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Best Places to Retire

Where to Retire If You Love the Outdoors

10 places to swim, hike, ski, fish and soak in the scenery

Naples, Florida is a nature lovers resort for retirees

One of the many beaches to explore and enjoy in and around Naples, Fla. — Fred Seib/Aurora

Naples, Florida

Naples is the embodiment of the Florida retirement dream: Pleasant winters, beaches galore, most golf holes per resident in the U.S. and tanned, wealthy retirees noshing away in sidewalk cafes and fine restaurants.

See also: Best places to retire abroad.

The beaches are city parks, which means all have showers and restrooms and some have concession stands, boat launches, bait shops, kiddie parks, picnic tables and pavilions. It also means they have rules (for example, no glass bottles or dogs on the beach, permit or metered parking only, etc.) and some residents happily act as self-appointed enforcers.

For more untamed nature, the swampy wilds of Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park start within an hour's drive.  

This metro area of 321,500 people is defined by Collier County, where most people live in subdivisions. These range from gated executive communities to trailer parks. The cities of Naples (population 19,537) and Marco Island (16,413) are the city's historic and touristic centers; inland is the newer City of Golden Gate (23,000) and east of that is Immokalee (20,000), which is cheaper, hotter and buggier.

The recession pummeled Naples. Unemployment stood at 11.4 percent in September 2011. When the housing crash turned into a recession, foreclosures spiked. Home prices are plummeting now but the cost of living remains the highest in Florida. Of course, this is also a chosen spot for the lucky few who commute to high-paying jobs by walking out onto their patios with a cellphone and laptop. The proportion of workers who are self-employed here is very high.

For culture, the Naples Players is a fine community theater, and the local symphony and art museum are based at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. The center also hosts entertainment of a mainstream sort (recent performers have included Paul Anka, Tom Jones and a traveling production of Legally Blonde) that reflects the area's older, wealthy demographic: Over 42 percent of residents are over age 65.

For sports fans, the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox hold spring training within a 30-minute drive, and have minor league squads playing in the Gulf Coast League.

The air in Naples is some of the cleanest in the country; the city has one of the nation's lowest levels of atmospheric ozone — and one of the highest life expectancies (80.97 years). That may be due to the area's low obesity rate, or the fact that locals are unlikely to smoke and are likely to exercise regularly and eat healthy. People here are also likely to say that they get the emotional support they need, and that they are satisfied with life.

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