Historically, Naples, Florida is  not the first destination that comes to mind when considering a gay Florida getaway. But this sleepy beach town might now surprise you. While Naples isn’t visually brimming with burly bears or lipsticks lesbians, Naples is the perfect place to enjoy a touch of LGBTQ nightlife with a never-ending list of things to do, places to eat and opportunities to relax.

Naples, Marco Island, Everglades (Florida’s Paradise Coast) Visitor’s Bureau

Although the Naples region has traditionally catered to high-income, straight, retired couples and senior travelers, the demographic is changing. Naples is more LGBTQ-welcoming than ever before. While there are several reasons for the shift in inclusivity, including Naples Pride, marketing efforts taken by the regions’s Visitor’s Bureau  are creating a positive impact. And we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight our favorite LGBTQ ally and Visitor’s Bureau Tourism Sales Assistant, Michelle Pirre.

A proud ally and mother of an LGBTQ child, Pirre is involved in nearly every Naples LGBTQ organization. She also travels to global LGBTQ travel conferences, statewide pride festivals, and has met with dozens of LGBTQ leaders and influencers to put Naples on the map as an LGBTQ-friendly place to visit.

Selfie. Left to Right: Michelle Pirre (Visitor’s Bureau Tourism Sales Assistant), Margaret Covello (my wife), Rachel Covello (me). Photo captured at Hampton Social in Naples, Florida. #roseallday

Where to Stay

There are several hotels and resort accomodations in and around the Naples region, but tucked away along Gulf Blvd N is the beautiful Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, our OutCoast pick for LGBTQ-friendly and relaxed luxury accommodations. This property caters to everyone, LGBTQ guests included.

Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
Photos Provided by the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club

Dating to the Victorian era, this beachfront hotel is comprised of six buildings and the only Naples property with both beachfront and golf course access. If you never leave this 125-acre tropical paradise, you won’t run out of things to do. With 319 guest rooms and suites, a wealth of recreational amenities, and 34,000 sq. ft. of meeting/function space, this Four Diamond beachfront resort has it all. But if you do decide to venture away, you’ll find yourself within minutes of Naples’ acclaimed landmarks and sites.

Make sure to visit the Naples Spa for one of many standard treatments, or indulge in a seasonal speciality. The spa’s trained therapists provide a full range of indulgent treatments to help you experience the pleasures of personal well-being. Treat yourself to it all, from Naples’ best massage and soothing skin treatments to age-defying facials. The Naples Spa also includes a full-service salon for professional beauty services, including shampoo & styling, manicures & pedicures, make-up application and makeovers.

Naples Spa and Fitness Lobby. Photo by Rachel Covello

While visiting this property with my wife over the holidays, I had the pleasure of enjoying a pumpkin massage with pumpkin oils. The seasonal smells were intoxicating and my body felt drunk with relaxation for the remainder of the day.

And don’t leave the property without dining at HB’s on the Gulf, the hotels’ signature restaurant and Naples’ only beachfront restaurant. HB’s serves breathtaking views, fresh regional seafood and mouth-watering specials for lunch and dinner daily – indoors and al fresco. It is truly one of the finest of all Naples restaurants. My favorite dish was the Black Grouper with “Tabbouleh Style Couscous, Marinated Cucumber Relish Tomatoes, and Citron Beurre Blanc.” Don’t think twice. Order this dish! Also try the Grilled Flatbread, Scallops and Chocolate Terrine. #moanworthy

LGBTQ Nightlife and Dining Out

Bambusa’s Bar & Grill

Bambusa’s Bar & Grill is the designated LGBTQ hot spot in Naples. It’s the obvious choice in town to see drag shows, connect with LGBTQ locals and enjoy a mix of entertainment and events, but this isn’t your typical gay bar with subpar bar food. The Bambusa menu alone is worth the visit!

Everything we sampled was delicious. From the Butternut Ravioli to the Sesame Seared Tuna and the Salmon, to the Tortellacci, not a morsel was left behind. The drinks were delicious, too.

Bambusa also offers several event services, including catering, private parties and dinner parties.

CAVO Lounge

CAVO Lounge is another LGBTQ-friendly hot spot in Naples. According to their website, “CAVO Lounge is the finest upscale restaurant and lounge in all of Naples. With an elegant lounge environment and a unique culinary experience.” We couldn’t agree more. This is the hottest nightclub in all of southwest Florida with a 5-Star rated menu.

Although not an LGBTQ-specific club or bar, CAVO is host to several LGBTQ events and patrons. CAVO has sponsored and held fundraisers for LGBTQ organizations around the region, like Naples Pride. And on every third Sunday, from 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM, they host a Tea Dance and Drag Brunch Party.

CAVO features hand crafted cocktails, culinary delights (including incredible fresh seafood – try the cobia), nightly specials and live entertainment. Happy Hour is seven days a week from 3:30 PM until 8 PM and Friday nights from 10 PM to 11 PM.

