Welcome To Marco Island, FL
Tucked away in deepest south-west Florida are the Ten Thousand Islands, a chain of undeveloped high-water islands and mangrove islets. Undeveloped apart from one, which has become a major resort hideaway. Marco Island is the largest and most varied of the 10,000, a tropical retreat boasting wonderful beaches, glorious nature and teeming local wildlife and eco-adventures, as well as a series of glittering hotel-resorts, world-class golf and sophisticated restaurants.
Highlights of Marco Island, FL
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Marco Island, FL Location
Weather in Marco Island, FL
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Things to do in Marco Island, FL
The Island is one of the most important sites for Native American archaeology in the south-east USA. Habitation of the area dates back some 10,000 years, and artefacts have been found more than 3,000 years old, notably the famous Key Marco Cat sculpture that is now in The Smithsonian in Washington. Various historical markers identify the sites of ancient burial grounds throughout the island, and their story is fully documented by the Marco Island Historical Society, which has an extensive campus at the heart of the island. Their Historical Museum presents the island’s full chronological time period, from the ancient Calusa Indians to its pioneer roots and modern development since the 1960s. The campus also includes the Rose History Auditorium for monthly educational programmes and a great gift shop. The Museum of the Everglades in nearby Everglades City offers another must-see history lesson.
Beaches & Parks
There are two main public beaches on Marco Island, plus a handful of offshore islands with even more blissful sand-strewn retreats. Picturesque, palm-fringed South Marco Beach boasts good parking and restrooms, but little else in the way of amenities (although it is backed by several large resorts), while popular Tigertail Beach features family-friendly shallow waters, lifeguards (in high season) and picnic areas. Just north of the main island, Keewaydin Island is a real locals’ secret, an undeveloped strip of gorgeous sand reachable only by boat. Part of the Rookery Bay nature preserve, it’s a great place to go shelling or fishing, or to bring a picnic (making sure to take all your trash with you). Boat rentals are freely available, or you can use the Hemingway Water Shuttle from Rose Marina. The big bonus here is that food boats visit at weekends, offering fresh food options right on the beach!
Culture & Arts
Marco Island is mainly about great beaches, the outdoors and its wildlife, but you can still get a sample of the local arts and culture at several notable locations. The Marco Island Center for the Arts features galleries, classes and a gift shop manned by local artists, with interpretive displays and live entertainment periodically. Just past nearby Everglades City (roughly a 45-minute drive), Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery showcases the photographer’s magnificent black-and-white landscape prints, along with other selected artists from the natural world. Even better, it is situated inside Big Cypress Natural Preserve, with guided swamp walks daily to see the wildlife the gallery features. Local artist galleries can also be found at Esplanade Shoppes and The Shops of Olde Marco, while all the cultural attractions of Naples – including the Baker Museum at Artis-Naples, one of Florida’s top fine arts museums – are just 20 miles north.
Health & Spa
With the plethora of high-class resorts, it should be no surprise that there are some wonderful spa opportunities here as a result. The splendid JW Marriott boasts the Spa By JW, with immaculate facilities and a huge range of treatments, including hair salon, sauna, steam room and plunge pool. The Spa at the Hilton Marco Island is another impressive option, with a superbly tranquil setting in this 10.5 acre oceanfront paradise. You can also try the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, with its massages, saunas and steam rooms, while the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in nearby Naples has one of the top-rated spas in Florida. For an independent choice (outside the resorts), Salon and Spa Botanica at the Shops of Marco shopping plaza gets high marks from the locals. Yoga and Pilates classes are also widely offered, notably at Revival Yoga Fitness Studio and Pink Island Fitness (women only).
Wildlife & Ecotourism
The only choice you need to make for the wonderful wildlife opportunities in this part of Florida is where to start. For most people, that is the Everglades, which are right on the Island’s doorstep at nearby Everglades City. The vast subtropical wilderness, or ‘River of Grass,” is home to an amazing range of animals and birds, including several endangered species, and Everglades National Park is where you’ll see most of them, including alligators, the American crocodile, Florida panther, leatherback turtle, white-tailed deer, otter and gray fox. Take a boat trip from the Gulf Coast Visitor Centre to see dolphins, manatees and other wildlife, including the stunning variety of birds that live here. Closer by is the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, while there are various eco-tours offered on the Island, including the chance for close-up encounters on kayak and boating tours, notably Paddle Marco and Captain Ron’s Everglades Adventures.
Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than that served up in the restaurants of Marco Island and its fishing hub, Goodland. Stone crab season (Oct-May) brings shellfish fans by the hundreds, and the fishing boats offload practically to your table. Grouper, mahi-mahi, shrimp, snapper and swordfish are all fresh-caught, and you can often see fishing boats coming in at different times of the day (try Kirk Fish Market for a look at the business). Goodland also boasts several great locals’ restaurants, notably Little Bar and Stan’s Idle Hour. On the main part of the island, look for authentic dining at Nene’s Kitchen, The Island Café and iconic Snook Inn, as well as the small hideaway of Lee Be Fish. For the elegant touch, most of the big resorts can provide excellent fine dining, but Bistro Soleil at the Olde Marco Inn, Fin Bistro, The Oyster Society and Café Marco are all worth trying.
Small-scale shops, outfitters and art galleries are the nature of the retail experience on the Island, with some neat art shops and jewellery boutiques offering a unique range of gifts and souvenirs. Try Blue Mangrove Gallery, Island Trends and Bijoux for a taste of the local style, while the Esplanade Shoppes have a modern mix of shops and dining in a marina setting. For the true upmarket touch, head north to nearby Naples where the ultra-chic shopping districts of Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South are as fashionable as it gets, along with the purpose-built shopping centres of the Waterside Shops and the Village on Venetian Bay, which offer a great mix of retail and dining. Mid-way between Naples and Marco Island you’ll also find the Naples Outlet Collection, with several dozen stores offering big-name brands, like Ann Taylor, Samsonite, Van Heusen and Coach, at bargain prices.
Golf and water sports are Marco Island’s two prime opportunities, with a LOT packed in to its 24 square miles. The four main golfing options are highlighted by the fabulous, Island Country Club, opened in 1966, with its resident bald eagles, and The Rookery at Marco, a superb adventure in scenic golf, tucked away in coastal wetlands that attract many species of birds. Featured for guests at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, it also offers the Hammock Bay Golf & Country Club for maximum golf style. Kayaking and canoeing fans have plenty to enjoy, too, with numerous outfitters offering the chance to paddle the seemingly limitless waterways, like the Paradise Coast Blueway trail. Back-country fishing is another hugely popular pursuit, with various outfitters ready to take you deep-sea or inshore fishing. Goodland is a great place to charter a boat, while Rose Marina and Marco Marina also feature tours and charters.