It’s the Crown Jewel of Southwest Florida. Where exquisite sunsets meet the soft, sun-drenched beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find Naples. The city is home to championship golf courses, impressive shopping, world-class dining and more. Combine that with a wealth of beautiful green spaces & inviting parks, and you’ll probably start to understand the appeal of this quiet beachfront kingdom.
Originally billed as the perfect place for the wealthy outdoorsman’s Winter Estate, Naples has always been Florida’s picture perfect vacation town—the kind of place where South Florida luxury could meet with Gulf Coast privacy and easygoing attitudes.
To this day, Naples is still only home to about 20,000. But that includes the country’s second-highest proportion of millionaires per capita, along with some of the most sought-after real estate in the country. Let’s take a look at this underrated waterfront paradise to see what makes this city really special …
A Charmed History
As mentioned above, Naples has known a relatively short—and exceedingly pleasant—history as a city.
Founded in the 1880s by former Kentucky U.S. Senator John Stuart Williams and businessman Walter Haldeman, the city was immediately marketed as a vacation destination comparable to the Italian Peninsula in terms of weather (thus the city’s name; Naples).
At the time this was one of Western Florida’s biggest businesses; with legendary geniuses like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison owning a Winter Estate on the State’s gulf coast. It worked well in Naples, and it’s continued to be a fact of life ever since; with the lion’s share of real estate offerings favoring vacationers and retirees even today.
The city’s biggest natural setback came in 1945, when a massive hurricane tore through town and ruined Naples’ prized beaches. Canals were dredged just a few years later—soon to be called “Aqualane Shores”—bulldozing unsightly mangrove swamp to replace it with a wealth of new waterfront property and perfect boaters’ access.
While Naples grew slowly in the following decades, the surrounding metro area exploded in population to almost 20-times the city’s size. That’s made for a wealth of quirky local culture, a thriving local art community, and plenty other exciting new diversions …
A City for the Barefoot Millionaire
Some condo markets—like Miami or New York—are all about seeing and being seen … about wearing your condo as a status symbol. In Naples, this couldn’t be further from the truth …
With the feel of a classic tourist town, Naples’ Gulf Coast sports an awe-inspiring ten miles of pristine and perfect beachfront that was voted the country’s best by the Travel Channel back in 2005.
Beyond the beach, you’ll find the other great benefit of this relatively unpopulated paradise—a wealth of great natural areas and parks. Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge are all located nearby. There’s even the historic Naples Zoo, a hallmark of the city for almost a century now.
Naples is also one of Florida’s biggest golfing cities. It’s been home to the LG Championships and a number of other major professional events over the last few years. And you don’t have to be a pro either; the city’s various courses can offer help and challenging new holes for golfers at all levels.
And with a wealth of stylish bistros and outdoor cafes, downtown Naples offers plenty of alternatives to help satisfy your appetite after a long day filled with exciting activities. Or perhaps just after another day of browsing the area’s world-class shops and boutiques?
Any way you look at it, the place is a quiet paradise. And despite its diminutive size, it’s attracted a wealth of widely-known celebrities—from Bill Gates and Larry Bird to Bob Seger, Barbara Walters and more—that you might end up seeing out on the links.
Naples’ Economy: Built to Serve
With such a small local population and such dazzling surroundings, it should come as no surprise that Naples’ local economy is highly dependent on tourism … as well as the rapidly-growing field of ecotourism.
A number of Fortune 1000 companies and smaller businesses have set up shop in the city’s metro area including Health Management Associates, INgage Networks and more. But prohibitively high prices on real estate keep out the majority of big businesses. Virtually all of the city’s top employers include local government agencies and hospitality businesses like the Ritz-Carlton and The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.
But then, the city’s lack of a thriving local economy is part of its appeal to residents. Just 10% of the local population has a child under the age of 18, and a full 42% of Naples is 65 years old or older. So the lack of a busy morning commute … the lack of a metropolitan downtown area—these things are all big benefits to the kind of people who really enjoy Naples.
Luxury Buyers Double Down on Naples’ Delights
Despite years upon years of slow and steady growth, Naples has very clearly joined the recent real estate boom—with home prices soaring an incredible 23% in the year leading up to June 2015.
Overall inventory is dropping and buyers are turning to the area’s fast-growing condo communities for their chance to enjoy the tranquil high life.
Condo developments like Contessa at Bay Colony, Heritage Bay, Marbella and the Golf Crossings all offer a variety of delightful in-house amenities and stellar access to nearby attractions—making each one a great alternative for incoming second-home buyers.
Real Estate is expensive compared to the surrounding area—to be sure—but when compared to alternatives in bigger metro areas like Miami-Dade or New York, Naples’ condo market offers pure paradise for bargain prices.