Marco Island is a place in Florida that we haven’t heard a lot about before. However, being close to the Everglades National Park, Miami and Key Largo we decided to check it out while heading up the West Coast of Florida.
Marco Island is special as it forms part of the stunning Ten Thousand Islands. The Island has many amazing white sand, palm tree lined beaches (being just off the Gulf of Mexico) to explore as well as many other fun things to do while you are not lounging around on the beach, cocktail in hand.
As soon as we arrived we were in love – the relaxed country vibe, the stunning houses and the quirky touches (many houses have unique letterboxes) it is a place not to be overlooked on a Florida vacation.
Things to do in Marco Island
Marco Island has something for every kind of traveler – whether you want to relax on isolated beaches, take a snorkeling trip to one of the most beautiful islands in the world, go shelling or mini golfing – there is an abundance of fun things to do in Marco Island.
We also loved how close the proximity of the Island to Everglades National Park being just a 20 minute drive away. You can spend the morning on the beach and the afternoon hunting for alligators at Shark Valley.
There is also an abundance of wildlife which we loved. Marco Island is home to many nesting turtles as well as tortoises which you will see roaming the beaches. It also has some of the best birding trails in Florida!
Marco Island Historical Museum
If you are interested in history including American Indian history you should definitely make a trip to the Marco Island Historical Museum.
The museum holds very interesting information about Southwest Florida’s Calusa Indians. It also homes many items that have been unearthed from the late 1800’s.
The entry sign interested us the most. It provides a brief history to the Marco Island area.
Not that long ago, in 1965, Marco Island had fewer than 600 residents. The Deltona Corporation had a greater vision for this small town. It flew out prospective buyers at great expense and ran a $600,000 media campaign to attract people to the area.
It is incredible how quickly the town flourished!
The stunning imagery used by the Deltona Corporation to attract people to live in on the Island is displayed at the Marco Island Historical Musuem.
Tigertail beach is one of two Marco Island public beaches.
Located on Hernando Drive it is a popular beach with locals and tourists alike due to the abundance of activities.
At Tigertail Beach Park you will find many great nature trails.
It is a great place to explore for bird lovers as Tigertail Beach has been named as one of the best bird watching locations in Florida. It is an important habitat for nesting shorebirds.
We didn’t see many birds but we saw a tortoise at Tigertail Beach which we were very happy about.
Aside from animal watching, Tigertail Beach is also a great spot for watersports including kayaking to the tidal lagoon which joins Tigertail Beach to Big Marco Critical Wildlife Area known as Sand Dollar Island Spit.
At Sand Dollar Island Spit there is a decent chance to see a Florida fighting conch.
It costs $8 USD to park at Tigertail Beach. There is no free public parking options in the area and you cannot park on the street.
Don’t miss this awesome Marco Island Beach!
If you are looking for somewhere where you can park for free, have a leisurely walk or go for a picnic with the family then Markle Park is your spot.
The Park has a stunning lake in the middle where you can go recreational fishing (catch and release) as well as a nice walkway, around 800 metres in length, to get your exercise in.
There are also many picnic tables at the park as well as basketball courts and a pool (paid entry).
The best “beachy beach” is undoubtedly South Marco Beach on South Collier Blvd.
South Beach has crystal clear water, white sand and is in the direct vicinity of many stunning luxury hotels in Marco Island.
It is without doubt the most popular beach in Marco Island. While hardly anyone is at Tigertail beach, many beach chairs and umbrellas line the shoreline at South Beach.
There is also a possibility to partake in water sports like jet-skis, paddleboard and kayaks at South Beach. There is a rental shop closeby called Marco Island Watersports where you can rent these.
To see a comparison of the beaches see our Marco Island Beaches guide.
It costs $8 USD to park at South Beach.
Note: South Beach is a great place for photography, it is a very beautiful beach.
Marco Island Centre for the Arts
Being a small beach town, Marco Island has a very arty vibe to it.
If you are an artist you will really love Marco Island. One place to head for art lovers is the Marco Island Centre for the Arts.
