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If you know Florida, you’ll know that it’s full of beautiful spots to visit, but none of them is quite the same as Naples.

A vibrant yet relaxed city on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Naples has become a hub of art, culture, and entertainment in recent years.

From an abundance of golf courses and fine dining spots to family-friendly water sports and white sand beaches, there are plenty of attractions that draw people to this sunny spot in Southwest Florida.

But many activities can cost you quite a lot, and even cheap things to do in Naples can quickly add up.

This is where free attractions come in. There are plenty of free activities in the city, and we’ve put together some of the best to inspire you.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Florida is well known for its large expanses of swamp, and Naples is no different.

The Big Cypress National Preserve covers over 700,000 acres of swamp — the Big Cypress Swamp — in Southern Florida.

It was actually given as a “thank you” to protestors who prevented a massive jetport from being built in the area, which you’ll probably also be happy about when you visit.

The swamp is full of history, which is great to learn about if you decide to take a trip there. It was home to the Calusa, some of the earliest settlers in Florida, and sixteenth-century explorers from Europe traversed the area.

In 1947, it became the first national preserve. Now, it’s home to a diverse range of wildlife and tropical plants ready for you to discover.

As with most swamps, it can get incredibly humid and full of mosquitos, particularly between May and October, when thunderstorms are frequent.

If you want to avoid this, aim to visit between late November and early April, which is usually the dry season. There’s also a greater chance of seeing more wildlife at this time of year, though be aware that it will be busier!

There are several different ways you can explore the swamp, and while entry is free, some of the activities won’t be. If you decide to go canoeing, kayaking, or hiking with a tour guide, you’ll have to pay.

If you’re not used to navigating swamps, it could be a good idea to get a guide to help you.

Not all of the wildlife in the swamp is friendly, and a ranger can help navigate encounters with animals and steer you clear of danger.

Naples Beach

2. Naples Beach

If there’s one thing Florida is famous for (other than the sunshine!), it’s the beaches. When it comes to free stuff to do in Naples, it should be no surprise that going to the beach is on the list.

There are actually several different beaches along the coast of Naples. Each is slightly different and has its own unique character, and they’re all entirely free.

The Beach at Naples Pier

Often considered the main beach in Naples, this soft stretch of white sand is picture-perfect.

Although it’s by the pier, which is an iconic landmark in the area, the beach is surprisingly quiet and secluded almost all year round. If you choose to sit right next to the pier, you can expect a small crowd, but nothing too hectic.

Sit in the sun with an ice cream, enjoy a game of beach volleyball, or take a jog along the sand to see the whole length of the beach.

When the sun starts to dip in the sky, there’s also a perfect sunset viewpoint to enjoy it from.

Lowdermilk Beach

North of downtown Naples is Lowdermilk Beach. The sand is right next to a lush green space where you can enjoy lunch at a picnic table or a BBQ, as well as convenient showers and restrooms.

This is one of the most popular spots to catch the Naples sunset, and you’ll be surrounded by many locals doing the same if you come here in the evening.

Due to the calm water, this is also an ideal spot to paddleboard. Although it’s not free, you can rent one for a small charge at a nearby stand, and you can also rent chairs if you haven’t brought your own.

Clam Pass Beach

A well-known family-friendly beach, Clam Pass has a relaxed atmosphere where you can chill out under the sun without a worry in the world.

Little ones can play in the sand or take a dip in the sea. The small waves and shallow water make it ideal for beginners.

If you love surrounding yourself with wildlife, you’ll also enjoy the 35 acres of wilderness around the area, where you can look for shorebirds and turtles.

The beach itself is over 3,000 feet long and very wide, giving visitors plenty of space to spread out. It’s framed with coastal vegetation and wooden boardwalks, making for the perfect spot for family photos.

There are plenty of amenities so you can relax here all day, including restrooms, a restaurant, and picnic tables.

Barefoot Beach

If you enjoy being surrounded by nature in all its forms, take a day trip down to Barefoot Beach Preserve.

Sprawling over a whopping 342 acres, this spot is full of areas to explore that don’t always include sand or water!

