Marco Island is a sunny, paradise-like community on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s small at only 24 square miles and features six miles of beach and over 80 miles of waterways. The island is the largest Barrier Island within Southwest Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands area. Marco Island has a permanent population of about 16,500 residents and a peak population of about 40,000 during the winter months.
The island is a popular place for families, young vacationers, and retirees alike. From dining to shopping to water sports, the island has something to offer everyone.
Marco Island is located on the west side of Florida and is the southernmost point on the west side of the state before Alligator Alley takes you east to Miami. Located in Collier County, the island is just a short drive to other Florida destinations (Naples to Marco Island is just 18 miles). It is also close to the Florida keys (only 130 miles from Key Largo). There are no commercial airports in the immediate vicinity but getting here is easy. Most visitors fly into Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers (a hour away). Punta Gorda, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami Airport are also convenient to Marco Island. Two bridges connect Marco to the mainland.
Marco Island history goes all the way back to 1870 when Captain W.D. “Bill” Collier of Tennessee arrived by sea. The island already had clamming and fishing industries, but Captain Bill built the first hotel here – The Olde Marco Inn in 1883. The island remained somewhat isolated until the 1920s, when the Olde Marco Ferry and a railroad link to the mainland were established. These allowed Miami and Orlando visitors to travel to the island easily.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the island’s development ramped up with the investment of brothers Elliott, Robert, and Frank Mackle. The brothers are responsible for creating Marco Island as we know it today.
Although the city of Marco Island was first incorporated in 1927, it was later unincorporated and was not re-incorporated until 1996. The city elected the first seven-member City Council and hired a city manager at that time. Residents of the island also volunteered to serve on various governance committees. Today, the City Council manages development plans, operating codes, law enforcement, fire & rescue, parks, and community development.
In the late 1990s, the City Council realized that the island had severe infrastructure problems and began an aggressive capital improvement program. The program has led to repairing bridges and roads, storm drainage improvement, and dredging to ensure safe boating access.
The city also acquired the water and wastewater system from a private owner in 2003. The acquisition of the utility allows the community to make joint decisions about the water supply and safe wastewater treatment.
Marco Island is famous for its great weather. It lies within the subtropical to tropical climate zone. The island has a clear wet and dry season, and most of the rainfall occurs between June and October.
Summers are typically pretty hot with puffy white cloud cover. The winters are short, comfortable, and mostly clear. Winter highs generally are in the 70s. Summer highs can get well above 90. According to Marco Island’s tourism score, the best time to visit is between late October and early May (I wonder why).
Marco Island has only had one direct hit from a hurricane! In 2017, Hurricane Irma hit the island as a strong Category 3 storm, triggering evacuations and causing minor property damage. Shingles and pool cages took the brunt of the wallup and repairs began in short order. It wasn’t long before Marco could consider itself fully recovered and maybe even “new and improved.”
As of 2018, Marco Island’s median age was 65.3, with a median household income of $86,215. 92.5% of the Marco Island population are citizens, and 13.4% of residents were born outside of the country. The three largest ethnic groups are White (87.8%), Hispanic (10.5%), and Asian (0.76%).
Marco Island is among the safest communities in the country. In 2021, there were 0 reported murders, one reported robbery, and 11 reported assaults. For perspective, total crime in Marco Island is 72% below the national average, violent crime is 79% below the national average, and property crime is 71% below the national average. Its low crime rate is one of the reasons families have been visiting our tiny island for over 50 years now.
Marco Island is home to many hotels with its vibrant tourism culture, including luxury properties and oceanfront accommodations. In addition to hotels, the island offers short and long-term rental properties, including rental homes and rental condos. Rental properties are available on popular home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb, Sun King Vacation Rentals, and VRBO, as well as through travel agencies.
Some of the highest-rated hotel properties on the island include the JW Marriott, the Hilton, Crystal Shores, and Marco Beach Ocean Resort.
The JW Marriott Marco Island offers a mile of private beach, a dozen restaurants, two golf courses, and more. It is a popular hotel for business functions, families, couples, and everything in between.
Centrally located Hilton Beach Resort is for those looking to explore Marco Island beaches. The hotel has a full-service spa, outdoor pool, and rooms with private balconies.
Crystal Shores is one of the most family-friendly hotels on the island. It is close to the beach and also has kid-friendly outdoor pools. Parents can enjoy an on-site bar & grill, and the resort offers villas that are complete with kitchens and washer/dryers.
Marco Island offers a mix of both public and private beaches. The beaches are well-kept and offer exceptional white sand, clear water, and beautiful sunsets.
Tigertail beach is a public white sand beach known for its wildlife. Visitors often see dolphins, and the beach is a top spot for bird watchers. It has affordable parking, a snack bar, and various food options.
