Last updated on November 2nd, 2018
Marco Island has always been a hot spot for travelers. Spend a day there, and you’ll understand why everyone loves it so much. There’s more to the Island than just relaxing at the beach. Between fishing, shopping, and wildlife there is no shortage of things to do on Marco Island. You just have to know where to look.
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28 of the Best Things to Do on Marco Island
Marco Island With Kids
The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the white sand beaches on Marco Island have been attracting visitors for decades. But what’s more remarkable is all the shells that line the beaches. If you keep your eyes out, you’ll run into all kinds of fun finds like sand dollars, and crab shells, in addition to traditional shells. Your kids will love collecting buckets filled with shells. Once you have gathered up the shells to keep, keep them outside in the sun to dry out. (FREE)
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
The Naples Zoo is a favorite. The square footage is nothing like the San Diego Zoo and but still bigger than zoo’s like the Como Zoo in MN. The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens has a lot of features that you won’t find elsewhere in the country. They host a lot of animals indigenous to Florida, but they also have the Big Three, Lions and Tigers a Bears. Some of the best features of the Zoo is the boat ride to see the primates. They also Giraffe feeding that the kids can partake in. But my favorite part about the zoo is the birds that wander around. You’ll find them everywhere.
Pirates of Marco Island
Your kids will love getting to step aboard Black Pearl Pirate Ship. Along the way, the kids will learn to talk, sing and dance like a pirate, as they become buccaneers on the high seas. On their hour-long adventure, they get to act like pirates in serach of the person that stole the keys to their tresure chest. Once they meet up with him, the kids will get to fire cannons at the other ship as they do battle. They depart out of the Rose Mariana.
Everglades Wonder Gardens
This adventure is an hour north of the island but entirely worth it. The Everglades Wonder Gardens is old Florida at its’ best. Complete with massive gardens and animal sanctuary. They are home to tortoises, flamingos, alligators and so much more.
We visited the Everglades Wonder Gardens before hurricane Irma came through. After the hurricane, the community rallied together and helped to rebuild and plant a lot of the trees that had come up. And today it’s thriving. I highly recommend this stop if you get the chance.
Visit the Beach
Tigertail Beach is one of a few public beaches on the island. What makes this beach different from rest is the tidal lagoons managed by the Big Marco Pass Critical Wild Life Area. In the lagoons, you’ll find horseshoe crabs, needlefish and some of Florida’s fighting conchs. (Free but will have to pay for Parking)
For those wanting to explore a little more than just the beach, there is also a barrier island. The island was formed from an old sandbar known as Sand Dollar Spit. It’s accessible by crossing the lagoon. Make sure to watch the tides when crossing.
On the beach, you can take advantage of the different beach rentals, like paddleboards, kayaks and electric boats. They have a full-service restaurant and Butterfly Garden. Tigertale Beach is open 8am to Sunset!
The best way to see the Everglades is to take an airboat tour. There are a few different things to look for in a trip. Did you want an ecological tour focused on the wild and plant life of the Everglades? This is your best chance to see alligators, crocodiles, and raccoons. But if you want a high-speed ride through the mangrove tunnels, you’ll want to venture to Everglade city. The tours do their best to show you wildlife, but their primary focus is providing you with a thrilling boat ride.
An animal sanctuary is the best way to see rescued animals. It’s also a great way to get closer to some of those indigenous to Florida in a safe manner. Captain Jacks Animal Sanctuary is home to the Florida Panther, Lions, Tigers, Otters, Snakes, Turtles, Crocodiles, and over 100 alligators. They have an Alligator show that wraps up with the opportunity to hold your very own alligator at the end. You can get into this sanctuary for free if you purchase an airboat tour with them.
