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Welcome to my beginners guide! I wanted to share all my best Marco Island tips so you can fully enjoy your first visit to this amazing area of Florida.
Hmmm, where to go in Marco Island? Good question. To be honest with everyone, it doesn’t get any better than Marco. This place will always hold a special spot on my “favorite destinations” list even if it’s not as well known as other areas of the Sunshine State.
Taking a Marco Island Vacation is Perfect
First of all, I have been visiting Marco Island since I was an infant, so I would like to think I have some attachment to this slice of paradise off southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, haha.
Thanks to all my family vacations, I really love this destination, and want to share my passion with you guys in the hopes that you might one day experience it too. Sure, part of me would love to keep Marco Island all to myself, like a secret piece of pirate treasure, but it’s actually pretty popular now so I don’t mind bragging about this Marco’s awesomeness on my blog.
Plus I feel like Marco Island deserves some extra love after Hurricane Irma made its landing here in late 2017.
As you read this guide and make your holiday plans, keep in mind Marco Island – as far as its physical size is concerned – isn’t a big destination.
So you can easily pack a lot of fun into one sun soaked vacation! I promise you’ll discover plenty of stuff to do in Marco Island and won’t want to return home, especially if “home” is a cold and snowy place, haha.
Why You Should Visit Marco Island
Florida is one of the most popular states in the US for tourism. I mean, it’s the home of Disney World, Miami, Panama City, West Palm Beach, and so much more. As for Marco Island, the small barrier island located in the Gulf of Mexico is a destination created for travelers who just want to escape the stresses of their lives and relax. Point blank. End of story.
A Marco Island vacation is for you to unwind. Whenever I visit, I always buy new books for my Kindle and read for hours on the beach or by the pool. Marco Island is just … that type of place, which makes it different from my usual “favorite” destinations, like big European cities where you’re running all over to find different sites.
Additionally, Marco Island is a great location for people who love spending their time the outdoors. There are plenty of beaches to explore, ample boating and fishing opportunities, and you’re not too far away from Everglades National Park if you want to experience swampy nature. Pack for a beach vacation here!
Marco Island is also quite family friendly in the sense that it’s not a “party destination,” but instead boosts quality restaurants and bars. Foodies will be quite pleased.
Finally look at all these beautiful photos of Marco Island. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy that scenery? You’d have to be crazy to turn it down!
Your Marco Island Vacation and Transportation
So how do you reach Marco Island and get around the island itself? A lot people staying for the winter choose to drive to Florida, but if you want to take a short trip, driving may not be worth the hassle depending on where you are based. For example, it takes longer than a day to drive from New Jersey to Florida. You wanna waste all that time? No way.
Luckily, there are many flight options! If you’re flying to Florida, you have two major airport options: Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers or Punta Gorda Airport in Charlotte County. Both airports are hubs for budget airlines such as Spirit or Allegiant.
Marco Island isn’t really served well by public transportation. If you’re used to traveling around Europe, for example, the lack of fast trains and subways may come as a surprise to you. On Marco Island, you have two options for transportation: renting a car or taking taxis.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons to each.
Renting a Car
Obviously, when renting a car, you have the freedom to go wherever your heart desires. However, the downside to renting a car is the price. If you’re visiting in peak season or holidays, car rentals go through the roof to the point of economic ridiculousness. I’m not a cheapskate (far from it), but don’t waste your money on inflated car rental prices. You can survive without a car on Marco, I promise you.
Believe or not, Marco Island is not very well serviced by taxis. However, you can always reserve taxi transport to and from the RSW airport. Rideshares are also available, but you may have difficulty during peak periods. My advice is to reserve an Uber ahead of time to catch a ride.
Accommodation for a Marco Island Vacation
So where should you stay on your Marco Island vacation? Accommodation is one of the most important decisions to make on any adventure.
Marco Island is a vacation destination so there are plenty of hotels and rental options available for tourists. Book well in advance if you’re planning to visit on Christmas holidays or the months of February and March. Prices rise during peak periods too. So be careful and don’t book the first hotel on your search. Take your time selecting a place to stay in Marco Island.
Personally, I would stay somewhere within walking distance to the beach, because, let’s be honest, the sand and water are probably where you’ll spend most of your time. You want the beach to be reachable.
Best Time to Visit Marco Island
One of the biggest Marco Island tips concerns when exactly you should visit this part of southwest Florida.
Since Marco Island is a popular place to visit, you want to be aware of the peak travel periods and what you can do to reduce the usual “oh my god, it is too crowded, ahhhh!” type aggravations, such as traffic and overbooked restaurants.
