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Beyond the Beaches: A Guide to Naples Historical Museums

When you stay in Naples Florida, the sand, the surf, and the golf courses for which Naples is renowned are just a short ways from your door.

But there’s much more to Naples than beautiful beaches. Chances are you want to get some insight into the history of Naples and Southwest Florida — a region with a fascinating past. For many years reachable only by boat, Naples was originally of interest to adventurous fisherman and sportsmen. When the railroad was built in the 1920s, development began that put Naples on the path to becoming a vacation paradise.

Here are some of our favorite places to visit for a glimpse into Naples’ history — from the Stone Age to the Roaring 20s. You’ll find everything from interactive adventures for the whole family to  rare artifacts for the history buffs.

Start with the Naples Historical Society. The Society’s 1895 Palm Cottage on 12th Avenue South in downtown Naples is a wonderful way to see Naples as the “sportsman’s paradise” it was at the turn of the last century. The Society offers guided tours of the cottage, the adjoining Norris Gardens, and the entire Naples Historic District.

For a lighter look at Naples history, combined with shopping and dining, visit the Old Naples Waterfront. You’ll find historical displays in Tin City and Bayfront as well as along the pedestrian walkway that runs beneath the Gordon River Bridge.

The five Collier County Museums include two in Naples and three others just a short drive out of town:

  • The Naples Depot Museum — On Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples, it shares space with the excellent Naples Train Museum. The Depot Museum is also the site of the annual Antique Auto Show hosted by the Naples-Marco Island Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America — this year’s date is March 22, 2014.
  • The Collier County Museum — The museum property on Tamiami Trail East has something for everyone, from a Seminole War Fort to the Craigshead Garden, with 150 varieties of native Florida plants. If you plan to be in Naples in March this year, don’t miss the 2014 Old Florida Festival March 8-9 at the museum. It features historic displays and re-enactments, plus demonstrations of broom-making, net-making, telegraph operation, soap-making, leather-smithing, and more.
  • The Immokalee Pioneer Museum — 44 miles east of Naples, this is a “living history” museum on the longest-running ranch in South Florida.
  • The Marco Island Historical Museum — This new museum hosts a range of exhibits, including a presentation about the vanished Calusa Indians.
  • The Museum of the Everglades — Just 35 miles south of Naples in Everglades City, this restored 1920s-era building has permanent and visiting exhibits of photography, artwork, and historical materials — all focusing on the Everglades.
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