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.
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.
The Rhodora J. Donahue Academy and the lovely Lake Park are to the north of the town and the Emerson Park residential area is to the north and east. The south extends to include Hampton Village homes, an 80-acre park of commerce, several Del Webb communities and the championship Panther Run Golf Club. Pulte Homes and CC Homes both offer several new home designs in the Hampton Village, Emerson 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, cafés and Scoopz ice cream all with indoor/outdoor seating.
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.
Sights and Attractions at Ave Maria FL
Although the town of Ave Maria near Naples is less than 10 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.
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
Orange Jeep Tours takes full advantage of the natural unspoiled surroundings of Ave Maria.
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.
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!
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