In a state that is often referred to as having 10,000 islands, Florida’s Marco Island is one of the largest. It has a bold reputation for having beautiful beaches and a laid-back lifestyle to boot. Sunseekers from all over the world come here to experience the grand side of life.
Not only is the living easy, but Marco Island is also home to a surprising array of artistic and cultural attractions, and festivals, so staying entertained will not be a problem. We’ve gathered the best of what this oasis of 16,000 residents has in store for you.
The Best Beach on Marco Island
It’s tough for Florida beaches to outshine one another because most of them are great, but Marco Island manages to do just that with South Marco Island Beach on South Collier Boulevard. It is a glistening white beach with endless gulf vistas and a wide variety of shells. Shelling the beaches is a popular activity here. It is a beachgoers paradise and it’s not uncommon to see dolphins swimming and frolicking in the offshore surf.
Shopping on Marco Island
For the shopaholic in all of us, the island’s small boutiques sell everything from great beachy home décor to high-end designer labels and everything in between. The Esplanade on Smokehouse Bay is an upscale Italian-style dining and retail center. With waterfront eateries, an inviting fountain in a large courtyard, an open-air bar, a delectable ice cream shop and so much more, it’s the perfect place to shop, unwind, and people watch. Downtown Marco Island has a multitude of shops, malls and outlets that go beyond selling kitschy beachwear. It’s where the main shopping plazas are for both larger retail shops and smaller boutiques. You’ll also find some fantastic spas, wonderful restaurants, and epic nightlife. Speaking of which…
Nightlife on Marco Island
CJ’s on the Bay is the Marco Island staple for dancing the night away on Thursday in the gazebo until 9pm (weather permitting). The casual island hangout offers happy hour daily with a huge outdoor gazebo bar, which is the best way to catch that amazing Florida sunset. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, enjoy live entertainment indoors until 11:30pm.
Little Bar Restaurant has a packed entertainment calendar with a side of fresh seafood and glorious views of the water. The Kane Tiki Bar & Grill at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is a popular spot for food and drinks, located right on the beach. The atmosphere is inviting, with live music until 10pm and a friendly staff.
The Sand Bar is an affordable way to strut your stuff and socialize in a casual and upbeat atmosphere. Nibble on finger foods, enjoy televised sports, and most of all shake it up on the dance floor. Ideal for a couples or friends’ night, they don’t close up shop until 2am daily.
The Snook Inn on the waterfront of Marco Island Bay is ideal for a memorable romantic night out. Dine on seafood and cocktails before heading out to the observation deck to breathe in the sea air and take some photos. Then head back into the bar where music adds some nice energy to the evening. Start early and make it last, because they close at 10pm.
Unique Things to Do in Marco Island
Otter Mound Preserve is situated on roughly three acres of the island’s Indian Hills area. For a change of pace from the sun, sand, and surf, come here to relish in a tropical forest for a perfect change of pace. The trails are not paved, giving the area a more natural feel. Still, it’s great for hikers, bikers, and runners looking to work off some calories while also doing a bit of exploring in a natural habitat. And yes, that means wildlife viewing.
For even more nature, head to Briggs Nature Center. There’s more scenic trails and wildlife viewing to be had. It is part of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; a natural breeding and hatchery for birds, marine turtles, and a variety of fish.
Marco, Murder & Mayhem is a wonderful ‘frightseeing’ tour if you are at all into history, ghosts, and haunted hotels. The two-hour tour takes visitors through a number of notable spots on the island, led by a knowledgeable and interesting guide who puts some humor into every tour. Things kick off with a complimentary drink and orientation before heading to the macabre journey.
A great off-the-beaten-path beach is Tigertail Beach. A bit more remote, it’s one of the island’s true relaxing gems, so if it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for, come here. The variety of shells to be found here are amazing; sand dollars, conchs, scallops, whelks…the list goes on. While the amenities are few, there are bathrooms, changing rooms, a playground, and ample parking.
Best Restaurants in Marco Island
There are just so many of them! We encourage you to discover for yourself the best eateries on the island, but you cannot go wrong with the aforementioned CJ’s on the Bay. They are affordable, with a killer happy hour and located on Smokehouse Bay. Their lobster fries cannot be overlooked.
For breakfast, start your day at Red Rooster for a hearty, no nonsense breakfast with the best sausages on the island. They have everything from sweet to savory, with classic breakfast fare as well as specialty menu items.
If it’s island casual you’re looking for, Dolphin Tiki Bar & Grill never disappoints. This is a little-known gem on the island with a festive atmosphere and amazing frozen drinks. Located at the marina, they serve up tasty options like pulled pork sandwiches and crab towers.
For something a bit more upscale, Sale e Pep offers luxurious waterfront dining in an elegant dining room, with Southern Italian fare and wines. Perfect for seafood and oenophile connoisseurs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fantastic things to do on Marco Island. Come here and discover for yourself why this amazing place is one of the best locations in southwest Florida.
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