Relaxing on Marco Island
Watch the Borrowing Owls
A unique part about Marco Island is the Burrowing Owls that have taken up residence. These owls are protected which is why you will see their holes marked off with rope and keep back signs. Early morning and around sunset, they come out of the homes and perch on their stands waiting to hunt. Don’t get too close, otherwise, they will go back inside and hide. The locals like to call them Hootie owls. (Free)
Sunset Walk on the Beach
Take advantage of the waterfront properties and enjoy a beautiful sunset walk. There is nothing more relaxing than watching the sun go down. The only thing better is watching the sunset after it rains, the colors you’ll see are once in a lifetime. (Free)
Marco Island Historical Museums
The Marco Island Historical Museum hosts a lot of photographs and memorabilia from the earliest days. The museum is a free attraction celebrating the unique history of the Island. This is a perfect thing to visit on a Rainy Day. (Free) (Rainy Day Activity)
Shopping in Naples and on Marco Island
Tin City is where you want to go shop in Naples. This was destined for tourist if you are not in search of touristy trinks steer clear. The shopping center has a mix of restaurants and ocean side boutiques. Tin City has everything under the sun, from toys for kids, to handmade jewelry, to collectibles. The stores are all connected, which is great on a rainy day. The only thing I’ve experienced like this is in Pikes Place Market in Seattle. (Rainy Day Activity)
Shopping in Marco Islands is best at the Esplanade Marina. Located in their downtown area, they have an art gallery, hair salon, coffee shop and of course shopping. (Rainy Day Activity)
Sit Poolside and Relax
Ok no-brainer, but you have no idea how hard this is for a person like me. You should embrace the island life and take things a little slower. But on Marco Island, this is a great activity. If you are renting a property, chances are it will come with a pool. Otherwise, the hotel isn’t a bad option either. (Free)
Naples Botanical Gardens
Spend some time strolling through the Naples Botanical Gardens. They have the best collection of plan life in southwest Florida. The grounds are broken out into ten different gardens, including Brazilian, Asian, and a Water garden.
Adventure Activities on Marco Island
Kayaking on Marco Island
Any chance to get a paddle in my hand, I’m game. That’s why I love the Paddle Marco Island Kayaking Tour. The tours take you all through the mangroves tunnels that surround Marco Island. It’s all inside a National Wildlife Refuge. Be on the lookout for dolphins, manatees, and crocodiles as you paddle around. The experienced guides will make sure you have a great time.
Marco Island has some excellent paddleboarding locations. The favorites are Caxamas Park due to its barrier islands, sandbar, and Dolphins. The other is Tigertail Beach. You can rent paddle board Paddle Marco on the south side of the Island in Caxambas Park, or at Tiger Tail Beach through other vendors.
Charter a Fishing Boat
Marco Island is home to some of the best fishing. The best way to do it on vacation is to hire a charter. If you like to haggle, try walking along the Rose Marina in the evening and see if you can negotiate a fishing trip with some of the locals. Otherwise, go with a tour operation by ordering online before you leave. These guides all know the best fishing spots.
Bike the Island
Sometimes the best way to see the island is by bike. It gives you the chance to slow down and see things that you’d miss in a car. That’s why I love that they rent them on the island. Island Bike Shops has all kinds of rental options available. Anything from a scooter, to a tandem bike or a bike trailer. The island is flat so it will be a nice smooth ride.
Visit the Cape Romano Dome Houses
The Cape Romano Dome houses about a 30-45 minute boat ride south of the Island. The dome houses were built in 1980 on the beach by a retired oil producer, Bob Lee. But due to land erosion, they were abandoned & are now out on the water, only accessible by boat. Unfortunately, during Hurricane Irama, one of the domes was blown down. The best way to get down to the dome houses is with the Cape Romano Shelling and Sightseeing Boat Tour from Marco Island.