In particular, Marco Island’s tourist population soars during Christmas week and stays high throughout the months of February and March. Keep in mind there is a reason for the crowds. Weather is pristine in February and March. Pristine.
However, if you want to enjoy a less crowded vacation, then aim to the visit Marco Island in November (with the exception of Thanksgiving) or April (with the exception of Easter). Sure, April may be a little bit hotter, but you won’t have to wait forever to catch a cab after Happy Hour. Worth it, yes?
Awesome Things to Do in Marco Island
Boat Rides: Marco Island has plenty of boat rides available for people who want to try their hand at fishing, collect sea shells on private islands, or go dolphin watching. Most fishing companies will allow you to keep the fish and cook them for your dinner. Doesn’t get any fresher than that, huh? Yummy!
Chilling on the Beach: Ahhh, yes. The beautiful, white sanded, chill Marco Island Beaches. As I’ve said, Marco Island isn’t a place where you’re spending hours sightseeing. This destination is for (possibly overstressed) people who want to shut their brains off and relax.
Parasailing: You can’t sit on the beach without seeing plenty of tourists parasailing. I’ve never personally tried it, but I hear on a clear day that you can see all sorts of amazing sea creatures thriving in the Gulf’s waters.
Watching Sunsets: Marco Island has some of the most stunning sunsets that I’ve ever seen. Stay on the beach until the sun is ready to drop under the horizon. You won’t forget the view, I promise.
Marco Island Restaurants or Awesome Places to Eat
CJ’s on the Bay: A fun seaside restaurant with great fish and drinks. CJ’s on the Bay is located in Esplanade Shoppes on 740 N. Collier Boulevard.
Doreen’s Cup of Joe: Mmmm, Doreen’s is one of the best breakfast places on Marco! Their special French toast topped with Florida strawberries makes my mouth water. Come early in the morning, because this place gets packed very fast especially on Sundays after church services. Doreen’s Cup of Joe is located on 267 N. Collier Boulevard.
The Farmer’s Market: This farmer’s market draws local food artisans from all over Collier County. You’re bound to find everything you need to cook at home. You can find the Farmer’s Market at 901 Park Avenue.
Fin Bistro: If you like seafood, Marco Island is so the place for you. Fresh fish, like mahi-mahi and grouper, everywhere. Fin Bistro is located on 657 S. Collier Boulevard.
Little Bar Restaurant: Little Bar has been in business for years and is a comfy local hangout. Food is of high quality. Little Bar Restaurant is located on 205 Harbor Drive in Goodland.
Mangos Dockside Bistro: Another option for bayside eating. Mangos Dockside Bistro is located on 760 N Collier Boulevard.
Marco Prime Steaks & Seafood: Mmm, who doesn’t love a good slice of steak? If seafood isn’t necessarily your thing, then try Marco Prime for the bests meats that you can find on the island. Marco Prime is located on 599 S Collier Boulevard.
The Oyster Society: If you can pry yourself off the beach, go to The Oyster Society for Happy Hour. The drink and appetizer specials are fantastic! I enjoyed the tuna tar tar appetizer, but a lot of people come here for the oysters. Mmm, delicious. Like Marco Prime, The Oyster Society is also located on 599 S Collier Boulevard.
Snook Inn: This place is a “Marco Island Classic.” I remember on my childhood trips we used to eat lunch here on our very first day. Snook Inn is located on 1215 Bald Eagle Drive.
Possible Day Trips from Marco Island
Everglades National Park: Florida’s famous national park is an easy day trip from Marco Island. Remember the Everglades is endangered, so please treat the environment with respect. No littering, no behaving like a jerk. Don’t antagonize the alligators under any circumstances. For both your safety and the animal’s. A trip to the Everglades will show you a different side of Florida, and is the perfect addition to your Marco Island Vacation.
Key West: Errrr, honestly, I wouldn’t consider Key West a “day trip.” Way too much rushing around for my personal liking. Rather I absolutely think Key West deserve at least an overnight stay. If you’re interested in Key West, a seasonal ferry leaves Marco Island. You can learn more about the Key West Express Ferry here.
Naples: Swanky Naples is a short drive away and offers plenty of fine dining and shopping choices. I love Naples. A lot. You can chill at an adorable boutique and eat lunch, and still spend late afternoon on the beach!
Are you ready for your Marco Island vacation? What are some of your favorite places to visit in Florida? Share in the comments! Thanks as always for supporting my blog!