Home of ritzy island enclaves, snowbird cultural seasons, and, uh, a clown college, this part of Florida  is somewhat notorious for being off-limits to those without the funds to afford it. The white-sand beaches of the southern Gulf coast are renowned for their beauty, and its coastal towns are dotted with mansions and exclusive residences.
Nonetheless, there’s a surprising amount of wild Florida to be found here, and an equally interesting number of unique and easy-on-the-pocketbook lodging options. The theaters and galleries throughout the area are evidence of the money that abounds, but they are all quite accessible.
You can easily spend your days along the south Gulf coast without ever letting your toes emerge from the soft white sands of the many gorgeous and award-winning beaches, but just a few miles to the east is one of Florida’s defining natural features, the Everglades , which provides as good a reason as any to get those sandy feet a little muddy.
One of the main access points to the Glades is just southwest of Naples , and while the city’s champagne brunches and tony art galleries may not appeal to most swamp rats, it does provide a great jumping-off point for a voyage into the River of Grass.
If gator-watching and mangrove-navigating proves to be too primitive, the upscale and friendly beach towns on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva  combine substantial amounts of unspoiled natural beauty with fine dining options and luxe accommodations, while Fort Myers Beach  is a picture-perfect vision of a scruffy oceanfront village.
Further north is Sarasota , and despite the insistence of Naples  gallery owners, it is the cultural hub of the south Gulf coast, with excellent museums and performance halls as well as a substantial number of excellent beaches.