South Beach is another public beach and is a popular spot for shelling. The beach is never too crowded, so visitors enjoy spreading out their beach camps and enjoying their own space. If you are looking for gentle waves for young swimmers, South Beach is the spot to go.
Residents’ beach is a private beach open to local residents and visitors who are staying for more than a month. Access to the beach includes many amenities, including close parking, showers and bathrooms, and outdoor grills. The beach also hosts outdoor events like concerts. If you are a renter, you must get credentials from your landlord or the beach office.
Hideaway Beach is a private beach open to residents and members of the Hideaway Beach Club. The luxurious club is like nothing else on the island. It has a beach bar and an outdoor pool. Some consider Hideaway’s beach the best on the island. It’s 2.5 miles long and has lounge chairs, umbrellas, and chickee huts.
If you are looking for a vacation destination with excellent food, look no further than Marco Island. There’s something for every palate from fine dining to local fish shops to grab-and-go food. Here are some of the best restaurants on the island.
If you feel like ordering homemade pasta and pizza, Sale e Pepe is one of the most famous Italian restaurants on the island. In addition to their fantastic food, they also hit the mark with ambiance, making it an excellent spot for a special occasion. Guests choose wine from a curated list to pair with their meal. You won’t leave disappointed.
You can’t visit Marco Island without trying the local seafood. Snook Inn is the quintessential waterfront restaurant that is casual but offers world-class seafood platters. You can’t go wrong with the menu from seafood chowder to the famous grouper sandwich.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Doreen’s is a must-visit for a hearty breakfast if you are on Marco Island. Doreen’s is equally skilled at putting out sweet and savory dishes from french toast and homemade donut holes to biscuit sandwiches.
While the name sounds high-end and exclusive, the Oyster Society is a welcoming restaurant that offers some of the best oysters on the island. In addition to fresh food, the restaurant has a unique decor with bold wallpaper and a wall of mirrors. They also entertain and book live jazz music on the weekends.
DaVinci’s is often regarded as the best Italian food on the island is one of the most popular restaurants for both locals and visitors. The atmosphere is the perfect balance between fancy and casual, and everything on the menu is terrific.
Whether you are looking for an adventurous trip or a super relaxing vacation, Marco Island offers a variety of fun things to do. The island has activities for all skill levels and age groups, from water sports to shopping to golf.
Marco Island and the surrounding area are home to some of the best golf courses in the country. There are public and private courses that are open year-round. There are even championship courses just a short drive away.
Here are some of the best courses on Marco Island:
Eagles Lake Golf Club is a public course located near Marco Island in Naples, just a short drive away. It is a beautiful course where golfers commonly see local wildlife, including alligators and bald eagles.
Hibiscus Golf Club is a public course that hosts one of the few public practice facilities in the area. It features a mix of challenging and tight holes and has numerous lakes and streams.
Fiddler’s Creek caters to golfers at all levels. The course incorporates the beauty of Florida’s natural landscape and features raised tee boxes and open sawgrass marshes. All golfers enjoy this course with a mix of more accessible and challenging holes.
Island Country Club is the only 18-hole course on the island. The course has spacious greens and signature Florida white bunkers. The landscape features lush tropical flowers, making for a relaxing afternoon of golf.
Bay Colony Golf Club is a favorite club among well-heeled locals. Located inside the Cocohatchee Strand Nature Preserve, it offers one-of-a-kind views. The club is small, with less than 350 members, so each member receives highly personalized service.
Other popular courses on the island include Naples Grande, Grey Oaks Country Club, Tiburon Golf Club, Lely Resort Golf and Country Club, and the Vanderbilt Country Club.
Whether you are an experienced fisherman looking for a unique experience or a first-time angler, there is a fishing charter on Marco Island for you. Marco Island is home to various fishing charters that cater to all skill sets. Many charters run year-round and offer one-day trips or multi-day adventures. Here are some of the best fishing charter options.
Six Chuter is a local company led by Captain Shaun Chute. Shaun is a Florida native and has a crew of experienced guides that will take you around the many islands near San Marco. Six Chuter offers backwater fishing which is excellent for visitors looking for calm water. They also provide other activities during the charter, including shelling and sightseeing.
Fish On is an excellent option for the avid fisherman. Guests can book tours close to the island or as far away as the Everglades National Park. The staff is known for their deep knowledge of the island and sea life. If you are looking to catch a specific type of fish, Fish On is a suitable tour for you.
Captain Patrick Lewis founded Blue Runner Charters over 30 years ago. The charters range from traditional fishing charters to shipwreck and reef fishing trips. Captain Lewis’s boats are equipped with the latest technology to maximize your chances of the best catch.
