In Florida’s remote southwest corner, near the everglades, Marco Island has several fine beaches and is surrounded by a mangrove oasis. It is a place with excellent beachfront rental properties and manicured suburban streets.
But Marco Island is also home to one of the best beaches in the entire region – Tigertail Beach. A beautiful and wild beach, it is also one that promises exquisite moments of adventure. Just less than two decades ago, it was just an off-shore sandbar. But the winds of Hurricane Wilma piled sand on the southern end and formed Sand Dollar Island which connects it to the mainland.
A Scenic and Secluded Beach
Despite its beauty, Tigertail Beach is one to Florida’s least known beaches. What this means is that you won’t have to share this gorgeous stretch of sand with hundreds of other tourists. Given the lower popularity of this beach, there are lots of things to do here.
Shelling is among the top activities. The shells are aplenty here and is a great place for collectors to roam. Many times you can simply walk down the beach and easily find all manner of sand dollars and other beautiful shells. Go in the early morning and have your pick of the lions share before others come to grab the good stuff.
There is nothing quite like the luxurious opportunity to step into the water’s edge, look down, and see your toes squishing in the sand. For on Tigertail Beach, you can enjoy the clearest blue waters. It’s truly the best place to relax.
Tigertail Beach Park
Tigertail Beach seems to have a split personality. It is actually part of a county park, and as such, is wonderfully maintained, with facilities that are run by staff. The developed portion of the park faces a salt-water lagoon, where some visitors rent beach umbrellas and park themselves on the beach for the day.
But cross the lagoon, and you leave civilization behind. Three miles of beach with soft white sand, a vast plethora of shells, dolphins swimming off-shore, and ospreys squawking overhead give the impression that you are in the middle of nowhere. And in a sense, you are. In fact, it is a wonderful place for birdwatching, as this is a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
A tidal lagoon separates the beach park from the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area, also known as the Sand Dollar Spit. Other wildlife to be found are horseshoe crabs, needlefish, Florida fighting conchs, and more.
Crossing the Lagoon is the Fun Part
The gorgeous Tigertail lagoon is about 50 years across and at high tide, the water will be waist or chest high at a buoy that marks the crossover path. At the far side, at high tide, the path is a small channel of water a few inches deep and often filled with small schools of fish. When the ground rises a few inches, the sandy soil at the bottom is home to a legion of fiddler crabs.
Crossing the lagoon is fun, not only to do, but to see as people hold their belongings above them, looking a bit like an Oregon Trail scene of pioneers forging the river. Once across, you are rewarded with a stunning vista of blinding white sand and turquoise water. The journey does feel a bit Robinson Crusoe-like.
As an alternative, you can also reach the other side simply by walking around the south side of the lagoon.
What to Bring to Tigertail Beach
For a day of complete relaxation and to enjoy this beach to the fullest, remember to bring:
· Bathing Suit
· Beach towels
· Beach chair and umbrella (also available for rent)
· A pair of binoculars for viewing wildlife and birds
Note: No pets are allowed at Tigertail beach. There is ample parking and the parking fee is $8. Other amenities are restrooms, a picnic area with outdoor grills and tables, a butterfly garden, and a playground for the kids
If you want to do more than just lie around the beach, watersport gear can be rented at an affordable price. Kayak, paddleboards, and snorkeling gear are available. You can even arrange a local eco-tour that makes a stop at Tigertail. The tours visit several of the islands of southwestern Florida and give you a chance to see them up close. Fascinating marine life such as manatees and dolphins make a regular appearance on these tours.
Things to Do Near Tigertail Beach
If you are hungry, try the Tigertail Café. They serve breakfast and lunch, including beer and wine. And for even more wildlife, head to the Briggs Nature Center. History buffs will get a kick out of the Marco Island Historical Museum, which gives an in-depth look at how the island came to be with the early Calusa Indian settlement. It features a replica of a Calusa village for guests to explore.
No matter what you do during your vacation on Marco Island, be sure to make it to Tigertail Beach. It really is the best beach on the island!
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