The Centre was set up by a small group of artists in 1969, right when the town was in its initial growth stages, to learn from each other and offer support.
These days the centre offers classes and workshops for adults and children who are interested in Art.
If you don’t want to take a class, you can still check out the centre for free and admire the art. Parking is free.
There is some particularly cool artwork displayed outside the centre.
Go Mini Golfing
Mini golfing is a great family activity on Marco Island.
Marco Island has a fantastic 18 hole mini golf course called Marco Golf and Garden.
The course is really fun and well kept and they even offer complimentary water bottles in coolers which is necessary if you visit in the Summer months.
There are cute statues located all over the course which give it an extra touch. Some holes also incorporate water which is pretty neat!
The course costs $12 for any players over 12 years old.
Take a Shelling Tour
One of the unique aspects of Marco Island is the ability to go on a shelling tour.
Marco Island is known for having some of the best shelling beaches in Florida.
While you can find nice shells on the public beaches in Marco Island including South Marco Beach and Tigertail Beach, the best shells are found on a dedicated shelling tour as the best shelling areas in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge require a boat to access.
If you are lucky on a shelling tour it is possible to find a Junonia shell.
We would recommend: Cape Romano Shelling Tour
Go on a Fishing Trip
If shelling isn’t quite your thing, a very cool alternative trip is a fishing trip in Marco Island.
As Marco Island forms part of the Ten Thousand Islands there is some great fish to be caught including some of the biggest and rarest fish in Florida.
The tour explores rivers, creeks, the barrier islands, and backcountry shoreline.
If you want to DIY fishing you need a license. On the tours they provide you with a temporary license for the day.
The boat tours from the isand catch a wide variety of fish including sharks, red drum, snook, tarpon and more.
We would recommend: Marco Island Inshore Fishing Charter
Have a relaxing afternoon at Caxambass Pass Park
Caxambass Pass Park is a great place to relax and watch the fisherman, boats come and go or go on a kayaking adventure.
You can rent kayaks from Paddle Marco
While kayaking in the area it is often possible to spot a dolphin.
Parking is free so it is a good place to spend a leisurely afternoon in Marco Island.
Naples Outlet Centre
If you are a shopaholic you will be happy to find a fabulous outlet centre nearby where you can score some great shopping bargains!
We love picking up a bargain ourselves so we were happy to find an outlet store nearby.
Visit the Marco Island Brewery
For beer lovers Marco Island Brewery is a great place to come.
The brewhouse has a very chilled vibe with a huge selection of beers on tap and no less than 40 flat-screen TVs to catch the latest sporting event.
We should also note that if you missed eating Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys this is a fantastic alternative spot to try it.
There is a happy hour (3:00 – 5:30pm) daily where you can catch some great deals.
One of the prettiest islands readily accessible from Marco Island is Keewaydin Island.
Keewaydin Island is an absolutely stunning barrier island with pristine beaches.
The island is only accessible by watercraft. You rent a boat or take a tour at Rose Marina on Marco Island to access the island.
On Keewaydin Island you can join the party (it is known as a bit of a party island) or find a secluded strip of beach to privately enjoy to yourself.
Cape Romano Dome Houses
One of the weirdest and most unique activities on the island is to take a tour out to see the Cape Romano Alien Structures.
The Cape Romano Dome Houses are abandoned white domes on stilts.
The story goes that in 1980 Lee a retired oil producer started constructing his home. Sadly, by 2004, water levels rose and started to flood the concrete pillars holding up the home. Hurricane Wilma finally destabilised the house completely.
All that is left now is alien like structures of a former house in the middle of the ocean. It is kind of eerie and has an Area 51 vibe.
The houses are a great example of rising water and climate change. It is believed that they will soon be completely emerged under the water.
If you would like to see Cape Romano Dome Houses before they are gone, we would recommend: Cape Romano Shelling Tour
Visit a Otter Mound Preserve
Otter Mound Preserve is a short historical walk in Marco Island that provides interesting historical facts about the area and the early settlers.
