10 Best Things to Do on Marco Island

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. 

Marco Mystery & History Tours
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Marco Mystery & History, as the name hints, combines elements of Marco Island history and ghost stories for a spooked two-hour trolley tour with Martha Horror, an actress and your personal guide. Stops include a 340-year-old Indian burial...  Read More

Otter Mound Preserve
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Shell mounds such as this once pimpled Southwest Florida landscape, particularly on Marco Island, which was a major headquarters for the ancient Calusa tribe. This hidden Calusa archaeological site and its short interpretative trail along a...  Read More

Marco Island Princess
Photo courtesy of Naples Princess


Beautifully appointed, the 90-foot Marco Island Princess sails daily for sightseeing, lunch, dinner and sunset cruises into the Gulf of Mexico. Narrated sightseeing and luncheon cruises point out the area's natural and historical assets....  Read More

Village of Goodland
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


At the eastern end of Marco Island, things revert to an era of commercial fishing and funky fun. Consider that the official Goodland dance is the Buzzard Lope and at one of its annual festivals, Spammy Jammy, folks dress in PJs and create dishes...  Read More

South Marco Beach
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Public beach access is limited on Marco Island. This one, at the southernmost end of the island, is easiest to get to and find, although there is a bit of a walk from the parking lot on the other side of Collier Boulevard. Marco Island...  Read More

Tigertail Beach
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


At Marco Island's northern end, a sand spit peninsula intercepts the sand, stealing the beach from the main island. That Sand Dollar Spit is accessible from Tigertail Beach, the public access operated by Collier County, and is known for its...  Read More

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


The Environmental Learning Center at the reserve does a stellar job of interpreting the habitat of the estuary in a modern, state-of-the-art facility. The first floor holds a gallery that hosts changing exhibits of wildlife art in addition to...  Read More

Dolphin Explorer
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Part citizen-science research boat, part sightseeing tour, the Dolphin Explorer takes visitors aboard as a way to continue its 10,000 Islands Survey Team Dolphin Project. If there's a tour where you're going to see dolphins, this is it, because...  Read More

Paddle Marco
Photo courtesy of Paddle Marco


At the edge of Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island is surrounded and riddled with scenic waterways that take you away from the condos and concrete of the resort area. Paddle Marco launches its 2.5-hour Mangrove Canopy Paddle from the Paddlecraft...  Read More

Marco Island Historical Museum
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


The importance of Marco Island to ancient Calusa Indian civilization, which spread throughout Southwest Florida and even into the Keys, was established in 1896 by archaeologist Frank Hamilton Cushing in what has been called one of the most...  Read More


Meet Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and...  More About Chelle