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Oct 16

The History of Vanderbilt Beach

Located just three miles North of Naples, Vanderbilt Beach is one of the most popular Gulf beaches extending from Delnor Wiggins State Park to the public beach entrance. Its glamorous name belies its more humble origins.

In the 1950s this pristine strip of paradise was comprised mainly of scrub oak with mangrove stands and lagoons fronting the spectacular Gulf waters. J. B. Connors, a road builder from Tampa, saw the potential for the area, and completed development in 1959. At the time he started the platting process, the only occupants were itinerant farmers and the occasional occupants of a fish camp to the North.

Connors chose the name “Vanderbilt Beach” as a marketing gimmick to convey the impression of wealth and prestige for the newly minted development. His dream of a deed-restricted community with parks, open areas, easy water access for the families who inhabited the development is still in effect today. To preserve his vision, he helped create the Vanderbilt Beach Property Owners Association, which owns the responsibility for protecting deed restrictions.

The first property owners in the early 60s reveled in a lifestyle that included easy rides to the beach, hayrides, cookouts and organized water activities, such as sailing and fishing. The late 1970s building boom ushered in condominiums for full and part-time residents as well as the development of a small commercial section on the corner of Gulf Shore Drive and Vanderbilt Beach Road. Today, many of the original homes have been torn down to make way for a wide range of architectural home styles and sizes. Planned developments such as the Regatta, Moraya Bay and Connors estates have extended the neighborhood even farther and have established Vanderbilt Beach as one of the top ocean front luxury communities in Southwest Florida.

Ideal for long beach walks, the sugary sands of Vanderbilt Beach are flat, and well-maintained. Despite the spectacular tropical scenery, you can still easily access restaurants and convenience stores from the beachfront restaurant and bar at the Ritz Carlton Beach Hotel to the famed Turtle Club to the North. Cabana Dan’s on the beach sells snacks, beverages and rents beach equipment. Beach parking is available in a 340-space garage located just west of the Ritz Carlton hotel and just a few steps from the beach.

From wilderness to its position as one of the most popular Gulf attractions, Vanderbilt Beach has earned its luxe name while fulfilling J.B. Connors’ original vision.

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