Prehistoric-looking pelicans swooping into crashing waves in hopes of a tasty nibble, miles of soft beaches kissed by sparkling sunshine, and fresh-from-the-sea cuisine delivered with gorgeous water views create a dreamy vacation getaway. “Island life” conjures visions of pristine beaches, tropical drinks, and exciting on-the-water activities. Whether your ideal vacation is luxury hotels and first-class experiences or cozying up to Mother Nature and roughing it, Marco Island offers the ultimate in #islandlife vacation adventures.
Marco Island is located in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands region, an area home to vibrant sea life and situated on a migratory bird path in Southwest Florida.
Beautiful beaches, water sports, bird watching, and outdoor adventures are the hallmarks of Marco Island. With one eye on protecting the ecosystem and the other on all-out fun, your vacation will be uniquely Floridian. Marco Island is a perfect place to enjoy days filled with endless fun in the sun.
Things To Do On Marco Island
1. Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Enjoying Florida’s diverse natural habitat is a must for visitors. The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is the perfect place to learn all about coastal flora and fauna. Naturalist guides lead interesting tours, like the Keewaydin Island Shelling Tour or the Rookery Bay Estuary Tour. You will love exploring the thriving water and aviary life along the mangrove forest and waterways.
With careful observation, you can check off many birds on your list, including kestrels, American bald eagles, kingfishers, vultures, pelicans, owls, herons, egrets, and more. Be sure to pack your camera and binoculars to capture a rare sighting.
The reserve is not just about birding; you can rent boats and kayaks to explore the shorelines, enjoying the reserve at your own leisurely pace. Fish from the shores or venture out into deep waters. Shelling and relaxing while soaking up the Florida sunshine is high on everyone’s to-do list.
A romantic evening cruise around Rookery Bay allows you to watch the gorgeous, on-the-water sunset, then relax under the stars as you glide back to the dock. Rookery Bay Boat Tours offers a romantic Sunset to Starlight cruise around Keewaydin Island.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, nature’s playground, is just waiting for you to explore.
2. Kayaking And Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
There are so many ways to enjoy the water surrounding Marco Island. You can find adventures that will educate, entertain, exercise, and engage you. Marco Island is a water baby’s paradise waiting to be explored.
Kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) are great ways to see the bay and get your workout in at the same time. Paddle Marco rents kayaks and SUP boards. They will even deliver your rentals to your vacation property or boat launch.
3. Mangrove Tunnel Tours
Paddle Marco also offers a Mangrove Tunnels tour through the mangrove forest. Your naturalist guide will take you on a journey deep into this natural wonderland without the worry of getting lost. As you paddle through the strange and wonderful root system of these interesting trees, you will experience a unique and diverse wildlife population.
4. Jet Ski Tours
For the true water enthusiast, jet ski tours are available from Avi’s Watersports. Avi will train even the most timid newbie and take you on a tour in the Ten Thousand Islands area. This wild ride adventure is one you won’t soon forget. Navigate your own jet ski alongside dolphins playfully engaging the tour while entertaining you like you’re their personal guests.
5. Birding Photography Tours
The Southwest Florida area has some of the best birdwatching in the world. Florida is along the Atlantic Flyway, a spring and fall migration route for many species of birds. Pelicans, egrets, and other quintessential Floridian birds can be viewed in coastal and tidal areas year-round. When you add in the migratory flocks, the coast is all atwitter with aviary life.
For the adventurer who is not sure where to start aviary viewing, Everglades Area Tours offers group and private birding photography tours. Their customizable tours can be walking, kayaking, or motor boating outings, during which you’ll enjoy different birding experiences. Led by a naturalist guide, your bird-centric adventure will be unique (and the envy of your friends).
6. Great Florida Birding And Wildlife Trail
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is composed of a network of over 500 viewing sites statewide. Bird sightings include the bald eagle, mangrove cuckoo, roseate spoonbill, wood stork, whooping crane, and many more. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has categorized 524 bird species in the state and provides a downloadable checklist. You have plenty of reasons to get up before dawn, pack your binoculars, enjoy the sunrise, and be on the lookout for dozens of unique and interesting birds.
7. Collier-Seminole State Park
Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples has over 6 miles of hiking trails where the bird watching brings you up close to native nesters. Rangers offer nature tours, or you can hike the paths through the park, which is open from 8 a.m. to sundown. The Collier-Seminole Prairie Hammock Trail is an easy 3.5-mile loop and a nice walk through the woods.
8. Keewaydin Island
Keewaydin Island is the perfect place to hunt seashells, spend some time on the sandbars, and enjoy frequent dolphin sightings. Belly up to the local food boats for a refreshing beverage, snack, or ice cream. Keewaydin Island is only accessible by boat and is a car-free island. The Hemingway Water Shuttle is a 30-minute ferry from Rose Marina on Marco Island to Keewaydin Island (reservations are highly recommended). If you prefer, you can rent a boat or jet ski to get you out to the island allowing you to explore with more freedom.
9. South Marco Beach
The beaches on Marco Island invite you to relax and enjoy the Sunshine State’s beachy vibe.
South Marco Beach is known for its soft white sand and wide beachfront. A line of highrises with coveted beach access forms a backdrop. This is the place to experience parasailing, SUP, and jet skiing, paired with plenty of Florida sunbathing.
