You'd be hard-pressed to find fresher seafood than the varieties of crabs, shrimp and fish caught off the coast of Southwest Florida.
Home to picturesque shorelines, pristine beaches and coastal towns with a seriously foodie flair, this unique part of Florida will make you quickly fall in love with its tastes and culture. To experience all it has to offer, take a drive along the beautiful Gulf Coast, stopping to discover the craft beer, sensational seafood and incredible restaurants owned by chefs who call this area home.
Day 1: Naples Area
Enjoy fresh-caught seafood with great views at the Old Naples Waterfront, where sunshine glints on waterways and tin roofs. Mid-October through mid-May, indulge in succulent stone crabs served warm with melted butter or chilled with tangy remoulade.
Sample local fish such as grouper, snapper and mahi mahi at waterfront restaurants including Pinchers Crab Shack. In Naples’ chic shopping district, Osteria Tulia on Fifth Avenue South serves hip Italian gastropub fare featuring ingredients from local, organic Collier Family Farms.
Platter of stone crab claws in Naples
Day 2: Fort Myers-Sanibel Area
Arrive by boat to dine at Cabbage Key and enjoy stone crab and pink gold shrimp along with a panoramic view of Pine Island Sound. Reserve a spot at the popular Sweet Melissa’s Café for an elegant mix of local seafood and produce (critics love the fish stew).
Pair a meal with locally made beverages from the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery or one of the many craft breweries. A pint of Endless Summer Pale Ale from the tasting room at Point Ybel Brewing Company, in south Fort Myers, sounds just right for a warm Florida day. For a sweet ending, visit the Norman Love Chocolate Salon.
Day 3: Punta Gorda Area
Stroll through a farmers' market or paddle in the pristine Charlotte Harbor area on your next stop to Punta Gorda. Reward your effort with a waterfront meal at Farlow’s (try the fresh black grouper “burger”) or Beach Road Wine Bar + Bistro, where the baby kale in the grilled salad is locally grown.
Go upscale with a reservation at The Perfect Caper, where mozzarella, pâté and other touches are house-made. End the day with a local microbrew from the Fat Point Brewing tap room or a scoop of homemade ice cream from Cubby’s.
An artfully presented meal in Punta Gorda
Day 4: Sarasota Area
Chef-owned restaurants shine here (Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week is a great time to try them). Off the beaten track, discover the Amish community of Pinecraft, where family-run restaurants serve hearty meals, homemade breads with apple butter, and from-scratch pies.
Follow the area’s Farm to Fork Agriculture Guide to farmers markets, farm tours and you-pick fields. Visit local microbreweries, such as JDub’s Brewing Company and Big Top Brewing Company. Sip artisanal Siesta Key Spiced Rum after spending the day on Siesta Beach, ranked best in the USA by TripAdvisor, or at secluded Casey Key, nearby.