Heading down to Southwest Florida? Carve out some time to tackle all the best things to do in Marco Island. Located on Florida’s Paradise Coast, this beautiful island is the perfect spot for everything from a romantic getaway to a family vacation.
Located just south of Naples, Marco Island is known for its history, white-sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere. Among the top tourist attractions in Marco Island is the Marco Island Historical Museum, home to the famed Key Marco Cat. Beach bums will enjoy plenty of sun on beautiful beaches like Tigertail Beach and South Marco Beach. Likewise, outdoor adventurers will find plenty to explore around Marco Island, too, including the nearby Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Keewaydin Island.
Not sure what to do in Marco Island? Pack your bags and explore this slice of paradise with this guide to the best places to visit in Marco Island, Florida.
Best places to visit in Marco Island, FL
Enjoy venturing off the beaten path? Look no further than Keewaydin Island. Located just north of Marco Island, Keewaydin Island is only accessible by boat. For outdoor adventure, it’s one of the most popular Marco Island tourist attractions.
On Keewaydin Island, you’ll laze on pristine beaches kissed with white sand. It’s the only pet-friendly beach in the Marco Island area. Along its eight miles of untouched beach, amazing wildlife and shelling opportunities also await. About 80% of the island is left undeveloped, adding to its natural beauty.
Be aware: There are no bathroom facilities or dining options on Keewaydin Island, save a “burger barge” that docks on the island every few hours to serve food, ice cream, and cold drinks.
From Marco Island, there are many opportunities to join a tour and take a day trip to Keewaydin Island. Book yourself onto one to frolic in the blue waters and learn about the island’s loggerhead turtles that are tracked and protected by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Tigertail Beach Park
If you’re a bird-watcher, don’t miss out on a visit to Tigertail Beach Park. Located on Marco Island’s western shores, the park has been listed as one of the finest birding locations in South Florida by the Florida Birding Trail Guide. The area features 32 acres of habitat for wintering shorebirds and protected colonies.
Sitting on the Gulf Coast, Tigertail Beach Park has plenty for those who are less interested in birding as well. Rent a jet ski or paddleboard and head out on the water to explore the area around the public beach.
From Tigertail Beach, you can also swing over to Sand Dollar Island. Also called Sand Dollar Spit, the “island” (now a peninsula) sits on a tidal lagoon that’s home to horseshoe crabs, needlefish, and other sea animals. You’ll find three miles of white sandy beaches to explore. Sand Dollar Island is also a popular destination for shelling tours; the island is named after its massive deposits of sand dollars.
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After spending the day chillin’ on the white sand beach, make sure to catch one of its famous sunsets. To see the blazing sunset from the water, take a sunset cruise. Enjoy snorkeling and refreshments while you soak in the incredible views.
Marco Island Center for the Arts
Opened in 1969, the Marco Island Center for the Arts is the perfect place for a family-friendly art lesson. Get inspired and learn something new with their many exhibits, including music and literature. The art center also hosts several exclusive showings throughout the year.
The Marco Island Center for the Arts was established by artists committed to bringing the arts to the community and promoting education through visual representation. To this day, the center continues to offer courses, workshops, and programs for all ages.
For the entire family, the Marco Island Center for the Arts is an ideal place to spend a rainy day or early morning. Join one of the classes to partake in its mission to promote appreciation for the arts.
Marco Island Historical Museum
Need a break from all the beaches and nature? Marco Island Historical Museum is a perfect surprise addition to your Marco Island vacation. At this popular museum, history buffs will love exploring the rich history of the original settlers, the Calusa Indians, and their vanished civilization.
Marco Island Historical Museum is the temporary home to the Key Marco Cat, one of the most influential discoveries in North American history. The famed ancient native wood sculpture is believed to date back about 500 to 1,500 years.
At the award-winning museum, you’ll also see exhibits showcasing the subtropical island’s history. They slide between Marco Island’s discovery and settlement to its 1960s boom with its pineapple plantations and fishing village.
Otter Mound Preserve
After learning about the Calusa Indians at the Marco Island Historical Museum, stop at the Otter Mound Preserve. Maintained by Collier County, the 2.45-acre preserve occupies an area, now known as Indian Hills, that was once home to some of Marco Island’s first settlers.
The hardwood hammock at Otter Mound Preserve sits upon a sea of discarded oyster shells, clams, and other shellfish left over by its Calusa Indian settlers. With weather and erosion, a wave of shells accumulated, creating a massive mound.
The nature preserve has become an archeologist’s dream. Preserved among the shells, Calusa artifacts, bones, and stone tools have been uncovered.
