Are you looking for a tropical break in south Florida this year? You’re in luck because there are several activities available on Marco Island in southwest Florida, regardless of the type of vacation you want!
Sun-drenched Marco Island, Florida, is the biggest barrier island in the Ten Thousand Islands region. This is because it stretches from Marco Island to Cape Sable in southwest Florida.
Though smaller than famous Naples to the north, Marco Island packs a lot into its 24 square miles, including six miles of gorgeous beaches, over 100 miles of canals, and some of Florida’s most stunning (and well-preserved) natural regions.
Due to its excellent position between Naples and the Florida Everglades, there is much to see and do throughout the year.
Therefore, whether you’re seeking nature, excellent shopping, fresh Florida seafood, year-round outdoor activities, or planning a great Florida road trip this year, start preparing for your journey to paradise.
Where in Florida is Marco Island?
Florida’s southwest Marco Island, located 99 miles south of Naples on Florida’s Paradise Coast, is the biggest of the Ten Thousand Islands (though there are actually just a few hundred). It’s a fisherman’s and a nature lover’s dream come true.
Marco Island, with 24 square miles, is smaller than Naples, its northern neighbor. Despite this, there is much to do here. From paddling the area’s more than 100 miles of canals to combing the six miles of stunning sun-drenched beaches to visiting some of Florida’s best-preserved natural regions.
With its unique location between Naples and the Everglades, Marco Island offers a year-round variety of activities. Additionally, you can turn left into Naples for livelier downtown shopping and restaurants, or right into the Florida Everglades’ aquatic wildness.
Therefore, whether you’re searching for relaxing beach time, fantastic shopping and dining, learning about the natural world, boating, or eating some fresh Florida seafood, begin packing for your journey to paradise on Marco Island!
Look for bottlenose dolphins.
Join marine biologists on board the Dolphin Explorer for a three-hour eco-tour and become a “citizen scientist.”
Captain Chris and his team are out on the water twice daily to document the dolphin population’s activities and habits.
It’s an excellent pastime for children on Marco Island since they may assist in completing a nature survey while also observing bottlenose dolphins. What’s the best part? You get to name a new dolphin if you discover one!
Marco Island’s South Beach
Florida is, in many ways, a beach state, and Marco Island is no exception to that age-old norm.
Marco Island is a beachgoer’s paradise, with gorgeous stretches of dazzling white sand and endless gulf views; South Marco Island Beach on South Collier Boulevard is one of the most convenient public beaches in the area.
The beach is famous for its diversity of shells and nearby accommodation, food, and leisure opportunities. You’ll also find that dolphins frequently frolic in the waves just offshore. The beach is around an acre in size and is also an excellent location for watching a Florida sunset.
Marco Island Seafood & Music Festival
Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival is one of the most popular events in the area, taking place the third week of March.
Countless rows of merchants will be offering fresh fish in ways you never dreamt imaginable. There will also be plenty of non-seafood alternatives for those who want them.
It’s a family-friendly festival with arts and crafts, children’s activities, and cooking competitions. The event attracts a diverse population, with many attendees returning year after year.
Keewaydin Island is a barrier island off the coast of Naples. It is home to various species, including wild boar, white-tailed deer, bobcats, iguanas, and the gopher tortoise. Additionally, the island is a popular nesting location for loggerhead turtles.
The island is untamed, with no vehicles, roads, bridges, and dirt paths connecting private docks to private residences. Visitors may enjoy a pristine, natural habitat since the natural beauty has been preserved to a significant extent.
The public beach is an excellent location for a picnic. Don’t forget to include a burger from the neighborhood burger barge, which sells sandwiches and cool beverages on the sand. To reach the island, tourists must rent a boat, join a tour, or go with a private boat owner.
Marco Island Boat Tours, Marco Island, Florida
Marco Island Boat Tours is an educational tour company that specializes in tours of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Everglades National Park, and other protected places. The firm is unique because all of its guides are environmental educators and Master Naturalists certified in Florida.
The firm provides many tour choices, the most popular of which is the Family Beach Half Day Tour, which takes tourists on a 4-hour journey to discover the Ten Thousand Islands’ varied sides. Additionally, the tour includes a naturalist-led boat tour that educates tourists about the area’s indigenous animals, beach time for shelling and swimming, and family-friendly fishing.
