Reasons to Visit Florida’s Newest Hometown Community at Ave Maria

Many longtime residents of Southwest Florida have never heard of Ave Maria, a quaint town situated between Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge on the edge of the Everglades National Park. In fact, it is a delightful community that is growing by leaps and bounds.

Ave Maria’s Town Center

This planned college town was founded in 2005 around the spectacular Ave Maria Oratory Church, which gave the town its name. Ave Maria opened its doors in 2007 and features a central city center, the Town Center, hosting free concerts and events throughout the year. The Town Center includes over 30 shops, restaurants, and services. | Ave Maria Town Center shops and restaurants

Photo courtesy Ave Maria | The beautiful architecture of the Ave Maria Oratory in Ave Maria, Florida

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

On the façade of the Ave Maria Oratory Church building is a 30-foot high Annunciation sculpture depicting the Archangel Gabriel greeting Mary with the words “Ave Marie”. This modern Roman Catholic Church has a steel structure and features many gold statues. It was funded by philanthropist Tom Monaghan, founder of the Domino’s Pizza chain.

Around the plaza, pristine streets are lined with small shops in the town center along with a Publix supermarket. Radiating out from this nucleus to the west you will find the Ave Maria University, a lively catholic university offering a classical liberal arts curriculum.

Ave Maria Catholic University near Naples, FL

Photo courtesy Ave Maria University

The Rhodora J. Donahue K-12 Academy, Lake Park, and North Park are located to the north of the town. The Water Park is within biking distance to the town center as well.  The south extends to include Hampton Village homes, an 80-acre park of commerce, Del Webb Naples and the championship Panther Run Golf Club. Pulte Homes and CC Homes both offer several new home designs in the Avalon Park and Maple Ridge neighborhoods.

Dining Out in Ave Maria

Scattered around the central Annunciation Circle in Ave Maria Town Center you will find a number of restaurants, and cafes including the Pub & Grill of Ave Maria, Avecado’s, Tropical Smoothie, and Gino’s Trattoria.

Shop and Dine in Ave Maria's Town Center (near Naples, FL)

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

The Bean of Ave Maria and Milano’s Pizza are popular with students from the university.

For a healthy lunch, order the smoothie/sandwich combo at the Tropical Smoothie Café. If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, try The Pub and Grille at Ave Maria, which has a friendly atmosphere, excellent ratings and is open 7 days a week. | Outdoor dining Town Center Ave Maria, Florida

Photo courtesy Ave Maria

Sights and Attractions at Ave Maria FL

Although the town of Ave Maria near Naples is just 12 years old, it has become the location for many innovative and successful businesses.

The Panther Run Golf Club course was designed in 2007 by Gordon G. Lewis and is open to the public.

Must Do Visitor Guides | | Panther Run Golf Course Ave Maria - Naples, Florida

Photo courtesy of Ave Maria

It has been recognized by Golf Digest as “One of the Top 50 Golf Courses for Women” and was hailed as a “Top 10 New Public Course 2007” by Golf magazine. As well as offering 18 challenging and scenic holes, Panther Run also has a driving range, pro lessons and a well-stocked golf shop.

Orange Jeep Tours at Ave Maria

COVID-19 UPDATE: Orange Jeep Tours is currently CLOSED.

Orange Jeep Tours takes full advantage of the natural unspoiled surroundings of Ave Maria. | Orange Jeep Tours wildlife eco-tours in Ave Maria, near Naples, Florida.

Photo courtesy Orange Jeep Tours

Hop aboard one of their bright orange jeeps for a 90-minute narrated eco-tour that will leave you breathless as you survey some of the area’s most pristine swamp terrain. Orange Jeep Tour Company is owned by the Collier family whose great-grandfather gave his name to Collier County.

American alligator Orange Jeep Tours eco-tours near Naples in Ave Maria, Florida.

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

The exciting safari-style ride offers visitors the chance to see American alligators, whitetail deer, wild boar and red-shouldered hawks in their natural environment. This educational fun-filled wildlife experience is great for all ages and is listed as one of Trip Advisor’s top-rated tours.

That’s at least 5 great reasons to visit the Ave Maria community, which is a pleasant 36-mile drive from downtown Naples. See you soon!

Written by:

Nita Ettinger is Co-publisher for Siesta Publications Inc. and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed magazines and the website Must Do magazines are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County Chamber of Commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications can be found.