Perched on the southeast corner of the island, Otter Mound Preserve is free to visit.
South Marco Beach
Marco Island has minimal public beach access. For the easiest path to the finest sugary white beaches on Marco Island, look no further than South Marco Beach. Located on the south end of Marco Island, South Beach is one of the island’s two public beach entry points.
The turquoise waters of South Beach are the perfect place to enjoy water sports. Parasailing, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and kayaking are all available. On South Beach, you’ll also find volleyball courts and a restaurant as well as bathroom facilities. Of course, there’s plenty of space on the white sand to lay out a blanket and set up your umbrella for a full beach day.
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You can access South Marco Island via Collier Blvd. Public parking costs $8 per day.
Briggs Nature Center
One of the main reasons to visit Marco Island is for its nature and virtually untouched beaches. To immerse yourself in the island’s wildlife and ecology, head to the Briggs Nature Center. With its mix of fresh and saltwater, the estuary sprawls over five important natural habitats.
Hit the boardwalk trail at Briggs Nature Center to enjoy scenic views over the preserved mangroves. If you’re interested in local wildlife, keep your eyes open for river otters, shoulder hawks, and even baby alligators.
Isles of Capri Marina
Ready to sail out on the open water? Head to the Isles of Capri Marina for the day. The marina offers multiple pontoon boats for rent as well as kayaks if you’d rather travel the miles of waterways with your own power.
Isles of Capri Marina has everything you need for an exceptional day in Southwest Florida. Take a family cruise or relax with a romantic sunset dinner on the water. From the marina, you can take your own boat to a private island to enjoy quiet sandy beaches. Or grab your rod and reel and try to catch your own dinner out on the Gulf.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Between Marco Island and Everglades City lies Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, one of the coolest places to see around Marco Island. The refuge sits on 35,000 acres of protected land. Its goal is to conserve the fish & wildlife and endangered species that call the local mangroves home.
Located on the Tamiami Trail, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge provides visitors with both an educational and recreational experience. You can explore the reserve on one of the many day tours from Marco Island, including the popular Dolphin Explorer. On the tours, you can watch dolphins ride the waves, go fishing, and even go shelling with a professional guide.
Marco Island Brewery
Fancy yourself a beer connoisseur? Carve out time to savor the suds at Marco Island Brewery. The family-owned and operated craft brewery offers the island’s largest selection of beers on tap. Located on Collier Blvd in the heart of the island, it’s the perfect afternoon stop after a day of fun in the sun.
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Marco Island Brewery offers a rotating menu of 40 different brews from around the world. To soak up the brews, be sure to chomp down on their insanely popular homemade wood fire pizza.
Caxambas Pass Park
Looking to cruise around the Gulf of Mexico or Ten Thousand Islands in your own boat? Start at Caxambas Pass Park. Located on the island’s southern edge, the park & marina is the easiest public boat access on Marco Island.
Caxambas Pass Park sits upon four acres of pristine Gulf Coast. Even if you don’t have a boat, you’ll love casting our a fishing line while soaking in the beautiful sea views. It’s also a popular meeting point for boat tours and charters, including shelling cruises.
Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival
Visiting Marco Island in March? Don’t miss the famed Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival. The annual festival is, hands down, the island’s most popular event of the year. What started as a two-day seafood fest has now turned into a three-day festival with a variety of food and live music. Every year, it draws about 10,000 attendees from all around the state and the country.
Each night, the Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival hosts different themes from “Disco Inferno Night” to “One Night Rodeo.” Pack your themed outfit and come hungry. With over 30 food vendors fryin’ up dishes, there’s plenty to try.
If you’re attending, you’ll enjoy free bus transportation from Collier Blvd. Tickets cost $10 for one day and $16 for the whole weekend. Find more information on the official festival site.
Frank E. Mackle Community Park
Kids are getting antsy? You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities for them at Frank E. Mackle Community Park. The kid- and dog-friendly park lies on the southern end of Marco Island.
Frank E. Mackle Park offers several fun recreational opportunities, including basketball courts, frisbee golf, ping pong, shuffleboard, and bocce. On a hot day, the kids can cool off at the splash pads.
Throughout the year Mackle Park also hosts many events, including movie nights, farmers markets, and Christmas specials.
Marco Island Farmers Market
Even outside of the summer high tourist season, there are plenty of places to go on Marco Island. If you’re looking for a more local vibe, be sure to check out the Marco Island Farmers Market on Andalusia Terrace.
Marco Island Farmers Market offers a wide variety of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. Arrive early, grab a cup of joe from “Farmers Market Coffee.” Mosey through the white tents as you pick up favorites like ripe strawberries or freshly baked bread.
