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Bleu Provence in Naples.
Bleu Provence in Naples. / Sharon Kenny/Special to The News-Press

Although it’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Naples, many people who’ve lived here for years aren’t familiar with Crayton Cove. What I like about this area is that it has more of a small-town feel than some of the well-known commercial areas in town.

And it’s always entertaining to walk along the City Dock for a view over Naples Bay and to look at all the interesting boats moored here from around the country.

Crayton Cove, a small inlet off Naples Bay, was the center of the Naples fishing industry in the 1920s and is still home to many charter fishing boats. If you look at a map, Crayton Cove sits directly east of The Naples Pier, but with a couple of busy roads, a parking lot and Tommy Bahama’s restaurant in the way, there is no longer any obvious connection between these two oldest areas of Naples.

That’s a shame because it’s a pleasant eight-block stroll from the tip of the Pier on the Gulf of Mexico to the boardwalks of the City Dock on Naples Bay. The tall flagpole in the center of the street roundabout at 12th Avenue South and 8th Street South is the landmark at the heart of the district.

In the past few years Crayton Cove has changed from primarily servicing the boaters at the City Dock to a more eclectic mix of restaurants, galleries and unique stores, though the Naples Ships Store and Napoli on the Bay Pizza are still here.

Leading the change was Bleu Provence, one of the most popular, internationally known restaurants in Naples. A major expansion and moving the entrance from the back alley to the front street instantly spilled hundreds of restaurant patrons every night out onto the street.

Last year the owners opened a wine store, Bleu Cellar, next door, and scattered French bistro tables along the sidewalk. Now the scene of weekly wine tastings and parties, the brightness and life in this formerly dark corner has been invigorating for the other businesses in the area.

First, well-known Naples artists Phil Fisher and his wife, fellow artist Nancy Guess moved their gallery here from Fifth Avenue, and just last year, painter Paul Arsenault opened his gallery across the street.

Gallery nights bring art lovers to the street every month for live music and events.

The oldest restaurant in Crayton Cove is The Dock. It sits at the base of the City Dock and is the kind of old waterfront restaurant that people identify with Florida. It is the epicenter of the wild Great Dock Canoe Race every May.

Chez Boet, the third restaurant in the area, has a French bistro-style menu with a Moroccan touch.

Bleu Provence, 1234 8th St. South, 239-261-8239. bleuprovencenaples.com

The Dock at Crayton Cove, 845 12th Avenue South, 239-263-9940. dockcraytoncove.com

Chez Boet, 755 12th Avenue South, 239-643-6177. chezboetnaples.com

Napoli on the Bay Pizza, 820 12th Avenue South, 239-649-7337

Phil Fisher Gallery, 810 12th Ave South, 239-403-8383. philfisherfineart.com

Arsenault Gallery, 764 12th Avenue South, 239-263-1214. arsenaultgallery.com

Naples Ships Store, 830 12th Avenue South, 239-649-0899. naplesshipsstore.com

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