There’s a one-mile stretch of boardwalk off the beach that takes you through an incredible marine forest. Watch out for gopher tortoises, take a walk around the cactus and butterfly gardens, and head to the Learning Center to discover more about the area.

Of course, there’s plenty to enjoy about the beach itself, too.

At over 1.5 miles long, it makes for a lovely, sandy walk. Make your way across the soft white sand enjoy the green sea oats that have grown at the edge of the beach, and wave gently in the breeze.

Laid-back and immersed in nature, it’s a beautiful beach, unlike any other in Naples.

Naples City Pier

3. Naples City Pier

If you’re looking for things to see in Naples, you have to take a trip to Naples City Pier.

This isn’t like the piers in Santa Monica or Santa Cruz. It’s much less busy and quieter, so if you prefer relaxation over rowdiness, it’s ideal.

It’s also full of history, having been built way back in 1888. It was originally an essential part of making Naples a popular place to settle and helped transport tools and supplies from boats onto land.

Now, it’s a much-loved spot for sightseers, stretching out 1,000 feet into the calm sea.

If you enjoy fishing, you’ll be happy to hear you can head out for free. The entire pier has been licensed for fishing making this another great free activity in the area.

For those of you without a keen interest in fishing, take a breezy walk during the day or an evening stroll to watch the sunset.

Remember that the beach around the pier is also on our list of things to see in Naples, so you can spend the whole day in the area without spending a cent.

marco island florida

4. Marco Island Center for the Arts

Art has always had a prominent presence in Naples, though not every activity comes free. One that does, though, is the Marco Island Center for the Arts.

The center has been active since the late sixties and holds various exhibits around visual arts, literature, concerts, and live theater. Their calendar is always evolving, and they are always hosting something new and diverse.

Their galleries feature a range of local talent and international artists. They combine an eclectic group of styles, offering a little of something for everyone to enjoy.

The artists themselves are often in the gallery, too, ready to talk with visitors about their works and articulate their inspiration and techniques. It’s easy to look at art, but understanding it in the way the artist intended isn’t always as simple, making this an invaluable experience.

There are also plenty of seasonal events to enjoy with the whole family. From Halloween workshops to Valentine’s Day exhibits, bring your children along to share in the art.

Collier County Museum

5. Collier County Museum

There are actually five Collier County Museums around the Naples area, including in the Everglades, Roberts Ranch, and, of course, the Government Center where this museum is housed.

The Government Center museum is set on five glorious acres of wild Florida land, making it an impressive spot to visit. The museum explores local history, giving visitors an overview of how the area around them has grown, evolved, and settled to become what it is now.

Travel back in time to when giant sharks swam in the ocean that once swamped the Southwest of Florida and watch as the water slowly seeps away to create a home for the first mastodons.

Discover tools and ceremonial masks used in ancient times and found buried in and around Naples. Learn everything there is to know about the first civilization that settled in the area: the Calusa Indians.

The museum tracks the journey of all of the inhabitants of Southwest Florida throughout time. From little-known wars that changed the shape of our modern-day societies to the incredible journey that the Seminole people took, it gives a real insight into the plight of these people over time.

There’s also a focus on the everyday lives of ancient settlers in Naples that helps you feel closer to them. It certainly wasn’t an easy life on this swamp-ridden land, but it was one full of color and life.

After you’ve made your way through the museum, you’re encouraged to enjoy the surrounding outdoor area. Take a picnic to enjoy in the shady garden and explore what’s on offer outside of the museum walls.

You’ll find a steam engine known as The Deuce, restored Naples cottages that are hundreds of years old, and even a World War II Sherman tank.

As far as free things to do in Naples, this is definitely one of the best.

Naples Depot Museum

6. Naples Depot Museum

If anyone ever asks ‘What is there to do in Naples, Florida?’ it’s a wise idea to mention the Collier Museums!

Another well-loved site is the Naples Depot Museum, which is very different from the Collier County Museum at the Government Center.

Even many Naples locals don’t know how the city became a hub of life and business, but it really began with railroads.

