28 Best Things to do on Marco Island Florida
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 fcishing, shopping, and wildlife, there is no shortage of fun things to do on Marco Island. You just have to know where to look.
Marco Island is the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. The island has 6 miles of white sand beaches and have more than 70 miles of nature trails. In the mid 1500’s, Spanish explorers named the island “La Isla de San Marco.”
You can find a hiking trail almost anywhere on the island. You can also enjoy some of the best shopping centers on Marco Island and in Naples. Marco Island is one of the top places to spend a day at the beach. You can spend your time relaxing on the beach, soaking up the sun, or swimming.
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28 of the Best Things to Do on Marco Island Florida
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 beautiful beaches.
If you keep your eyes out, you’ll run into all kinds of fun finds like sand dollars, and crab shells, besides traditional shells lining the beaches on Marco Island. 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)
Bring a Beach Mesh Bag to store all the seashells you find.
Schedule a guided trip by clicking here!
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
The Naples Zoo is a favorite of my family. The square footage is nothing like the San Diego Zoo but still bigger than the zoo’s, like the Como Zoo in MN. 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 and Bears.
One of the best features of the Zoo is the boat ride to see the primates. They also have 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. The Naples Zoo is about 30 minutes from Marco Island, making it a great Day Trip.
The Naples Zoo is a great small zoo your kids will love! The interactive experience makes it unforgettable. It only takes a couple of hours to get through but it’s one of the best places to get up close and personal with wildlife like never before.
Pirates of Marco Island
Your kids will love getting to step aboard the 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 search of the person who stole the keys to their treasure 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, especially for nature lovers. The Everglades Wonder Gardens is old Florida at its best. Complete with massive gardens and an 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.
Find out more about the charming Everglades Wonder Gardens: The Everglades Wonder Gardens | An Old Road Side Stop that Won’t Go Away
Visit Titertail Beach & Sand Dollar Spit
Tigertail Beach is one of the few public beaches on Marco Island. What makes this beach different from the 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. 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 a Butterfly Garden. Tigertale Beach is open 8 am to Sunset!
Keewaydin Island is the main barrier island located off the coast of Naples, in Collier County, Florida, United States. It can be reached only by boat. It belongs to the State of Florida and is within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The island is a full 80 acres, and that’s a lot to do! You can hike the entire island, and swim in the lake that’s in the middle of the island. This is the only pet-friendly beach in the Naples/Marco Island area.
Not sure how to get to Keewaydin Island, check out the Hemingway water shuttle. They also offer custom sunset cruises in the bay of Marco Island.
Sunset Fire Dancers JW Marriott Marco Island
JW Marriott Marco Island’s Kane Tiki Bar & Grill is live music, Sunset Celebration, and fire dancing. *Entertainment Fri & Sat 1 pm – 4 pm; Sat 6 pm – 9 pm.
With rum drinks for adults and mocktails for the kids. Kane brings a taste of Indonesian street foods. This casual dining experience is fun for the whole family. Call 1-239-394-2511 for more details.
Everglades National Park
The best way to see the Everglades is to take an airboat tour. There are a few different things to look for on 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 Jack’s 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. It’s a great attraction near Marco Island.
Relaxing on Marco Island
Watch the Borrowing Owls
A unique part of 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 their 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)
Otter Mound Preserve Marco Island FL
Otter Mound is located at 1831 Addison Court, Marco Island. The 2.45 acre preserve is located in southwestern Collier County in a residential area of Marco Island, known locally as the Indian Hills section. The park provides a natural area for the observation of wildlife.
This small trial facility only has three parking spots, so you won’t be disturbed much. The mulled trail loops through the preserve and is shaded much of the way.
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 Museum
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 shopping in Naples. This was destined for tourists if you are not in search of touristy trinkets 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 Pike Place Market in Seattle. (Rainy Day Activity)
Shopping on Marco Island is best at the Esplanade Marina. 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 a simple decision for most, but you do not know how hard this is for a person like me. You should embrace 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 terrible option either. (Free)
Naples Botanical Garden
Spend some time strolling through the Naples Botanical Gardens. They have the best collection of plant life in southwest Florida. They broke the grounds out into ten different gardens, including Brazilian, Asian, and a water garden.
Rookery Bay Nature Center & Briggs Boardwalk
Rookery Bay is a National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples, Florida supported by the Friends of Rookery Bay. Yours to explore, discover, and enjoy.
There are many species of mangroves, all with distinctive characteristics that have evolved to survive in a unique, demanding environment. Mangroves form major wildlife habitats and serve as nurseries for many species of fish and birds.
The Loggerhead Turtles migrates annually to Rookery Bay, having spent its life at sea. This journey begins from May to August when the hatchlings crawl off the beach at night and must make their way across the ocean in the dark. Loggerhead Sea Turtles are considered an endangered species so give them plenty of space.
The mangrove ecosystem is vulnerable to changes in water quality, including excess freshwater due to increased rainfall, changes in sea level, and increased runoff from land. The mangrove ecosystem is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world.
You can explore the mangrove ecosystem by taking a short, guided walk on the Briggs Nature Center Boardwalk that meanders through five unique habitats from scrub to brackish ponds.
Adventure Activities on Marco Island
If you are done relaxing and want to get out more, Marco Island has plenty of things to do to keep you busy, including water sports and nature trails. You just have to know where to look.
