What's New for 2016

Barefoot Beach
By JoNell Modys

Florida’s Paradise Coast – the Gulf Coast destination including Naples, Marco Island, Everglades City and the Gulf Coast Everglades and Big Cypress wilderness areas, offers plenty that’s new and upcoming for 2016, including hotels, new restaurants, and plenty of choices for either a relaxing or an adventurous getaway.

Hotel News

The new Hyatt House Naples/Fifth Avenue on the picturesque Gordon River section of Naples Bay is targeted for opening mid-March 2016. Naples architect Matt Kragh designed the 183-room property with an Old Florida feel with modern touches, featuring an off-white exterior plus parapets and cornices. The hotel has 3,315 sq. ft. of meeting space and a large waterfront restaurant/bar. Online reservations for individual and group stays are now able to be booked online from April 2016.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has added a new 99-room hotel at its casino and entertainment complex in Immokalee just northeast of Naples featuring modern décor with a fresh Florida feel. The entire Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee complex is now 175,600 square feet, up from its previous total of 75,600 square feet. The casino floor expansion now totals more than 51,000 square feet, with more than 1,300 slot machines and 38 live table games. The Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee is the only gaming destination in Southwest Florida with slot machines or table games such as blackjack and baccarat. The 99-room hotel features 19 suites and 80 deluxe guestrooms on four stories, plus a swimming pool with adjacent private Seminole Chickee cabana huts.

The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa has completed the first phase of a $250 million transformation that will ultimately result in its rebranding to the first JW Marriott Beach Resort in the continental U.S. The resort now has 716 newly renovated and enhanced guestrooms, new dining options, a re-imagined lobby and lots of amenities while work continues on a new resort tower. The new Tiki Bar opening winter 2016 offers a retro-cool setting, an extensive menu of rums and rum-based drinks, all just steps from the pool and the beach. When all work is complete, the resort will debut on January 1, 2017 as the JW Marriott Beach Resort Marco Island. The new tower will feature celebrity chef driven restaurants, new meeting space, a luxurious new pool deck and much more.

Guests dining at the restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples enjoy greens so fresh they appear on plates within just hours of being harvested from the resort’s new onsite Grow House. The first of its kind in a resort setting, The Grow House is a re-purposed shipping container with the capacity to grow one acre of produce. The Grow House provides an extension to the work space for the culinary team at the resort and provides greens to compliment the produce brought in fresh from regional farms. Crops currently growing in The Grow House include Bibb and romaine lettuce, cilantro, arugula, spinach, cabbage and assorted micro-greens. The highly flavorful greens are served throughout the resort’s restaurants including the Italian-inspired Terrazza and =H2O , a healthy dining café located on The Spa Deck.

LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort and LaPlaya Golf Club announce the re-opening of the par-72 championship golf course after an extensive six-month renovation. In collaboration with the original designer, Bob Cupp, the upgrade to the 18-hole course incorporates everything from rebuilding all 18 greens and enlarging the putting greens back to their original size, the re-grassing all tee boxes (and rebuilding a number of them), as well as landscaping enhancements. LaPlaya Golf Club now offers more than 120,000 square feet of new putting surfaces, including all hotels and practice areas. The resort offers luxurious accommodations with a tropical flair located directly on Vanderbilt Beach in north Naples.

The Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites is renovating the hotel’s executive boardroom. Already completed in this phase of renovation is the redesign of the hotel’s pool deck, with new landscaping and accents. Also completed is an extensive remodeling of the award-winning Spa on Fifth. The full-service spa has all-new interiors and contemporary design elements. The spa’s treatment menu also received an upgrade with several new luxurious options, including the Good As Gold Facial ($145), 60-minute anti-aging treatment that includes a deep pore cleaning, exfoliation and a collagen mask infused with pure 24 karat gold. Meanwhile, the hotel’s signature restaurant Avenue5 has a new Avenue5 Wine Club, offering member’s private monthly wine tastings, opportunities to rate wines and making suggestions on pairings with menu items, and discounts on bottles of wine featured at monthly club events and any bottle wine while dining at Avenue5. Wine Club members can also attend private monthly wine tastings conducted by a variety of wine experts, including key distributors, winemakers and vineyard owners.