Marco Island Brewery
On North Collier Boulevard, Marco Island Brewery is a popular dining and drinking location for people with empty stomachs, dry throats, and a desire to escape the strong Florida heat.
The brewery serves a few delectable beers that they brew on-site. Additionally, there are several well-known brands from faraway places.
Their menu includes typical bar favorites like burgers and sandwiches and plenty of fresh Florida seafood.
Additionally, the brewery is one of the largest sports pubs on the island and is a popular gathering spot for football and baseball fans throughout their respective seasons.
Breakwater Adventures is located on Marco Island’s Collier Court. Unlike many other tour operators, they provide various customizable options to meet their clients’ requirements and interests.
Their animal viewing trips are among their most popular and frequently feature views of dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles, depending on the season.
Additionally, Breakwater offers private trips that involve waterskiing, wakeboarding, and shelling along tranquil stretches of isolated beaches.
While some of their more adrenaline-fueled trips are not suited for little children, they do offer many that are. For more information, visit their website.
National Shell Museum Bailey-Matthews
The Bailey-Matthew National Shell Museum is located on Captiva Road in Sanibel, and for many visitors, it is one of the highlights of their visit to the Florida coast.
Sanibel and Marco Islands are the starting point for the state’s ardent shell collectors. For those who lack the time or inclination to search the coastlines independently, there is no better location to gain a unique perspective on the area’s shells than the museum.
Along with the exhibits, the museum’s staff offers a range of guided activities and an introductory lecture by a resident scientist.
The displays are nothing short of spectacular, and entry is reasonably priced.
The Marco Island Princess
The Marco Island Princess, at almost 100 feet in length, has been a prominent sight on the seas surrounding the island for years. There is no better way to see the Florida shore from the ocean than onboard the Princess.
The Princess departs from Marco Island’s Rose Marina, and the captain narrates each tour. He shares historical and ecological insights that you won’t find anywhere else.
Some cruise packages are available; some include full buffet-style meals and nighttime excursions for those who are serious about seeing beautiful sunsets.
Briggs Nature Center
The Briggs Nature Center, located on Shell Island Road in neighboring Naples, is a favorite destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate the picturesque trails, secluded location, and quantity of wildlife that you can frequently view from the boardwalk.
The center is located within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, a natural breeding and hatchery environment for a variety of species, including birds, sea turtles, and fish.
The facility contains almost three miles of trails and is open year-round to the public. They accept dogs as long as you leash them and properly clean them up after.
Keep your camera handy since snakes, turtles, and foxes are common sightings along the paths.
Surreal, alien, and weird are often used adjectives to describe the unusual formations that protrude from the water near Marco Island’s southern point.
Cape Romano is a collection of strange concrete structures erected in the 1980s as a holiday house for a wealthy retired Florida oilman. They resemble something out of a science fiction film.
They’re only accessible by boat. But while they’re now abandoned, they’re an intriguing piece of local legend worth investigating.
The structures also draw various game fish, which attracts fishermen, so ask a local for directions.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples has been open for over seven decades and is home to one of the largest cypress swamp regions in the country at nearly 14,000 acres.
The refuge is most known for its easily walkable raised boardwalk. Visitors frequently see a variety of wildlife, including gators, snakes, turtles, and a variety of wading and predatory birds.
The sanctuary is open all year, except for bad weather. Previous visitors have remarked that owing to the swamp’s humid environment, it’s recommended to pack plenty of bug repellant, particularly during the summer as mosquitoes are rampant.
Tigertail Beach is an excellent choice if unspoiled, affordable, and isolated are frequently used adjectives to describe your ideal beach vacation.
The Beach receives less visitor traffic than neighboring beaches, making it ideal for people seeking spectacular beauty and solitude; it’s also one of the best-hidden shelling and beachcombing secrets in the area.
The shells are incredible, ranging from conchs and sand dollars to whelks and scallops. While there are few amenities, there are restrooms and changing rooms, adequate parking, and a famous snack shop serving delectable sandwiches and cool beverages.
Marco Mayhem and Murder
Marco Murder & Mayhem provides travelers with a one-of-a-kind “Frightseeing Tour.” The trip is a two-hour ghost tour of Marco Island’s haunted locations. The tour will be led by Martha Horror, a local specialist on ghosts.
