Located in the Gulf of Mexico and just a short ride from the Florida Everglades, Marco Island has long been a hotspot for travelers from all over the world. Whether you’re looking for white sand beaches, world-class golf courses, or top-notch shopping and entertainment, there’s no shortage of fun things to do. We’ve rounded up some of the best activities and attractions to check out during your stay. Here are our top recommendations.
- Beaches and parks
- Shopping and spas
- Fun and entertainment
- Day trips and tours
- Sports and activities
- Restaurants and nightlife
- History and culture
Beaches and parks
Collect shells with the kids
Voted as one of the prettiest stretches of coastline in the region, South Marco Beach is a must-visit if you’re looking for things to in Marco Island. It has soft white sand and clear warm water so it’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing, and it’s great for beach games and water sports too. The shore is littered with all kinds of seashells making it an ideal spot for shell collecting, or you can go wildlife spotting along the powdery sand dunes. The walkway to the beach is lined with palm trees and is backed by a number of cafés, restaurants and hotels. Don’t worry about the tourist crowds here; they tend to head to Marco’s livelier beaches.
Sail to a nature preserve
Keewaydin Island (or Key Island as it is known locally) is an 8-mile-long nature preserve located just a short boat ride from Marco Island’s northern tip. A popular spot for beachgoers and boaters alike, the island is home to an abundance of sandy beaches and winding mangroves, as well as a wide variety of wildlife including birds, deer, iguana and turtles. You can spend the day splashing, sunning, shelling or fishing, or you can explore the island by boat or kayak, spotting dolphins, manatees, shore birds and other sea life along the way. While the only way to reach Keewaydin Island is by boat, there are various options to choose from. You can take an express water shuttle with a variety of departure and return times, or you can rent boats or jet skis from one of the many water sports rental providers in Marco Island.
Buy a burger from a food boat
If you’re spending an entire day at Keewaydin Island, you can pack a picnic or you can cook up meals in the designated BBQ areas. Alternatively you could stop by one of the many ‘food boats’ that dock on the shoreline, serving ice cream, burgers, beers and soft drinks straight from the boat.
Sunbathe on a pristine beach
One of the most popular beaches in Marco Island, Tigertail Beach has pristine sands and a range of great facilities including changing rooms, BBQ grills, a snack bar, a kid’s playground and a water sports outlet that rents kayaks, SUP boards and other beach gear. This well-maintained part of the beach faces onto a vast saltwater lagoon which is shallow enough for kids to safely swim and splash around.
Wade across a blue lagoon
Tigertail Beach may have a beautifully developed beach area but if you cross the lagoon, you leave development behind. On the other side there are lush mangroves filled with schools of small fish, and unspoilt beaches with powdery soft sands and scads of shells lining the shore. You can cross the lagoon by kayak or paddle board, or if you fancy a slightly squelchy adventure you can wade across perfectly safely, even with little ones in tow.
Shopping and spas
Head to Downtown Marco Island
If you’re looking for places to go shopping in Marco Island, you’ll find a multitude of shops, malls and outlets that go way beyond selling just beachwear. Downtown Marco Island is home to most of the main shopping plazas where you’ll find a good variety of malls, boutique stores and spas, as well as a number of top dining and nightlife options.
Hit the malls
The Marco Walk Plaza is one of the best known shopping malls in the Downtown Marco Island area and is home to clothing stores, restaurants, a beauty parlor and a movie theatre. For a more upscale vibe head to the Esplanade Shoppes district where you’ll find an Italian-style shopping village consisting of designer boutiques, fine-dining restaurants and the picturesque Esplanade Marina.
Relax at a spa
If you seek a little rest and relaxation there are some great spas in and around the island. The Salon and Spa Botanica is located in Downtown Marco Island and offers a full range of spa and salon treatments including massages, nail services, hair styling, waxing and electrolysis.
Try a couple’s massage
If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Marco Island why not book a couple’s massage? Alternatively you can treat your loved one to a gift package from a top salon.
Go shopping in Naples
If you’re happy to head slightly further afield for shopping, the area of Naples is just a short drive away. In Naples you’ll find many first-rate shopping destinations including the downtown Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South shopping districts, as well as Tin City, the Coastland Center, Waterside Shops and the Village on Venetian Bay.
Get discounts on designer goods
Another popular spot for shopping is the Naples Outlet Center which is home to dozens of discount stores selling clothing, shoes, homeware and travel accessories.
Stock up at a farmers’ market
The Farmers’ Market in Marco Island is one of the largest open markets in Southwest Florida. The market is located at Veteran’s Park in the heart of Marco and runs from November through April. You can stock up on a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and meats as well as pastas, sauces, baked items and more. There are also many stalls selling handmade arts and crafts. The market takes place every Wednesday morning.
