Good Times and Tan Lines – Naples, FL

The first month of 2019 whizzed by, with our winter downtime in southwestern Florida drawing to a close.  The weather during our stay was mostly on the cool side, sometimes wet and drab, but with several beautiful warm days in the middle.  The humidity wasn’t too bad and we got nary a bug bite during our stay – yay!

As is to be expected in a typical Florida RV resort, we were feeling cramped at Lake San Marino RV Resort during our one-month stay.  We spent the first few days whining and complaining about our dislike of our site, especially that Steve couldn’t use our grill (no fires of any kind allowed).  Wailing sirens and almost constant noise from the next door cement plant didn’t help matters.

Site # 41 with the locals on patrol

However, it had some redeeming qualities, including its proximity to lots of shopping, good access to beaches and a wonderful Tuesday farmers market right at the park.

How can you not say “Aww”

With the complaining and whining out of the way, we made the best of our stay.  Both of us completed a long list of things to do in and around Betsy – including household chores, computer/photo reorganization and catching up on other mundane things.  But all chores and no fun would make RV life bland 😦

So as weather permitted we socialized, took many walks on the beaches and through the swamps, and checked out some wildlife along the way.   Our previous visit here 5 years ago gave us a good knowledge of the area and what we wanted to do this time around, and meeting up with friends during this stay made it very enjoyable.

At Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park a congregation of Ibises joined us on our beach walk

Naples is located in southwest Florida, also known as Paradise Coast.  History says that in the early 1800’s two gentlemen – General John S. Williams (a senator from Louisville, KY) and Walter Haldeman (owner of a Kentucky newspaper) – sailed down the coast near present-day Naples.  Noticing the miles of pristine beaches, they also discovered a bay just behind the beach.  They thought they’d found paradise, hence Paradise Coast.

Later they established a town they named Naples, reminiscent of the Italian peninsula.  They developed it as a winter retreat, and by the late 1880’s it gained popularity as a winter resort for wealthy northerners and sportsmen – you might say they were the first snowbirds!

South Marco Beach was filling up with sun worshippers by 11am

Fast forward to the 21st century, Naples is more popular than ever and we joined the thousands of other snowbirds flocking here this winter.  The beaches we visited didn’t disappoint, and we can see why this area is such a popular destination.  Miles of powdery sugar-white beaches framed by inviting turquoise and blue waters along the gulf is a beach bum’s dream.  We revisited some beaches and enjoyed a few new ones, thinking the $6 to $8 parking fees were reasonable – even though we usually left before the midday crowds arrived.

Thick, jiggling blankets of yellow-white sea foam washed ashore at Clam Pass Park after a storm
Paradise Coast is a paradise for shell collectors!
Bull-nose Dolphins could be seen frolicking in the waters near shore

Boardwalks and wildlife

Several of the “trails” we followed were actually boardwalks built over the low-lying, flat wetlands.  It was nice to learn about marsh ecosystems without impacting the fragile, unspoiled areas around the boardwalks.

An impressive 2.5-mile boardwalk

At Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the 2.5-mile boardwalk meanders through wet prairie and marsh, pine flatwood, and finally into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America:

Steve finally got a look at not just one, but several gorgeous Painted Buntings during this stay
We had fun watching a territorial fight between a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers

In urban Naples, we took advantage of the natural beauty of the Gordon River by following a 2-mile boardwalk that weaved among mangroves and other native plants at Gordon River Greenway Park:

Part of a large and impressive system of boardwalks at Gordon River Greenway

At Estero Bay Preserve State Park, we followed muddy trails through tidal marshes and wet flatwood that make up the uplands surrounding the mangrove fringe along the bay.  The park became Florida’s first aquatic preserve, serving as a land buffer to protect inlets and islands along 10 miles of Estero Bay.

No boardwalk here, but lots of moist mud flat trails
A non-venomous Corn Snake

Walking the 12-mile trail through some of the most pristine habitats in southwest Florida, we experienced a glimpse of “Old Florida” at Crew Bird Swamp Rookery.  This wild space is home to hundreds of alligators, playful otters, and red-bellied turtles.  We enjoyed hearing a raucous among the wide variety of wading birds, songbirds and raptors we saw along the trail.

The first half mile or so at the swamp rookery is via boardwalk, then it’s all grass trails

We had a great time watching alligators peacefully laying in the sun, until we encountered a few of them right on the trail.  We were able to go around most of them…

With a smirk like that, who wouldn’t be scared?