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 through the mangrove tunnels that surround Marco Island. It’s all inside a National Wildlife Refuge. Be on the lookout for bottlenose dolphins, manatees, and crocodiles in their natural habitat. The experienced guides will make sure you have a great time. This is easily one of my top things to do on Marco Island in Florida, especially with kids.
Read all about the fun Kayaking with the Crocodiles on Marco Island with Paddle Marco and reserve a time.
Marco Island has some excellent paddle boarding locations. The favorites are Caxamas Park because of its barrier islands, sandbar, and dolphins. The other is Tigertail Beach.
You can rent a 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 has some of the best fishing fun on the beach in Florida. The best way is to hire a skipper to go on a fishing trip. If you want to go shopping for a tour, go on a boat along the Rose Marina in the evening and if you can negotiate with a fisherman. Otherwise, you can go through a website to order your adventure tour at no charge.
These guides all know the best fishing spots. I had the opportunity to go with my father-in-law. He took us to all kinds of places I would never have considered. It’s also where we got to see dolphins swim right up to the boat.
Make sure to reserve a Marco Island Inshore Fishing Charter before you leave. They do sell out.
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 you’d miss in a car. That’s why I love they rent them on the island. Island Bike Shops have 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 House
The Cape Romano Dome house is 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 Irma, 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.
The Cape Romano Shelling and Sightseeing Boat Tour from Marco Island is a great way to see the dome houses. They stop and pick shells and give more insight into the maze of mangrove forests that make up the Ten Thousand Islands. Make sure to book before you leave.
photo by Andy Morffew
Caxambas Park Pass
This is the area to gather close to the water without spending too much money. It is equipped with all the necessary services including a big parking lot for free. It offers an open platform where to park cars.
Its accessibility is also guaranteed, offering easy rides even when carrying heavy objects. Kayak or Paddle board across it. You’ll see some strong currents. If you want to have a thrilling experience, hire a charter fishing boat and catch a big fish.
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 them. (FREE)
Visit With the Dolphins
Unlike the Manatees, dolphins hang out year-round 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)
Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation
Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation offers a family-friendly option for a Florida vacation.
Located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, in 1877, the first pineapple was planted at Marco Island’s Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation. This special location made Marco Island’s pineapple growers the envy of Florida’s citrus growers.
Today visitors can view the remains of the old plantation home. One of the most notable features is the shells built into the walls. There is a small fee to drive to the plantation.
Where to Eat on Marco Island
If you’re looking for the best Marco Island restaurants, look no further. Marco Island has the best dining options around. The specialty is fresh seafood, including Florida stone crab. Choose from Florida stone crab claws, claws, and legs, as well as shrimp, snapper, grouper, sea bass, and more. Get it from food trucks, farmers’ markets, or beachside dining. Whether you’re enjoying breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there’s something for every type of palate.
Visit an Orange Grove
Nothing says Florida more than an orange. In the north, we visit apple orchards, in the south, visit Orange Grove. You may not pick them right off 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)
Caution, You Won’t Any Other OJ After Tasting South Naples Citrus Grove’s
Marco Island Farmers Market
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 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 Island has 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 restaurant too. Some of my favorites were the American Alligator Bites, Fried Oysters, Grouper Sandwiches, and, of course, the Stone Crab.
Seafood and Music Festival Marco Island
Sea Food and Music Festival is one of the best combinations. The first week of February, this amazing celebration comes to Naples, just a few minutes from Marco Island. Select from delectable foods cooked fresh on-site. A variety of seafood entrees, meat and vegetarian dishes are offered, along with side dishes and of course – desserts!
Guests who have an appetite for cocktails, larger portions of the chef’s specialties or salads, or an informal presentation of daily specials enjoy an extensive choice of beverages on their dining menu. All the while, they are on their way to a concert performed live on their spacious stage.
Marco Island Brewery’s
Marco Craft Beer with over 50 fine craft beers on tap. fresh from Pizzas & Sandwiches to local Grouper and Homemade Meatballs. Everyone will leave happy. A great place for an evening meal, or hanging at the bar with friends watching your favorite game.
With 35 Big TVs,’ you’ll find something playing. This is a local’s favorite as they can watch their favorite sports teams play from anywhere in the country.
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 guarantee 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.
Dinner Cruise Marco Island Princess
Come aboard the Island Princess Dinner Cruise on Marco Island. The Marco Island Princess offers Sightseeing, Nature & History Lunch Cruise, Captain’s Sunset Dinner Cruise, Admiral’s Sunset Dinner Cruise, Sunset Cocktails, & Sunset Dinner Cruise. It’s one of the best ways to see Marco Island, and relax at the same time.
Find a Burger Barge
On Marco Island, so many people spend their days on the beach and around the water, especially on Keewaydin Island. The best way to feed these hungry people is 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 Marco 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 of Marco Island, in Naples, the Bellasera Resort is also amazing. EpicureanTravelBlog shares why it’s a great destination: Bellasera Resort in Naples Florida
Book your stay at the JW Marriot Marco Island Resort here!
Check out all the great places to stay on Marco Island
House Rentals on Marco Island
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 gives you some of the best chances to see dolphins swimming right up to the property. It’s an experience you will never forget.
Book your stay at a VRBO today!
Would I go back to Marco Island?
Visiting Marco Island is like visiting a tropical paradise without needing a passport. The Gulf of Coast is stunning. I’ve spent a couple of 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.