Country-Hugged, City-Kissed

Nature and refinement consort to inspire romance on Paradise Coast.

It was our first date – if you don't count that pizza at Chuck E. Cheese. We were young, on a budget and already in love when we splurged on champagne and headed to the beach at the Naples Pier for sunset and bubbly out of plastic cups. Afterward, my husband-to-be treated me to dinner at The Dock at Crayton Cove, then a small harborside shack with a blackboard menu spelling out simple, fresh seafood.

The "young" and "budget" parts of the equation have changed, 20-plus years later, but our love and the romance of Naples have not. These days, we often make the hour drive from our home on Sanibel Island to catch dinner at an intimate cafe or sidewalk bistro and walk the pier whenever we can.

Naples has grown more sophisticated through the years, but it and its neighboring communities of Marco Island, Goodland, Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island retain a seaside charm that ranges from time-stilled fishing villages and backwoods splendor to fashionable arts and shopping scenes.

On the Town

Although charming seaside restaurants like The Dock – more grown-up and gone Caribbean these days – still lend the Paradise Coast a salty flavor, the city scenes in Naples and Marco Island exude a distinct air of culture and class, which spells hot times for getaway couples. Think the Riviera but more sedately exclusive: sunny beach vistas, the embrace of warm and soothing sea and enough shopping, dining, theater, arts and nightlife to keep your off-the-beach hours enriched and enchanted.

Downtown Naples' historic Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South districts bustle with shoppers hitting designer stores, one-of-a-kind boutiques, galleries and bistros that spill onto the sidewalks, filling the night air with music, laughter and the clink of toasting twosomes. From Third Street, it's a short stroll to the pier, still as popular with hand-in-hand lovers as with fishermen.

Marco Island blends the romance of island isolation with top-shelf dining. Some of its finest restaurants reside in luxury resorts such as Marco Beach Ocean Resort and Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort. Like Naples' two Ritz-Carlton Resorts, Naples Grande Beach Resort and the new Naples Bay Resort, these accommodations are destinations unto themselves, particularly for honeymooners and wooers, whether first time, second or however many times you can get away with it.

From spas offering couples massages – even seaside, if you so desire – to romance getaway packages and wedding planners, the big resorts cater to "amoré" types in a full-service way. If you prefer small and intimate, the selection is equally seductive.

Old-Florida Romance

If your idea of romance sneaks you off to unknown, undiscovered corners of the world where life has never caught up with the trends and does not care to, the Paradise Coast has three secrets for you: Goodland, Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island.

They started out as tiny fishing villages, and that's exactly where they've ended up. Here's where you can learn to do the Buzzard Lope (Goodland's answer to the Chicken Dance), crack some sweet stone crab just pulled from a trap that morning or jump aboard a charter boat headed to the wildlife-rich Everglades back country.

Go Wild!

For the Thoreau-brand of romantic, Everglades National Park, Ten Thousand Islands and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuges, Big Cypress National Preserve and state-protected public lands give couples plenty of space to experience nature and aloneness with a twist of adventure.

At Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, see wild orchids and other rare plant and animal species. Pitch a tent at Collier-Seminole State Park and head into the wilderness by foot, bike or canoe. Outfitters in Everglades City can set you out on a kayak journey along the Paradise Coast Blueway, a system of GPS-marked paddling trails heading from Everglades City to Goodland through the Ten Thousand Islands.

The intimacy you'll experience with nature and your partner will create memories to share and tales to tell for the rest of your life together.

To plan a romantic getaway to Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, call 800-688-3600 or visit

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