“Sarasota, Sanibel Island & Naples,” by Chelle Koster Walton. 5th edition. The Countryman Press. 335 pages. $19.95.
It’s important to say “5th edition” because Chelle Koster Walton produces and updates travel guides more frequently than she updates her own web pages to tell us about them. She is a marvel of the travel writing profession in skill, flair, and industry. This handsome new edition is informationally dazzling, attractively designed, and thoroughly engaging. I wouldn’t buy any other. While its range and amount of detail at first might seem intimidating, this book is remarkably user-friendly.
Ms. Walton has conceived of a simple plan to contain the wide-ranging materials that her guide to subtropical Southwest Florida gathers together. She begins with several brief introductory sections that give readers an overview of the region and help them find their way around. At conferences, we would call this the orientation session. It’s like getting your feet wet before jumping into the gulf waters. Indeed, the first fifty-page section constitutes an abbreviated guidebook in itself.
Then the fun really begins. Ms. Walton divides the region into four distinct territories: “Sarasota Bay Coast,” “Charlotte Harbor Coast,” “Sanibel Island & the Fort Myers Coast,” and “Naples & the South Coast.” Readers can travel with her from north to south, or they can jump to their territory of interest. In each of these four chapters, the author strives to make cultural and life-style distinctions that are serviceable to travelers, her principal audience; but they are equally serviceable to people looking for a second home, a retirement home, or simply a place to move and raise a family.
Each of these four central chapters is launched with a map and an overview, followed by the listings of places of interest. Ms. Walton emphasizes the special flavor of various communities, places of architectural and historical interest, destinations for families with kids, outdoor facilities and activities, and the expected array of lodgings and restaurants. Her selections and descriptions are ample, clear, and thoughtful. Some are even surprising.
Throughout, the author uses graphic symbols to indicate the special features of an entry: places that specialize in weddings, places she considers as providing special value, places that accept pets, places of special appeal to kids, and those that provide handicapped access and wireless internet access.
Are you interested in live theater? Historic monuments? Boating? Shelling? Nightlife? Specialty restaurants and shopping? Art galleries and museums? Chelle Koster Walton will help you find what you are looking for, assess it, and get you there. Each entry not only provides the expected telephone number, but also gives the internet address that will lead to more information.
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the Fort Myers Florida Weekly for February 23, 2011 and the Naples Florida Weekly for March 3, click here: Florida Weekly – Chelle Koster Walton.