not much let me tell you.
We boarded the Sweet Liberty at Naples City Dock, where you can buy freshly gutted fish and watch various vessels come and go. It’s not a hugely expensive outing (around $30 for an adult $15 for children under 12) and you are guaranteed dolphin sightings – or you can come back for free during the following month.
You cruise out past the beautiful homes of Port Royal (your captain will have a story or two about the no-expense spared nature of the homes!) and out into the Gulf of Mexico where the sails go up, the wind drives you and the only thing you’re expected to do is chill out. And keep an eye out for those dolphins.
A fabulous way to spend a couple of hours. We went at the start of August and pretty much had the boat to ourselves! It does get very very hot though so lots and lots of sun cream and drinking water needed.
Oh and we did see dolphins but I was so excited I took rubbish photos!
4. Dinner at Tommy Bahamas in Naples
Naples is renowned for its culture, it’s history, it’s boutique shopping and it’s sophisticated dining. It’s a great place to wander around and feels quite different from the other towns in the region.
Round off your day with dinner at Tommy’s – an atmospheric restaurant where you can eat indoors or out on the patio and do a spot of people watching. Lunch is great also, but dinner time it is all lit up and it feels really magical.
Try the Pulled Pork Quesadilla (with goats cheese, sweet soy glaze, mango salsa) and Fish & Chips with Asian slaw and jerk yucca fries. Finish off with a classic Mojito. You, not the kids 😉
5. Jetski ride
For the wind in your hair, slightly scary, chance to scream at the top of your lungs exhilaration of it all. The kids adored it and it’s one of the highlights of our visit.
We took to the beach in Bonita Springs and opted for a half hour session which was easily enough time to explore the beach line, swap drivers over a couple of times and have a good giggle using the GoPro camera.
We really really do love Florida. It’s the perfect place for families and every time we’ve visited we discover something we love.
Now we just need to visit the north of the state and see what historic Panhandle has to offer families!