Things to Do

With award-winning beaches, fishing, boating & Everglades adventures, live theater & music, museums, art galleries & historic sites, an incredible craft beer & foodie dining scene, relaxing spas & world-class shopping, championship golf courses, affordable resorts & hotels – Naples has something for everyone.

Shopping

5th Ave

Head to 5th Ave for a shop-til-you-drop experience. This “Main Street” of downtown Naples is lined with a mix of stores (both chains and boutiques) that caters to every budget, age and lifestyle. Our suggestions? Pick up a $5-$30 trinket at Best of Everything. The assortments of sterling silver and fashion jewelry is broad and deep. Handbags, scarves, hair accessories, sunglasses, gifts and plush toys are beautifully presented in the extraordinarily attractive store.

Then head over to Gallery One for both an art and shopping experience. One of Naples’ oldest established art galleries, Gallery One has been showcasing fine quality Contemporary Art and Unique American Crafts since 1992. With more than 300 artists represented, eye catching displays feature an extensive and diverse selection of colorful art glass, sculpture, original paintings, artesian jewelry, ‘Frogman’ bronze frogs and Judaica.

Naples 5th Ave, Photo by Rachel Covello
Sticks and Stones Collection

When you’re done walking around downtown, head to Sticks and Stones Collection at 5857 Shirley St, Naples Fl 34109 in Naples. This LGBTQ-owned store is packed with natural home decor and furniture, live edge and teak root tables, sculptures and wall decor, petrified wood, quartz crystals, fossils and other mineral accessories. These one-of-a-kind pieces are collected from around the world and brought to Naples to decorate homes and hotels throughout the region. Attention designers – this is a store worth visiting! Owner Cori Craciun is also the President of Naples Pride.

Tin City

Tin City Waterfront Marketplace in Historic downtown Naples, FL is the original shopping sensation and home to three unique buildings with a waterfront boardwalk full of activity, more then 30 charming boutiques, 2 waterfront restaurants and a variety of water adventures including daily sightseeing cruises, fishing charters, jet boat thrill rides and more!

 

Naples Pride

The mission of Naples Pride is “to unite and empower the LGBTQ community of Collier County and to provide emergency support for those in crisis.” The Naples Pride Festival is held during the first weekend in June. Entering into their 4th Festival season, this celebration has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to a dedicated board of activists and leaders. Since 2017, this “all-inclusive annual festival draws thousands of people together to celebrate the unity and diversity of the LGBT community and to promote equal rights for all.” And it’s family friendly, too. With a non-stop program of entertainers, speakers, musicians, performers, vendors, exhibitors, kid’s activities, food and beverages, a day of fun and celebration is provided for all.

Photo provided by Naples Pride

Naples Pride does more than host an annual Pride Festival. The 501(C)3 organization provides emergency funding, counseling resources and housing assistance to LGBTQ community members in need. Other programs focus on wellness, employment, social activities, legal, advocacy and providing LGBTQ-inclusive resources to area residents.

Arts and Museums

If you are interested in a bit of culture, head to Artis-Naples, home to the Naples Philharmonic and The Baker Museum. This three-story facility was formerly the Naples Museum of Art.

If history is your thing, visit the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center or visit Palm Cottage. Built in 1895, it is the oldest house currently standing in Naples inside of which is a museum inside.

Outdoor Experiences

Naples Botanical Gardens

While the Naples region is known for the Everglades and golfing, nothing is more magical than the Naples Botanical Garden. According to Trip Advisor, Naples Botanical Garden is “a 170-acre world-class garden paradise that features the plants and cultures of the tropics and subtropics. A hands-on interactive Children’s Garden along with 90 acres of beautifully restored natural habitats, walking trails and a Butterfly Garden offer educational entertainment and enjoyment for people of all ages.

Offshore Fishing

For offshore fishing adventures, head back to Tin City and sign up for a Pure Florida Deep Sea Fishing Adventure. We attempted to go out the day we were there, and almost made it 15 miles off the coast to catch some fish, but due to bad storms, we were called back in to shore. Safety first!

Beaches

Two of the best beaches in Naples are Vanderbilt Beach, where you can see loggerhead sea turtles every summer, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, which offers some of the most pristine stretches of beach in the state for tourists and locals to enjoy. But all of the beaches along the Naples coastline include serene sunsets and crystal blue waters.

Hotel guests watch the sunset from the Sunset Bar at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Resort. Photo by Rachel Covello
Naples Zoo at Carribean Gardens

Naples Zoo is a nationally accredited zoo in a tropical setting. Visit some of your favorite animals like lions, giraffes, monkeys, pythons, and bears. In addition, the Zoo is host to feature exhibits and an array of more rarely seen creatures like the fosa of Madagascar or a giant anteater. Combining conservation and recreation, Naples Zoo offers fun for every generation.

The Recap

We’ll admit that we were skeptical, at first, about writing a Gay Florida Travel experience review on Naples. But the food, sunsets, accommodations and LGBTQ-owned and managed restaurants were enough to convince us to return over and over again. If you’re looking for relaxation, romance or a recreation, look no further than Naples, Florida. For more information on Naples, visit the Paradise Coast Visitor’s Bureau website.