What at first glance might appear a high-rise resort beach destination, Marco Island, just south of Naples, actually widely varies its offerings to vacationers. It stands out in two ways that expand its appeal beyond the beach: history and water sports. Its history dates back to ancient times, when it served as a capital for the Calusa culture. In 1896, archaeologist Frank Hamilton Cushing made an earth-shaking discovery of rare artifacts from the by-then-extinct tribe. One artifact, the Key Marco Cat, has especially stirred the imaginations of visitors and historians across the nation. The 6-inch wooden carving, along with other finds from the excavations, has resided at the Smithsonian Institution since. In December 2018, however, the Cat returns for a special exhibition at the Marco Island Historical Museum through April 2021. On the island's east end, visitors can experience the dizzying, San Franciso-esque heights of the shell mounds the Calusa built. Marco Island's other reputation has to do with its watery surround of Gulf of Mexico, Marco River, Rookery Bay and the vast, wilderness region known as Ten Thousand Islands. Boating, fishing, kayaking and other water sports define the island and its spirit of high-seas adventure. Marine life enriches the nautical flavor with dolphins, manatees, rays, tarpon and hundreds of species of birds. Even at its beaches and in it parks and backyards, birders find rare birds such as plovers, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills and burrowing owls. Finally, there's Goodland: In contrast to the polished resort area, it survives as a reminder of the island's bygones as a small fishing village. Funky and unassuming, it unabashedly parties in its handful of fun-time bar-restaurants.