Naples was hidden for many years and overlooked by the developers who were shaping America, until the late 1800s when the railroads came through the area.

The Naples Depot Museum, which is housed in the renovated and restored Seaboard Air Line Railway station, welcomes visitors to learn more about the boom that arrived with the railroads.

You can discover how the railroads caused a huge boom in Southwest Florida during the 1920s and what life was like for locals around that time.

You can see how transportation and technology have shaped Naples and the surrounding areas.

The museum is very interactive and has plenty of interesting antiques to look at, including old canoes, a real mule wagon, and restored rail cars. Walk through the exhibits to watch Naples turn from a slumbering village to the thriving city it is now.

If you enjoy exploring the history of the local area you’re in, you should definitely book a visit to the museum. It’s also on the list of completely free stuff in Naples, which is a bonus.

Everglades Gulf Coast Visitor Center

7. Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center

The Everglades Gulf Coast Visitor Center is a bridge to exploring the Ten Thousand Islands. This is a puzzle of waterways and mangrove islands that makes its way to Flamingo and Florida Bays.

The visitor center is a brilliant place to stop off before your visit.

It’s completely free and has a lot of useful information for your trip. You can view educational displays, orientation films, brochures, and permits that will teach you more about what you need to explore the area and what you can expect.

You can also sign up for boat tours or rent canoes here with plenty of help. These won’t be free, of course, but your trip to the center will be, and it may convince you that it’s worth spending the money to visit the Ten Thousand Islands.

It’s not just information that the center offers, either.

You’ll also find restaurants and stores inside. These can get expensive too, but there’s nothing wrong with browsing a store without buying anything!

If you love the area, you can stay nearby. There are some lodgings available, as well as the much cheaper campgrounds that are more suited to those on a budget.

Also, it’s important to note that there is a fee if you want to do on-the-water activities and enter from the center. This wasn’t always the case, so don’t get caught out.

Bird Gardens of Naples

8. Bird Gardens of Naples

The Bird Gardens of Naples is a non-profit organization set up to raise awareness of parrot welfare and look after the conservation of wild parrots.

The non-profit saves parrots who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or need help for any other reason and gives them a safe place to live.

To raise money for their organization, they offer free tours of their bird gardens in return for small donations. While this is free on paper, it’s always recommended to give something little towards the upkeep of the birds. This doesn’t have to be much if you’re on a budget.

The Bird Gardens of Naples is found at Corkscrew Swamp in their green space.The location is filled with a whole host of fauna, flora, butterflies, and bees – as well as birds!

When you tour the space, you can interact with over one hundred species of birds from around the world.

The experience may encourage you to learn more about the birds on your tour, and your tour guide will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

If the weather is good, you can also visit their massive macaw aviary, where you’ll be able to hold and have photos with the birds, providing you with a valuable keepsake.

The whole tour will last for around two hours, which is incredible considering it’s free. You’ll have a guide to show you around and share information on the birds and other wildlife in the area, giving you a very informative experience.

They also allow you to bring along some unsalted nuts (no peanuts) so that you can feed the birds, which is a lot of fun for both little ones and adults.

As you walk around and meet the birds, you’ll discover that each has its own personality and playful character. Spend time with your favorites, take plenty of pictures, and enjoy the safe haven that’s been created for these beautiful creatures.

Be aware, though, that the Bird Gardens of Naples are incredibly popular, and you need to book before you visit. Try and contact the sanctuary in advance to ensure you secure a slot.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for free things to do in Naples, you really are spoilt for choice!

The city is known for being on the more expensive side of Florida life (9% of its residents are millionaires, after all), but that doesn’t mean you can’t find plenty to do without going over your budget.

Fill your trip with lazy days at the beaches or try a hand at water sports, which is always free if you have your own kit.

Become immersed in culture at the art galleries and museums, and watch live theater at the Arts Center. Travel back in time at the many Collier museums to uncover Naples and Southwest Florida’s rich history and get knee-deep in swamps at the gigantic Big Cypress National Reserve.

Even if you’re not on a budget, all of these are must-see spots that will enrich your time in Naples and guarantee that you fall in love with this serene coastal city.

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