The farmers market is located in Frank E. Mackle Park. It’s open every Wednesday between November 17 and April 20 from 7:30 am to 1:00 pm.
Located 30 minutes away in Naples, Tin City is the perfect day trip from Marco Island. The open-air shopping district teems with cool shops and restaurants, crossed by a waterfront boardwalk with incredible views.
Tin City offers visitors an eclectic waterfront shopping experience. Pop into its boutique shops for unique gifts, local artisan goods, and beachwear.
End your Tin City visit with a fresh seafood meal to water views at Riverwalk or Pincher’s Crab Snack, two of the top-rated restaurants in Naples, FL.
Collier-Seminole State Park
Located along Tamiami Trail, Collier-Seminole State Park is the perfect weekend escape into nature from Marco Island. At this popular Southwest Florida state park, you spend your day camping, canoeing, hiking, or biking on one of their many trails.
Collier-Seminole State Park dwells among one of the world’s largest mangrove swamps. Join a guided boat tour from December through March to explore the mangroves like a pro.
Parking at Collier-Seminole State Park is $5 per vehicle. An overnight camper spot will set you back $22 per night.
Everglades National Park
The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, Everglades National Park is a must-see spot for your Southwest Florida and Marco Island itinerary. Located off the Tamiami Trail, the Florida Everglades call out to adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts.
There are many ways to experience the Everglades. From its visitor centers, you’ll be able to bike, walk or take a horseback ride along its nature trails. You can even paddle your way through the wetlands and into mangrove tunnels or book an airboat ride.
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Teeming with wildlife, the national hides some of Florida’s endangered animals. Keep on the lookout for rare species like leatherback turtles and West Indian manatees. You may even catch a glimpse of a Florida panther!
Accessible by boat from Marco Island, Cape Romano is one of the Paradise Coast’s biggest surprises. Located in the Ten Thousand Islands, the cape holds an important spot in the history of Southwest Florida.
Cape Romano has been inhabited for centuries, starting with the Calusa Indians who named the settlement Manataca. The area even became a landing spot for shipwrecked Romanians. The survivors established America’s first Romanian Orthodox Church here in 1837, the ruins of which can be explored on the island near the beach.
The main attraction of Cape Romano, however, is its collection of six abandoned dome houses. Built in 1979 and abandoned in 1992, the houses have become one of the area’s most popular dive sites. Now circling the foundation pillars is a diverse array of marine life, from bright tropical fish to rays.
Marco Island Princess
Want to hit the waterways in style? Book yourself onto a cruise on the Marco Island Princess from Rose Marina. The 90-foot vessel, operated by Sunshine Tours & Charters, offers a variety of boat tours, from sightseeing and sunset cruises to lunch and history trips.
If you’re traveling as a couple, spend a romantic evening on the Gulf of Mexico with a sunset dinner cruise. On the two-hour trip, you’ll watch the sun dip below the turquoise water while you indulge in a chef-prepared dinner buffet and cocktails.
Marco Golf and Garden
Need a break from the typical Marco Island sightseeing activities? Bring the whole family to Marco Golf and Garden. Located in the center of town, this 18-hole mini-golf course is a wonderful escape from the buzz of the island’s seaside.
Marco Golf and Garden lives up to its name, surrounding golfers with a lush tropical garden backdrop. Although kid-friendly, the holes are challenging and will keep everyone entertained as they putt away for a wine.
After a round, cool down with soda and ice cream in the clubhouse.
Best places to stay in Marco Island
For travelers, many of the best places to stay in Marco Island lie along its beautiful Gulf coastline. Many of the island’s top resorts feature private beach access, giving you a chance to enjoy the pristine white sands with less crowding.
As the island is known as a luxury getaway, expect higher accommodation prices on the island. To save money, you might find more selection nearby among the top places to stay in Naples, FL.
Located in the historic district, Marco Island Lakeside Inn is a lovely boutique hotel offering some of the best value on the ritzy island. All units at the inn come with a kitchenette or full kitchen. Guests will also enjoy cooling down in the heated outdoor pool.
Savor all the requisite island luxuries by splurging for a night at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. The resort is chock-loaded with luxurious amenities, including three outdoor pools, ten restaurants, two private 18-hole golf courses, and a spa.
Escape the buzz of town at the oasis-like Marco Beach Ocean Resort. After a long day of sightseeing, you’ll love dipping into the outdoor pool, delighting in a massage, or catching a sunset from your private balcony. Be sure to save room for a delicious meal at Sale e Pepe, the resort’s award-winning Italian restaurant.