Florida is one of my favorite beach getaways because it’s so easy to get there and there are so many adorable beach towns and beautiful resort areas to explore. This past spring break, I headed to a new part of Florida (as far south as I’ve get to go!)…Marco Island.
Photo from Clark Maxwell via Flickr
Just south of Naples on the Gulf Coast (the southwest part of Florida), Marco Island is known for its laidback vibe, beautiful beaches, and close proximity to the Everglades.
To get to Marco, you’ll most likely fly into Fort Myers, rent a car, and make the hour or so drive south.
Things to Do on Marco Island
Here are 17 things to do on Marco Island:
1.Go shelling: Though not as well known as Sanibel Island to the north, Marco is pretty famous for its shelling. Sand dollars aren’t uncommon. I found over 30 small conch shells on a walk one morning and it’s easy to spend hours beach combing. Pack flip flops to walk near the water as the beaches are usually filled with shells and broken fragments. And remember…the early bird finds the sand dollars!
2.Take an eco tour: This is probably the most popular thing to do on Marco. Dozens of companies run boat tours through the 10,000 islands to spot dolphins and manatees and many make stops at uninhabited islands for world class shelling. Marco Island Water Sports runs tours on the Calusa Spirit which leaves from the JW Marriot.
3.Tigertail Beach & Sand Dollar Spit: This is the most popular beach on Marco, because it’s beautiful and it has great amenities. There’s plenty of public parking, a cute café, and it’s the perfect place to kayak and paddleboard. If you wade across the inlet (or paddle!), you’ll be on Sand Dollar Spit, which…you guessed it…is a great place to find sand dollars.
Photo from Clark Maxwell via Flickr
4.Take a sailing trip or a luxury cruise: There’s nothing like being out on a catamaran (or luxury yacht)! Cruise on the Marco Island Princess or with Fox C Cruises. The Key West Express also leaves from Marco Island.
5.Visit Old Marco Island: This tiny fishing village is home to several cute shops and yummy restaurants and it’s just picture perfect!
6.Airboat tour of the Everglades: The Everglades are super close to Marco Island so it’s a popular daytrip (or half a day really). We went with Jungle Irv’s instead of one of the outfits out of Everglade City. While they run boats every 20 minutes or so, we never saw another boat. Our captain told us that the first tour of the day sees the most wildlife (birds and other critters) as they start to clear out once the boats start coming through. We did see an alligator though!
7.Kayak the Everglades. As a quieter and more natural alternate, consider kayaking through the Everglades. Everglades Area Tours runs boat assisted tours so you’ll ride in on a boat and then start kayaking when you get to the good stuff.
8.Bicycle through the Everglades: And if that’s not enough Everglades for you, consider a guided bike tour. Book with Naples Bicycle Tours.
9.Rent a boat: Captain your own boat for the day and go in search of dolphins, manatees, and the perfect shelling beach. Rentals are available at Rose Marina and Dolphin Cove Marina.
10.Take a daytrip to Naples: The Naples Zoo and Botanic Gardens are great if you’re looking for non-beach activities.
11.Go out on the Dolphin research boat: If you’re serious about seeing dolphins and learning more about them, the Dolphin Explorer is the trip for you. You’ll learn all about the Dolphin Project and rumor is if you encounter an unrecorded dolphin, they’ll let the youngest person on the boat name it!
13.Eat stone crab claws: Stone crab claws are the must try food in this area of Florida and you’ll see them on the menu at a lot of places. Head to City Seafood in Everglade City for some of the best seafood you’ll find in Florida. It’s right on the water and you can sit in the open-air restaurant and watch all the airboats head in and out.
14.Black Pearl Pirate Boat: For a unique experience, set sail on the Black Pearl for an hour-long interactive pirate experience. This is great for families and they do sunset cruises too!
15.Standup Paddleboarding: Test out new skills and take a paddleboard out for a spin. I suggest renting one at Tigertail Beach, as it’s a calm and protected place for beginners.
16.Take a deep sea fishing trip: Book a full day fishing trip with Six Chuter Charters and bring in all the grouper and snapper your can manage. Most places will let you take your catch with you to cook up. There are plenty of restaurants on the island that will cook it for you! Try Capri Fish House, Cocomo’s, Crazy Flamingo, Little Bar, Mango’s Dockside Bistro, The Snook Inn, and the Speak Easy.
17.Take a day trip to Keewaydin Island: This uninhabited barrier island near Marco is a popular spot for boaters and those seeking a bit of seclusion. Hemingway Water Shuttle ferries visitors over and will even provide you with chair and umbrella rentals.
Photo from Katie Wheeler via Flicker
Where to Eat on Marco Island
For breakfast: Hoot’s, Empire Bagel Factory, Mermaid Blues, and Wake Up Marco
For lunch: Tigertail Café, Quinn’s on the Beach, Mango’s Dockside Bistro
For happy hour: Capri Fish House, Cocomo’s, Crazy Flamingo, The Oyster Society, The Speak Easy, Sunset Grille
For a casual dinner: Le Bee Fish, Sami’s Pizza and Grill, Quinn’s on the Beach, Snook Inn
For a nice dinner: Café de Marco, Davinci’s, Marco’s Prime Steak and Seafood, Fin Bistro, Sale e Pepe,
Where to Stay on Marco Island
JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort: This is THE place to stay on Marco. This fabulous resort has multiple pools, a half dozen restaurants and bars, and everything you need for an absolutely fabulous vacation.
Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort: If you’re looking for a great beach resort for a bit cheaper, check out the Hilton
Olde Marco Island Inn & Suites: This quaint little inn in the heart of old Marco Island is perfect if you want a more charming and local place to stay.
Marco Island Lakeside Inn: This great affordable property is perfect if you’re trying to do Marco on a budget.
Condos & Vacation Homes: Search VBRO for endless condo rental options.