It is also a great place to spot an animal or two include tortoises.
Eat at an Interesting Local Restaurant
There are many interesting local restaurants to enjoy in the island.
Here are the quirky restaurants we would recommend checking out in the area:
- The Crazy Flamingo
Hoot’s Breakfast & Lunch
The SpeakEasy Marco Island
- Cocomo’s Grill
The Crazy Flamingo is a strange restaurant in Marco Island with even its own bright pink car. The restaurant serves great steak sandwiches and other no fuss pub food.
Another quirky restaurant worth checking out in Marco Island is the SpeakEasy Marco Island. This is a prohibition Era–inspired waterfront restaurant serves traditional Chicago food.
For something more beachy we suggest heading to Cocomo’s Grill – a laid-back island-themed restaurant specialising in seafood and steaks. The tuna tacos are highly recommended.
Take a trip to the Everglades National Park
One end of the Everglades is only 20 minutes drive from Marco Island so it is entirely possible to take a day trip to the Everglades.
We love exploring the National Parks in the United States and the Everglades is one of our favourites.
It costs $30 per vehicle for a week long entry to the Everglades.
If you are planning to do more than 1 National National Park we would highly recommend purchasing the annual National Park pass which permits you to access unlimited National Parks in the USA for a year.
If you decide to visit the Everglades from Marco Island make sure you don’t miss some of our favourite hikes including:
Our favourite trail for alligator watching is the Anhinga Trail. Alligators are easily spotted on this trail. Below is one we spotted.
Take a trip to Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation
Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation is part of a gated community in Marco Island.
Within the gated community (which you must pay $10 USD to enter) you can view the vacation home of Captain John Horr including what remains of his pineapple plantation.
Taste the local produce at Marco Island Farmers Markets
If your trip to Marco Island falls between November to April then consider yourself lucky as you can try all of the local produce in the area at the Marco Island Farmers Markets.
Despite being located on little Marco Island, this farmers markets is actually one of the largest markets in Southwest Florida.
At the markets you can purchase fruits, vegetables, flowers and even meats!
Take a day trip to Naples
Naples is very close to Marco Island only around 30 minutes away so it is very easy to take a day trip to Naples.
If you decide to make a trip to Naples, we recommend visiting Clam Pass Beach, Vanderbilt Beach and Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park.
Clam Pass Beach is very popular among day trippers to Naples as it has a great cafe/bar on site which is perfect for relaxing by the seaside with a drink in hand.
The beach is also known for having one of the best sunsets in the area.
While in Naples you might like to stop in the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center.
Beach tip: Another great beach is Barefoot Beach preserve just a little further along in Bonita Springs.
Hideaway Beach is a lovely beach but it is an invitation only thing to do in Marco Island.
If you manage to score an invitation from a member at the beach you are in luck as it is one of the nicest beaches in the area. Unsurprisingly, there are fewer tourists on the beach too which is nice.
We have heard you can sneak in by walking from Tigertail Beach. This is only advisable for the most frugal & eager amoung us as it would be a very long and tiring walk!
Take a day trip to Key West
Yes, it is possible to explore Key West from Marco Island with the Key West Express (in the same place the Key West Princess docks).
If you don’t have much time and want to explore multiple areas in Florida this is a great way to do it.
If you decide to go to Key West check out:
The ferry makes daily departures to Key West which cost $155 for a round trip journey.
Where to stay?
If you can afford it, we would highly recommend staying in one of the luxury hotels in the area – they are particularly beautiful. The Marriott Marco Island is our favourite island beach resort.
The Hilton Marco Island Resort is also a great choice!
If you are on a Florida Vacation, you might also like to check out our other posts on Florida to help you plan your trip:
- Beaches in Key Largo
- Key Largo
- Key Lime Pie in Key Largo
- Beaches in Islamorada
- Beaches in Marathon
- Bahia Honda Travel Guide
- Bahia Honda Camping
- Beaches in Key West