The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club has completed the renovation of the guest room balconies in its main Tower Building. The beachfront resort removed the brick balconies and replaced them with glass balconies in the Tower’s 90 guest room and suites. This latest renovation project follows $50 million in impressive renovations and enhancements over the last few years, including a new Everglades Room ballroom, renovation of the resort’s Gulf-side meeting rooms and the expansion of the Sunset Beach Bar & Grill.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel recently completed a full property renovation and has also introduced a new custom-designed Serenity Suite. The Serenity Suite is a supremely comfortable luxury accommodation with custom amenities intended to create a tranquil, soothing and transformative experience. The suite offers a view of the Gulf of Mexico, is equipped with serene lighting on dimmer switches and includes exclusive features such as a PranaSleep® mattress, a NutriBullet Pro® juicer; an in-suite massage table and yoga mat; a selection of meditation, yoga and wellness CDs, DVDs and books; and complimentary set of aromatherapy lotions and oils.

The Naples Grande Beach Resort recently transitioned from the Waldorf Astoria Naples to the independently branded Naples Grande Beach Resort. The hotel recently completed $18 million in renovations. New guestroom décor offers a soothing, coastal inspired design and a new signature restaurant, Catch of the Pelican, featuring fresh Florida seafood.

The Hilton Naples has earned the Three Palm designation in the Florida Green Lodging
program administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Hilton Naples joins the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, Naples as the second Three Palm designated hotel in the greater Naples area. Hilton Naples achieved the honor by showing quantifiable improvements in the hotel’s “green” efforts, including environmentally friendly practices, increasing recycling, reducing water consumption, dramatically lowering waste, and reducing natural gas and electrical usage.

Transportation News

Elite Airways initiates weekly non-stop service between Naples and Newark Liberty International Airport in late February, as well as several additional routes there with one stop. Other new routes out of Naples include service to Portland, Maine, as well as in-state flights to Vero Beach and Melbourne.

Sun Country has started weekly nonstop service between San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) and Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in south Fort Myers, Florida, which is the main airport servicing the greater Naples, Florida area. Flights operate Thursday through Sunday through August 15, 2015.

The Key West Express offers regular fast boat service to Key West from Marco Island between December and April with some limited service for part of the summer.


The Keewaydin Express is a new water shuttle offering water taxi service from a variety of Marco Island locations to Keewaydin Island’s expansive, deserted beaches, which are accessible only by boat. This express boat shuttle is dog friendly. It’s a great way to take your dog (on leash) to the only dog friendly beach in the Greater Naples/Marco Island area without having to rent your own boat.

The Naples Bay Water Shuttle provides low-cost and convenient water taxi service from multiple Old Naples Waterfront locations that are home to some of the area’s most popular restaurants and bars.

 Salt Island Seaplanes offers flights from Naples Municipal Airport to Key West aboard a Cessna 206 amphibious seaplane from October through April. The plane takes off from Naples and then lands on the water in Key West 55 minutes later. Since the plane flies different paths than larger commercial craft, you will see areas of the Keys those flying or driving traditional routes will never see. And the on-water landing will add to your adventure while saving you the hassles of airport crowds and security. Flights are available daily except Wednesday and major holidays during the peak season of October 1 through April 30.

Raven Air has new direct charter service to Key West out of Marco Island Executive Airport.

New and Hot on the Cuisine Scene

Celebrity chef Art Smith brings a new restaurant concept to Naples in early 2016. His 1500 South waterfront restaurant is located at Naples Bay Resort and features something new and different. “I will be pairing Southern American food with what I just saw in Milan at the World’s Fair. Italian families understand the love and power of food so the pairing is perfect,” said Smith. “For Naples’ sophisticated diners this will definitely be a one of a kind menu with a lot of surprises,” Smith added. Art Smith is an acclaimed chef and was Oprah’s personal chef for more than a decade.

D’Amico and Partners continues to elevate the cuisine scene in Naples. The Continental American Provisions and Craft Bar is the newest addition to Third Street South in the Old Naples section of downtown. Hand cut steaks use only the finest Prime, Wagyu and Piedmontese beef and a variety of fresh seafood rounds out the menu. A 30-seat craft cocktail bar and live entertainment seven days a week has made it popular with both locals and visitors. The Lurcat Catering division of D’Amico recently opened the Fogg Café at Naples Botanical Garden, as well as taking charge of the garden’s group catering needs. Fogg Café features a creative menu using local, sustainable and seasonal products, some of which is grown right on site at the botanical garden.

The chic new signature restaurant at the expanded and renovated Inn on Fifth in downtown Naples is Avenue5 with executive chef David Nelson supervising the creation of approachable American cuisine prepared with the utmost care and attention to quality ingredients.

Downtown Naples’ Osteria Tulia, with interior design resembling an exquisitely-restored old world Italian farmhouse, established itself in its first year as one of the busiest and most popular restaurants in Naples. It’s the perfect setting for innovative peasant-style dishes from locally-popular chef Vincenzo Betulia. The new Bar Tulia gastropub next door opened in early 2015, serving chef-driven food and craft beers and cocktails nightly until midnight, providing a welcome addition to the late night dining scene.

