Ahhh… Vanderbilt, such a special area. Its beach boasts bright white sand so fine it’s like sugar underfoot. Sunsets that range from ethereal to explosive. The shore birds a never ending source of amazement. The beach and bay separated by an intimate two-lane road named Gulf Shore Drive. Bay front residents simply walk across the street to their designated path to reach the beach. Living on the Gulf of Mexico means up close and personal with the sea. Every building wedded to the gentle waves built directly on the sand with a modest buffer for most buildings that consist of salt hardy plantings that help weather the coastal tides. One sidewalk along the west side of the Drive insures familiarity with ones neighbors. Vanderbilt lovers hold fast to Vanderbilt’s beauty, simplicity, and intimacy.
In 1948 some 1.6 miles of tangled mangrove forest still separated access to Vanderbilt beach from the one road that traveled alongside the coast- known today as the U.S. 41 or the Tamiami Trail.
Picture two determined men straddling the gnarly mangrove’s roots hanging tight to the branches overhead through the swampy landscape to chart just where a road needed to be built to access this special stretch of sand and sea.
A deal was first struck with Wiley Daniels (one of the two men who trekked through the mangroves): to build the road to reach this beach. Daniels was really a ship builder and his methods quickly failed. Picture digging and water percolating right back up. Enter the more experienced J.W.Conners and Sons. Soon his outfit would sculpt out the lagoon to offer fourteen finger streets on the east side of the bay and 3 on the west side. Today, after his namesake, known as Conner’s Beach Estates or, more simply, called “Conner’s”.
Legend has it that the founding Father of Naples at large, Barron Collier, had written the word Vanderbilt on his original unrecorded plat. Collier lived close to a descendent of the wealthy Vanderbilt family from R.I. back in NY and they socialized in the same circles- a likely connection but Collier deceased before their business together to develop the Vanderbilt area was verified. Still the name stuck.
Development lumbered along like much of Naples, FL, with the first condos and inns that appeared on the beach and bay as well as the ranch homes of yesteryear on the fingered canals. Many of those original homes torn down or headed for the wrecking ball today as new three story waterfront estates take their place.
Flash to 1985 when a little known company announced to the world that it would build a luxury beach hotel to anchor the south end of Vanderbilt Beach. The hotel stands today as one of the most celebrated of all along Naples coast- The five star Ritz Carlton Beach and Spa.
Today, the Ritz Carlton heralds your arrival down Vanderbilt Beach Road as you approach one of the most laid back and lovely beaches on our coast. An American Flag waves proudly to greet you to the first public beach adjacent to The Ritz. Think off the charts coastal chic meets down home, intimate Vanderbilt. It’s a juxtaposition that was written in the sand.
Vanderbilt’s Gulf Shore Drive parallels the Gulf extending about 1 mile north to the award winning Delnor Wiggins State Beach Park adjacent to the areas delightful peninsula formally known as Baker- Carroll Point. The peninsula often referred to as “Bluebill”- the name of the Avenue that extends onto it.
By 2005, a beautiful luxury high rise was completed at the north end of Gulf Shore Drive, The Beach Tower at Moraya Bay. Its completion marked the grand finale to nearly 60 years of development along Gulf Shore Drive.
Today, Vanderbilt Beach offers a delightful mixture of beach and bay front condos on Gulf Shore Drive. The majority of buildings are low density mid-rises (4-7 stories). Here the high rises that were erected stand no more than 16 stories tall with a devoted voluntary Vanderbilt Beach Residents Association that diligently monitors the desire to protect the beauty of Vanderbilt’s smaller scale and quality of life.
Add an exciting selection of condos on the peninsula that extends north onto Bluebill Avenue. One condo association in all found its way to the east side of the bay as well as five luxury town homes. A few condos hold up the south end of the bay off a small side street. Two time shares staked their claim: one 15-unit time share on the Gulf and another larger that boasts a building on the beach and bay. In 1999, construction began on a luxury bay resort known as Regatta located at the southernmost end of Vanderbilt Bay and directly across from The Ritz.
The single family homes are found on both sides of Vanderbilt Bay with the majority sited on its east side a nice walk or easy bike ride to the beach. Three coveted streets in all are situated on the west or beach side of the bay. Here you can walk to the beach with ease which explains its higher price points. 13 beachfront homes in all grace Gulf Shore Drive commanding, of course, the highest prices of all.
La Playa Beach Hotel and Beach Resort kept pace with development transforming itself from a 98 room inn on the beach midway on Gulf Shore Drive to the world class destination today including its own golf course, now, just a few miles away. The Lighthouse Inn stands as a beacon to Olde Florida fun. The historical Vanderbilt Beach Resort maintains its prominent beach front location adjoined to the treasured “toes in the sand” dining at The Turtle Club. Numerous other eateries in the area keep life delicious like exquisite Baleen’s at La Playa or Gumbo Limbo’s bar and grill at The Ritz and more. An eclectic collection of beach stores anchor the south end near the entrance to Vanderbilt Beach where you can grab today’s paper, water, suntan lotion and treats.
Wiggins Pass provides access to the Gulf for boaters– anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes north depending on your location with one bridge to navigate just before the peninsula with a height clearance of approximately 19’. Alternately boater’s can enjoy the riot of fish and fowl found throughout the back-bay waters that meander all the way to Matanzas Pass in Fort Myers. Naples waters are shallow generally with a draft not to safely exceed 3 ft in the Vanderbilt waters.
In 2007, the first ever attempted upscale commercial/condominium complex in Naples was released located just a couple of miles from the residents of Vanderbilt. So successful, now, that it has earned the entire area the new title “Uptown”. Brimming with excitement, from live music and dancing at “The Blue”- the Blue Martini to organic delights at Whole Foods, yummy fine dining, boutiques, and a state of the art cinema named Silverspot. The list of excitement nearby goes on from free movie nights on the lawn, outdoor concerts, art festivals and more.
This website is dedicated to helping you find your way to your own piece of paradise in the Vanderbilt area – a treasured coastal community on the Gulf of Mexico in Naples, FL. I am at your service ready to assist. I hope to hear from you.