The trip begins with a complimentary drink beverage at Bistro Soleil, located inside the Olde Marco Inn, a historic, allegedly haunted hotel. Finally, the trip stops at five distinct places, including a cemetery and a more than 300-year-old Indian burial site. While the party explores the various places, the tour leader will relate terrifying tales.
Otter Mound Preserve
Otter Mound Preserve is a park and wildlife preserve on Marco Island’s Indian Hills peninsula. The preserve is roughly 2.5 acres in size and is primarily composed of tropical hardwood forest. Addison Court features a modest parking area and bike rack, as well as disabled parking. A mulched route winds its way through the preserve from the parking lot and most of its length has shades.
Benches dot the route, offering a spot to relax or simply sit and take in the scenery.
Scuba Marco is a full-service dive shop offering a variety of diving tours and certification courses. PADI and SSI diving certifications are available at the shop. Additionally, they provide non-divers “Dive-N-A-Day” excursions.
These introductory lessons range from a 90-minute pool session with scuba gear to a trip out on a dive boat for a real-world diving experience. The shop rents and sells everything necessary for diving, including masks and fins. Additionally, they have a qualified technician who is capable of performing repairs on scuba equipment.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Marco Island, Florida
Florida’s southwest coast is home to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. This 35,000-acre refuge mostly includes mangrove ecosystems, which are home to various animal species, including some endangered species. Wildlife watching and birding are two of the most popular activities in the refuge. You’ll also find manatees and other beautiful birds, sea turtles, and a variety of other creatures.
Watch wildlife from a boat or along the 1-mile Tamiami Trail. The trail is primitive and unimproved, and parking is restricted. They also permit boats on the reserve, providing another opportunity to see wildlife and take in the scenery. The park allows both fishing and hunting.
Malenda Trick Art Gallery
This is a contemporary art gallery located on Marco Island, Florida. Malenda is a self-taught artist who has worked her way up the ladder of success in the home décor and gift industries. She collaborates with several interior designers and home décor professionals to create one-of-a-kind art pieces for houses around the country.
Her art is evocative of nineteenth-century Impressionism and Old World masterpieces. Visitors to Marco Island may pay a visit to Malenda’s gallery to see and purchase her exquisite paintings. The gallery often holds art exhibits, special events, and art courses, especially during the holidays.
Marco Island’s Mangrove Maniacs
Marco Island is well-known for its fishing. All year long, there are excellent fishing possibilities in the Gulf seas, freshwater lakes, and adjacent rivers. Marco Island Boat Tours offers one-of-a-kind guided fishing expeditions and personalized tours of the area. The excursions never repeat themselves since the instructors plan the route according to the day’s weather and tidal conditions to maximize customers’ chances of seeing animals.
The majority of their tours are private and may accommodate up to six passengers per boat, providing a rather personal tour experience. Guests have total control over every element of their trip, ensuring that it is precisely what they desire.
When it comes to Marco Island attractions, keep in mind that the island serves as the gateway to the Florida Everglades. You’re only 30 minutes from Everglades National Park, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, and Big Cypress National Preserve, all of which comprise a sizable portion of the Everglades. Although the Glades are isolated, there are several possibilities to explore this magnificent environment along Rte. 41, the major route that runs through them from west to east.
A visit to the Everglades is like going back in time, and there are several opportunities to interact with the natural environment. Hike through the marsh on well-maintained walking pathways and boardwalks.
Paddling is very tranquil and popular for exploration. Take an Everglades airboat trip through mangrove tunnels and through damp grasslands, where you can spot alligators. Plus, there are a few tiny locations where visitors may learn about the Native Americans who inhabited the Glades in the past.
Seeing alligators in the Everglades is one of the top Marco Island activities.
Marco Island Historical Museum
The Marco Island Historical Museum, located on Heathwood Drive, is committed to preserving the area’s rich heritage. Numerous guests particularly love the large replica of a traditional Calusa Native American village. This large reproduction provides an intriguing glimpse into the area’s original inhabitants’ lives before the area developed.
The museum’s displays contain historical relics, early photos, and first-person tales of the pioneers who established the region when it was little more than a primitive fishing town.
Marco Island’s economy has shifted over time to become dominated by tourism, which has been widely documented.