Another new buzz-worthy dining hot spot in downtown Naples is 7th Avenue Social, providing delicious dining and live entertainment into the early morning hours.

Latin American cuisine is represented in fine fashion in the region. Masa brings an elevated level of Latin American cuisine to the north Naples local-favorite nightspot Mercato. The popular Martin Fiero Steakhouse has opened in a new location just east of downtown Naples, serving steaks and Argentinean and Uruguayan favorites. Inca’s KitchenLa Cuisine and Gustitos Bakery offer tempting Peruvian cuisine

The Local is gaining traction serving farm and sea-to-table cuisine that is delicious, fresh, local and healthy. TheCider Press Café features a Florida-inspired, plant-based modernist cuisine. The vegetarian and vegan restaurant uses local organic produce and the latest techniques in food preparation to create a unique, sophisticated, and healthful dining experience. Cider Press Café includes a smoothie and juice bar to serve fresh ciders, smoothies, house-brewed kombuchas (fermented tea) and cocktails, all made to order from locally sourced produce and spirits. The Naples Blue Zones initiative recently certified Cider Press Café is the area’s first Blue Zones restaurant.

Plans were recently announced to begin development on a complete hospitality campus on the banks of the Cocohatchee River in north Naples. The Bay House Restaurant and The Claw Bar at Tierney’s Tavern will be folded into the new complex to be named Reverie Hall, which will also include a cooking school, boutique hotel and expansive special event space.

Chef Fabrizio Aielli of the popular local favorite restaurants Sea Salt and Barbatella on Third Street South in downtown Naples has just released his new cookbook with a collection of 75-plus recipes. Included are such notable dishes as Pan-Seared Black Grouper with Black Truffle Butter, Best Chicken Ever and many more as well as a number of Sea Salt signature cocktails. Barbatella is now offering a rustic Italian brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays and a new menu of creative craft cocktails.

Attraction News

Naples Botanical Garden recently added the new Eleanor and Nicholas Chabraja Visitor Center and three new gardens: the LaGrippe Orchid Garden, Irma’s Garden and Kathryn’s Garden, all designed by famed landscape architect Raymond Jungles. A new onside food and beverage option, Fogg Café, is led by the culinary team at Lurcat Catering and uses a variety of fruit, vegetables and herbs grown right at the garden.

A clay shooting aficionado from the U.K., Collin Burrows, has opened Gulf Coast Clays after purchasing the former Port of the Islands Gun Club, located halfway between Naples and Everglades City. The club features a 15-station sporting clay course in the beautiful outdoors setting surrounded by the western Everglades wilderness, as well as skeet and trap.

Visitors can enjoy free ranger-led activities at Everglades National Park’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City and at Big Cypress National Preserve from December through March. Advance reservations are all that is required. This is a great way to be introduced to the unique Everglades wilderness during 2016, the Centennial for the U.S. National Park Service.

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a 13,000-acre preserve that is home to the largest stand of old-growth bald cypress in North America. A 2.25-mile boardwalk weaves through this ancient bald cypress forest and other habitats including pond cypress, wet prairie, and marsh. Free guided nature walks are now available by signing up at the admission desk.

Kayaking in the Gulf Coast Everglades is popular year round, but winter and spring are the peak seasons for overnight camping and paddling excursions. Everglades Area Tours’ popular Base Camp Kayak Tours include two, three, four and five-day excursions. Camp sites are on deserted white sand beaches within Everglades National Park and guides provide campfire-cooked meals.

About Florida’s Paradise Coast
Whether travelers are looking for a romantic escape or family getaway, Florida’s Paradise Coast — Naples, Marco Island and the western portion of the Everglades — has an array of vacation options year-round. With more than 30 miles of soft, white sand beaches, thriving arts and culture scene, distinctive dining, family attractions and the best of outdoor adventure, the Paradise Coast is truly a destination with it all. Located just two hours from Miami, four hours from Orlando and three hours from Tampa, the Paradise Coast is easily accessible from some of Florida’s largest cities. Travelers outside of the Sunshine State can fly into Southwest Florida International Airport, which provides nonstop service to 47 destinations on 17 different air carriers.

For more information about the Paradise Coast, call 800-688-3600 or visit www.ParadiseCoast.com. Follow the destination on Twitter and Instagram @ParadiseCoast, and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheParadiseCoast.

Media contacts:
JoNell Modys, jonellmodys@colliergov.net
Erin Smith, erinsmith@colliergov.net
Carlyn Topkin, carlynt@louhammond.com

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