photo by Andy Morffew
Find Some Manatees
Manatees love the warm waters of Florida. Around the Mangroves on the northern side of the island, you’ll come across a lot of Manatee no wake zones. The best time of year to see them is between December 15th and April 1st when the waters are optimal. If you miss them, you may have to go to a wildlife sanctuary to visit with them. (FREE)
Visit With the Dolphins
Unlike the Manatees, dolphins hang out year-round at in the waters. They can be spotted in the ocean around the island, but the best opportunity to see them up close is in the canals or in the mangroves. They like to come in there to catch fish by the bridges. If you are having trouble finding dolphins from the shore, take a Marco Island Dolphin-Watching Tour. (FREE if viewing from shore)
Where to Eat on Marco Island
Visit an Orange Grove
Nothing says Florida more than an orange. In the north, we visit apple orchards, in the south, visit an Orange Grove. You may not be able to pick them right of the tree here; you can pick up some that have been picked for you. The South Naples Citrus Grove has a market filled with all kinds of Citrus Fruits to try. They have some of the freshest orange juice you can get anywhere. The grove also has orange flavored soft serve ice cream, jams, preserves and all kinds of different treats to pick up. (FREE)
Speaking of fresh, if you can arrange your trip to arrive mid-week, you need to stop at the Farmers Market on Marco Island. Never before will you see a collection of fresh fruits, veggies and baked goods like this in your life. They sell the freshest breakfast treats to stockpile your hotel with for breakfasts. If you can get there early on your trip, there won’t much need to stop at a grocery store ever. The Marco Island Farmers Market runs Wednesday from 7:30-1pm starting mid November through April. (FREE)
Marco is known for some of the freshest foods. You can’t go there without trying out some of their Stone Crab Claws. And the best place to get it is a City Seafood in Everglades City. The shack is located right on the waterfront where the seafood is brought in off the boats. This Seafood Market sells fresh fish to take home, but it is also a restruant too.. Some of my favorites were the American Alligator Bites, Fried Oysters, Grouper Sandwiches and of course the Stone Crab.
Sweet Annie’s Ice Cream Parlor takes top prize for ice-cream on the Island. They are a family owned shop with a retro theme. Sweet Annies boasts 47 flavors to choose from to guarantees you’ll find something you love. They have both gluten-free and Dairy Free options inside making them the perfect stop for anyone with food allergies.
Find a Food Boat
On Marco Island, so many people spend their days on the beach and around water, especially on Keewaydin Island. The best way to feed these hungry people are with food boats. These boats sell anything from ice cream, brats, burgers, hot dogs, fries, nachos, sandwiches, and adult beverages. Because the island is only accessible by boat, they have a very captive audience.
Take your Catch to a Restaurant
After you’ve just spent a full day fishing on the waters, sometimes you don’t want to mess with filleting and cooking it. If you are staying in a hotel, it may not be an option. A few restaurants on Marco Island will take care of all that work for you. At Cocomo’s Grill, you can bring in your catch, they’ll fillet and cook it for you. At Crazy Flamingo, bring in the fillet, and they’ll cook it just the way you like.
Where to Stay on Marco Island
Hotels on Marco Island
There are tons of different hotel options. But my favorite is the JW Marriott Marico Island Resort and Spa. It is the crown jewel of the island followed closely by the Marco Beach Ocean Resort. They both take prime real estate right on the beach. The hotels are five stars and deliver on their services.
Just north or Marco Islands, in Naples the Bellasera Resort is also amazing. EpicureanTravelBlog shares why it’s a great destination: Bellasera Resort in Naples Florida
House Rentals with on Marco Island with VROB
If you want an extraordinary experience, I recommend checking out the different rental properties on the island. With rentals, you get the luxuries of home and a little more space to stretch out. Most properties are right on the canals. The canals become magical at dawn and the perfect place to sit out poolside with a cup of coffee enjoying the morning light. Being on the canals give you some of the best chances to see dolphins swimming right up to the property. It’s an experience you will never forget.
Visting Marco Island is like visiting a tropical paradise without needing a passport. I’ve spent a couple weeks down there now, and I’m amazed at all the fun things I keep finding. Whether you plan to have a fast and fun trip or want to go down to relax, Marco Island has it all.