10. Tigertail Beach Park
Tigertail Beach Park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown. This is one of Marco Island’s barrier beaches, and it offers lots of amenities and rentals. It is a favorite for families and seashell collectors. The adjacent tidal lagoon is perfect for viewing shorebirds like plovers, terns, and spoonbills and hunters like falcons, osprey, and bald eagles.
Beach parking is available for a nominal fee. Since the mid-day sun is powerful, plan to make your beach time early or late in the day.
11. Dolphin Explorer
The Florida Gulf is home to a large population of fish and other sea creatures. Exploring the ecology of the water world offers a peek into the future of our water resources and the lives of its fascinating inhabitants.
The Ten Thousand Island Dolphin Project is a long-term study of Florida’s bottlenose dolphins. You can join one of their eco-focused tours on the Dolphin Explorer. Join the research team as they keep track of the Marco Island dolphins. Using photo tracking technology, the researchers track the dolphins by their dorsal fins, which are unique identifiers. Rumor has it, if you spot a new, unidentified dolphin, you are responsible for naming it. How fun would that be?
12. Manatee Eco-Tours
Beautiful, gentle manatees thrive in the Southwest Florida waters. Viewing these interesting sea mammals in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Manatee Eco-Tours at the Port of the Islands Marina in nearby Naples are a manatee-friendly way to enjoy the Ten Thousand Islands waterways and view these lovely creatures up close.
13. Sunshine Tours Fishing Excursions
Reeling in the big one just got easier with a private fishing charter on Sunshine Tours fishing excursions. They offer three types of fishing options: near coastal, backcountry, and offshore fishing trips. All of them will fulfill your Florida angler dreams.
The offshore excursion will have you on the hunt for shark, barracuda, mackerel, and others. If backcountry fishing is more your speed, you could snag a snapper, trout, or another local delicacy. The near coastal excursion will have you hauling up a variety of fish-fry dinner options.
Best Restaurants On Marco Island
As you can guess, fresh local seafood is the go-to dish on Marco Island. You will find a wide selection of excellent restaurants serving up delicious dishes.
One of the best fine-dining establishments on the island is Fin Bistro. Known for its locally sourced, seasonal seafood, this casually elegant restaurant is a lovely spot for Florida-focused cuisine. Be sure to try the yellowtail avocado crudo; it is a flavor bomb — in a good way. For the main course, try the seared Florida black grouper with lump crab fricassee or the shellfish meyer lemon brodetto. Your taste buds will thank you. Reservations are recommended.
When you are searching for a spot that offers great food that won’t break the bank, stop at Hoots; there is a shop on Marco Island and one in Naples. Hoot’s specializes in breakfast and lunch, and the Marco Island location is open for dinner during the peak season. The restaurant offers scrumptious homemade items like mac and cheese and chicken pot pie. Also, a good selection of paninis, sandwiches, and salads are available for takeaway picnic lunches.
The Speakeasy Of Marco Island
Waterfront views with a prohibition vibe, The Speakeasy of Marco Island on North Collier Boulevard is a fun and funky watering hole and restaurant. Pop in for your favorite libation from 2–6 p.m. for happy hour and stick around for great Chicago pub–style chow. You will love the kick-back, come-as-you-are vibe.
Where To Stay On Marco Island
Five-star hotels, vacation rentals, and state park campsites allow visitors to find the perfect stay when they visit Marco Island.
Gazebo House At The Boathouse Motel
The Boathouse Motel is situated on Old Collier Creek in the Olde Marco Historic Village and has boating access to the Gulf of Mexico. While they offer traditional guest rooms, the star attraction is the Gazebo House. Situated literally on the water, the two-bedroom rental property has a surrounding deck, is open to pets, offers boat dockage, and boasts beachy amenities. There is a four-night minimum stay, and it is recommended to book this popular getaway way in advance.
Camping At Collier-Seminole State Park
If you prefer to tuck in with Mother Nature, there are lots of camping options available. Collier-Seminole State Park on the Tamiami Trail offers campground sites with electricity and water. The Blackwater River flows through the park’s mangrove forest. Canoe rentals and hiking and biking trails are available to explore the 7,000-plus-acre state park. Site reservations are required.
Note: Due to Hurricane Ian, the park is currently closed — check its website for updates.
Luxury Yacht Vacation Rental
For an over-the-top stay, rent this luxury, 52-foot yacht. You can utilize the yacht as your docked floating hotel room or add a captained charter excursion and spend the day floating around the Gulf of Mexico.
JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is just the ticket to paradise you need. Its palapas line a white sand beach just waiting for you to kick back and relax with a tropical drink and a good book. If hitting the links is on your mind, the resort has two private championship golf courses to help you hone your game. Located on South Collier Boulevard in the middle of all the action, you will love this lux stay.
The Best Of Marco Island
Marco Island is a vacation wonderland offering guests a Gulf of Mexico getaway in the glorious Collier County Florida sunshine. Whether you love luxurious pampering and five-star dining or enjoy sleeping under the stars and collecting seashells, you will find a wide variety of activities for every vacation style. Balancing eco-friendliness and a full-on adventure-seeking spirit, Marco Island masterfully offers a Mother Nature-first approach to fun in the Florida sun.
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