Miami and Key West instantly come to mind when thinking of South Florida. But what if I told you there was another South Florida paradise hiding in plain sight? One with shell-lined beaches, sparkling Gulf waters, smaller crowds and some of the most stunning sunsets in the Sunshine State? Meet Marco Island, a barrier island on Florida’s southwest coast and a luxurious retreat that’s worthy of inclusion on your Florida bucket list.
This small island, neighboring the Florida Everglades and Naples, is teeming with wildlife including manatees, dolphins, shorebirds and sea turtles. Not to mention the friendly locals, dozens of eateries serving fresh Florida fish, lively waterfront tiki bars, beautiful shell-lined beaches, and a handful of eco tours to help introduce you to Florida’s natural side.
Read on for details on where to stay, must-do activities, and the best places to eat and drink.
Where to Stay
While there are several upscale hotel chains on the island, vacation rentals are the most popular choice. By staying in a vacation rental by owner property, you’ll be able to enjoy all the comforts of home while immersing yourself into the local way of life.
Make your home away from home at The Apollo, a well-stocked and updated 9thfloor beachfront condo offered by hosts Melissa and Rob Palmeri of Marco Island Beach Getaway. The condo, which sleeps six, boasts a fantastic location at the southern tip of the island with close proximity to top-notch restaurants and activities.
Besides the huge oceanfront balcony with comfortable loungers and a patio table, you’ll love these amenities:
- Three well-appointed bedrooms and two full bathrooms
- A fully updated living space with BeautyRest mattresses, wifi, smart TVs in each room, modern appliances and more
- Unparalleled sunset views, best enjoyed with a glass of wine!
- A well-stocked supply of everything you need: beach chairs and umbrellas, beach toys, blender, Crockpot, good utensils and dishes, cleaning products, water in the fridge and a welcome bottle of wine upon arrival, and more
- Covered parking
- Security: you need a key to get into the building, call the elevator, and access the boardwalk to and from the beach
- Community pool, hot tub and fitness area
- Sunset Grille, an on-site restaurant and bar on the main level of the building
- Melissa & Rob’s spot-on recommendations for things to do in the area.
The Apollo is available for rent on a weekly basis. Rates in the off peak season begin at $2000/week plus a cleaning fee, one-time parking fee and applicable taxes. If you’re traveling as a couple, check out The Sea Winds, a 2-bedroom property also owned by Melissa and Rob with rates from $1,300/week.
Things to Do Near Marco Island
Rent a bike
Marco Island Bike Rentals offers daily and weekly bike rentals and will deliver and pick up your bike for no extra charge anywhere on the island. The rental also includes a bike lock and helmet, if requested. Try a mid-day bicycle crawl mixing sightseeing with stops for drinks at some of the island’s luxe hotels, including the JW Marriott and Hilton Marco Island. Or, just use the bike as your primary mode of transportation for the week!
Take a jet ski tour of the Ten Thousand Islands
For an unforgettable experience, hop on a jet ski for a 3-hour guided tour of the Ten Thousand Islands with Avi’s Water Sports. Owner and tour guide Avi has anointed himself as “The Dolphin Whisperer” and it’s a well-earned title. The hours will fly by as you zip through this scenic system of mangrove islands, regularly slowing down to play with the resident dolphins jumping in the jet ski’s wake. You’ll also spot native wildlife and visit points of interest, like the unique Cape Romano Dome Home. But perhaps the biggest highlight of this tour is getting to hang out with Avi. His passion for the area, wildlife and photography (you’ll get a flash drive of awesome photos) are contagious and make the experience all the more memorable.
Go kayaking in the mangroves
Paddle Marco’s guided 2-hour, eco-focused mangrove kayaking tour is a fun and adventurous way to experience Marco Island’s mangroves. A knowledgeable guide will take you through several mangrove tunnels while making periodic stops to spot wildlife including gargantuan conch shells, birds, dolphins, tree crabs and more. Some of the tunnels are dense and narrow, meaning it’s necessary to grab onto or life up a branch to navigate your way through. But don’t be intimidated, even first-time kayakers can master and enjoy this tour.
Soak up the sun at the beach
Set up your beach chair and umbrella in the sand along Marco Island’s stretch of shell-lined coastline, or wade across a tidal lagoon in waist-deep water to reach the secluded and uncrowded Tigertail Beach. Alternatively, Keewaydin Island is only accessible by boat and is notable for its remote feel and the resident pontoon boat food trucks serving up tasty eats. Catch a round-trip ferry ride with Hemingway Water Shuttle.
- Take a day trip to Naples or the Florida Everglades
- Go on the Dolphin Explorer eco boat tour
- Visit Goodland, a small nearby fishing town, and hang out at Little Bar and Stan’s Idle Hour
Best Eats and Sips on Marco Island
- Start the day at Doreen’s Cup of Joe with the eatery’s famous Crunchy French Toast and a caramel latte for breakfast.
- Enjoy a casual waterfront lunch at Island Gypsy Café (try the Caribbean seasoned fish tacos), CJ’s on the Bay or Mango’s Dockside Bistro.
- Watch the sunset while sipping on a Mai Tai, noshing on a grouper sandwich and listening to live music at Snook Inn, one of the island’s most popular and lively local hangouts. It’s worth the wait for a waterfront table. Check out the late night happy hour from 10pm-midnight.
- Treat yourself to a fancy night out dining at Fin Bistro, an upscale seafood eatery known for beautifully plated and delicious fresh fish dishes.
- Head to the Isles of Capri to visit Pelican Bend for a classic order comprised of the wedge salad (with the most heavenly house-made creamy garlic dressing EVER), sautéed fish with a baked sweet potato (load it up with brown sugar!), and a slice of homemade key lime pie for dessert.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with artisanal gelato and savory desserts at Dolce Mar.
No matter what you decide to do on Marco Island your vacation will be incredible. Marco Island is perfect for active couples, snowbirds, and sun lovers looking for a quiet Florida getaway. For your next trip to Marco Island think about booking a vacation rental to really experience the island life. “Book the Same Vacation Rentals for Less“.
Skip the traveler fees that are charged on other large online travel agency platforms like Aribnb, HomeAway, VRBO and Expedia. Reserve your vacation rental on FLARBO – Florida Rental By Owners where there are no booking fees for either traveler or property owners. FLARBO, it’s the best option for Florida travelers.
Interested in visiting Marco Island, Florida?
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Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign between Florida Rental By Owners and Travel Taste Click. FLARBO provided a hosted stay at no cost to the writer.