…but at the 7-mile mark we had quite a standoff with a couple of them.  We didn’t want to go back and face those other gators again, but we didn’t want to be on the 6 o’clock news if these guys wouldn’t cooperate:

After about 30 minutes the huge gator finally moved far enough that we could walk (no, run!) behind him to resume this hike that we’ll never forget.

Steve got his wish, and he’d had enough quality time with alligators by the end of this trek


I was happy to visit with old friends and my cousins that live in the area:

Steve spent some time helping Joe and Judy remove the paint/rock guard protective film  from the front of their coach, as he had done previously on Betsy:

We met up with John and Sharon  a couple of times to patronize local breweries:

The day before our departure we all gathered at Betsy to share delicious food and great conversation, promising to meet again somewhere down the road:

Joe, Judy, Sharon, John, me, Steve

And that wraps up our month in Naples, our last visit here in Betsy.

Goodbye, Naples
Goodbye, Paradise Coast
Goodbye, southwest Florida




  1. Red-bellied turtles? That’s a new one. What a wonderful post of wildlife and your visits with friends! Are those swans imported as residents at the campground? I didn’t think swans were indigenous to Florida?? Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos and stories 🙂

  2. I can see how your month flew by. I’ve always enjoyed the Gulf side of FL and maintain a healthy respect for those gators. Your encounter was too close for my comfort! Enjoy your travels west.

  3. Your month in Naples looks a lot like ours in Tucson, getting caught up with friends and chores, except you had beautiful swans to accompany you on your morning walks. I am so jealous of the painted bunting sightings!! Not so much the gators, YIKES! It’s a good thing Steve could read the sign about sharing the trail with them because it looked too high for them to see, not that they would follow the rules anyway. Glad they let you pass in peace and live to share yet another great post!

  4. Time really flies, you’ve left Naples already. I know it was a mixed bag for you but your wildlife experiences were for the record books! Safe travels as you move along, we hope to see you down the road.

  5. We’re in the Panhandle, hosting at Topsail & we’ve had our share of chilly days! Still haven’t seen a gator, can’t imagine getting that close….looks like they really don’t care???
    As always, awesome wildlife pics!

  6. Great blog post title! So glad to see that your time in Florida is turning out to be fun. No bugs and low humidity are two big pluses—I hope it will be the same when we arrive next week.
    Love your photos of your beach adventures, and your wildlife photos are fantastic! It’s hard to beat Florida for wildlife. Although no matter how much time we spend there, I still don’t like close encounters with alligators. Their brains are the size of a lima bean, and their teeth are too big.
    We can’t wait to see you two! :-))

  7. While you may not have loved your park, you certainly made the best of your time in Florida. I love all the wildlife you found on your hikes. Your gator hike was very interesting! Looks like lots of friends near by to keep you busy, too. Safe travels as you move west.

    • Those otters were really cute. At first I did not understand why they were making lots of noises as I watched them. Later I realized they want me out of there so they can play.

  8. I think the whole Gulf Coast has had the same weather this winter. But we’ve all made the best of it. Looks like some great walks. Our gator encounter this winter wasn’t so dramatic, at 50* they don’t move much. Like you we’re so glad to be rolling again. See you in the FL panhandle.

  9. Tight campgrounds have two advantages … you don’t mind being indoors to do chores and you have a built in incentive to get out and go sightseeing. Looks like you did just that and made the most of your time there. Love that photo of the congregation of Ibis.

  10. Beautiful photos MonaLiza. Joe and I have never visited that far south in Florida…love that there are so many wonderful wildlife areas to visit. Might just have to talk with Joe about a trip there. Enjoy the rest of your Florida trip…and some yummy shrimp and oysters!

  11. I was assuming (hoping?) that first alligator pic was taken with a zoom lens. Nope! Y’all were right next to those prehistoric monsters! You guys are nuts. I would have noped right out of there and headed to the mall. Anyway, we did love those awesome Florida parks. They’re beautiful and unique and always so well maintained. Looks like you found some great ones. Glad you found some stuff to smile about even though your campground wasn’t the greatest. Safe travels!

    • Those guys were close by and we had no problem passing thru a few of them until that last one who won’t​ budge. We were in a pickle for half an hour or so and those encounters were one for the books!

  12. I loved the shot of the painted bunting. I have never seen one. The corn snake was cool also.

  13. I so enjoyed your post as I don’t think we will find ourselves in Florida any time soon. Alligators on the trail do make me a little twitchy.

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