Sunshine Tours is a favorite among Marco Island visitors because they offer more than a traditional fishing trip. Their cruising yacht hosts unforgettable trips that combine fishing with sunset cocktails, dinner, and more. Guests can deep-sea fish during the day, then relax with the sunset and a nice drink. Sunshine Tours is perfect for special occasions or just a fun activity while on vacation.
Captain Snook started his fishing guide business ten years ago and has over 30 years of fishing experience. His guided experience offers everything you’ll need, from coolers to your fishing license. He’ll even help you clean your fish after the charter. Captain Snook’s charter is excellent for fishing beginners and kids.
Parasailing on Marco Island is a popular activity and a great way to spend the day. The Marco Island parasailing guides are some of the most experienced in the business and have made the activity one of the safest on the island. There’s no better way to experience a panoramic view of the clear waters. Here are a few of the best parasailing tour companies on the island.
Sky’s the Limit guides have over 20 years of parasailing experience. They do not just offer a one-size-fits-all experience, but they cater to your skill level, comfort level, and preferences. They can also accommodate visitor schedules and are very highly rated among tourists.
Marco Island Water Sports is a dynamic company that offers a variety of parasailing experiences. Whether you are looking for private tours or a team-building experience with co-workers, they can accommodate you. As their name indicates, they also offer several other water adventures, including jet skiing and banana boat rides.
Marco Island is known for its beautiful sunsets. Both visitors and locals make a point to take in the beautiful skies all year round. There is a reason that the Marco Island area is known as the Paradise Coast. One of the most memorable ways to experience the island sunset is on a sunset cruise.
If you are looking for a truly unique sunset cruise experience, you’ll find it with the Black Pearl Pirate Cruise. Their signature cruise is a 90-minute adults-only event that will take you to a beautiful spot on the water while enjoying music and drinks served by staff members in costume. The small ship holds just 78, so it is an intimate and fun experience.
Naples Princess offers an experience perfect for a special occasion. The cruise takes place on a three-level yacht that is comfortable and luxurious. The signature cruise lasts two hours and a double-entree meal.
Hemingway’s signature cruise offers more than a great view of the sunset. Before the sun starts to go down, guests enjoy a guided tour through the mangroves and have the chance to see birds, manatees, fish, dolphins, and more. The Hemingway cruise is popular for families with children of all ages.
Cool Beans hots guests on a 42-foot catamaran for a fun yet informative evening. Guests board the vessel 2 hours before sunset and learn about the island from the captain. The catamaran has indoor and outdoor seating and allows guests to bring their own food and snacks. The highlight of the cruise is the champagne toast right as the sun is setting.
Marco Island is an excellent place for water activities with so many beaches to choose from. Marco Island can cater to you if you are looking for an adventurous day on a jet ski or a relaxing surf lesson.
A fun way to spend an afternoon is water skiing on a guided tour. The guides can accommodate all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned athletes. Most tours even offer options for kids who are just learning how to waterski.
There are many great spots to take a rental jet ski out for a cruise around Marco Island. You can rent a jet ski for an afternoon and explore the area, or you can opt for a guided tour that will take you around the islands. Most rental facilities offer both single and double seat machines, so kids are welcome to join for an afternoon on the water.
While tubing is often a water activity associated with rivers and lakes, Marco Island offers excellent rafting and tubing activities. Take a guided tour through the mangroves surrounded by sunshine and wildlife. Or, hang on while a boat pulls you along through the ocean water.
If you live close to Marco Island or have flexibility in your travel schedule, consider visiting the island for one of the annual events. Although the island is relatively small, it still manages to host yearly events that draw participants and attendees from all over the country.
Hosted for 18 years by the Marco Island Kiwanis Club and the San Marco Knights of Columbus, the Marco Island Car Show features everything from vintage cars to brand new models. The entry fee is only $20, including lunch, and children under 12 are free. The event also includes live entertainment that plays the 50s and 60s music. The car show is a must-see in February.
If you are looking for an opportunity to dress up while contributing to a good cause, the Tropical Paradise Gala is just what you are looking for. Organized by the YMCA and hosted by the JW Marriott, the event is a great way to support local charities in the area. While tickets can be a bit pricey, you’ll enjoy fabulous food, drink, and music all night.
The arts and crafts fair attracts artists and craft masters from across Florida and the country. Local, regional, and national artists set up for a weekend to display, sell, and discuss their craft. There’s no better place to find a one-of-a-kind art piece. Best of all, there is no charge to attend the fair.
Marco Island is a beautiful place to live and visit. The city is full of locals who genuinely care about the community, making for an exceptionally welcoming place. Visitors keep coming back to the island because, with so much variety, no two trips are the same. Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, an adventurous trip, a relaxing vacation, or a kid-friendly weekend trip, Marco Island has something for you.