Fun and entertainment
Catch a movie at the mall
When you’ve had your fill of shopping, why not end the day with a movie at the mall? Located at the Marco Walk Plaza, Marco Movies is a unique film and food theater where you can catch all the latest releases whilst enjoying casual American eats served by the venue’s friendly waitstaff. One of the top-rated things to do in Marco Island at night, this 3-screen theater is open every evening, and screens a variety of first-release movies.
Play a game of mini golf
A popular spot with guests of all ages, Marco Golf and Gardens is a great place to head for a fun-filled day. There’s an 18-hole miniature golf course built around beautifully landscaped gardens complete with pretty water features and footbridges. There are free drinks along the course, and when you’re done playing you can drop your ball into a special competition box for the chance to win another game – for free!
Escape from a prison cell
If you think you’ve got what it takes to escape from a ‘real life’ prison cell, plane wreck or city morgue then pit your wits against the Extreme Escape game. Located in the heart of Marco Island, this interactive adventure dares you to try and escape from specially-designed cell rooms by solving a series of hidden riddles and puzzles. Games are available for groups of up to 8 people and players under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
Day trips and tours
Go on a backwater adventure
Marco Island is the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands and is flanked by nearly 100 miles of unspoilt isles, bays and mangrove estuaries that are perfect for both adventurous and relaxing activities. Backwater Adventure Marco Island offers a self-drive boat tour through the region’s seemingly-endless backwaters where you’ll spot dolphins, manatees, shore birds and other sea life along the way.
Explore an abandoned dome house
Most boat tours include a stop off at a private island for shelling and fishing, plus a ride around the famous Cape Romano Dome House on Caxambas Island.
Go alligator spotting
Alligators are everywhere in Florida, but the best place to see them living in the wild is at the Everglades National Park. You can easily access the Everglades from Marco Island, and a number of tour operators offer alligator-spotting safaris around the park’s lakes, swamps and canals. A top-rated tour is the Gators & Friends Airboat Safari available through Dreamlander Tours Marco Island. The tour includes rides both on the water and on land, a trip to the Animal Sanctuary at Everglades City, and a photo opportunity with an alligator.
Design your own adventure
With so many amazing things to do in Marco Island it can be tricky deciding between them, so why not combine a few activities into your very own adventure? Florida Backcountry Adventures offers custom tours of the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades with options to combine whale and dolphin spotting, birdwatching shelling, photography and water sports.
Sports and activities
Ride on a Waverunner
With so many surroundings islands and waterways to explore, it’s no wonder that water activities are some of the most popular things to do in Marco Island. A water scooter is a great way of getting around, and you can rent these from most water sports providers in the region. Marco Island Water Sports rents out deluxe Yamaha Waverunners for around $100 per half hour.
Tee off at a top golf resort
Regarded as one of the best golf clubs in Marco Island, the Lely Resort Country Club is home to 2 public courses designed by golfing legends Robert Trent Jones and Lee Trevino. The courses offer 36 holes of championship golf, there’s also an impressive 54,000 sq ft driving range with 7 target greens, 2 practice greens and 1 chipping green. The courses are served by a 25,000 sq ft clubhouse with a full-service bar. Other amenities include a fully-stocked pro shop, a restaurant, club rentals and golf carts equipped with GPS navigation.
Have a wild tube ride
Whether you want a calm cruise or a wild ride, a private tubing trip is a fun way to spend a day out on the water. Breakwater Adventures operates trips for groups of up to 6 participants on a boat/tube combination ride. Passengers can fine tune the level of adventure with hand signals, and there are frequent switches for multiple turns and rider combinations.
Backcountry fishing is one of the most popular things to in Marco Island, and fishing enthusiasts reel in plenty of local fish including snook, tarpon, redfish, trout, pompano and many other species. Experienced guides are readily available for fishing excursions from Marco Island, and include backcountry-flats fishing and deep-sea charters in the Gulf of Mexico for grouper, kingfish and snapper.
Learn to waterski
If you fancy your hand at wakeboarding, waterskiing or even kneeboarding, you can book one-on-one instruction an ex waterskiing pro. Prices are around $200 for groups of up to 6 students, which includes all equipment and instruction.
Restaurants and nightlife
Dine in a castaway setting
You can sip a cocktails beachside and take in sweeping ocean views at Quinn’s on the Beach Marco Island. Known for its inventive island food and quirky ‘castaway’ vibe, this popular restaurant and bar is a must-visit on your vacation to-do list. It’s open for lunch and dinner every day, and there’s a live entertainment show every night.
Treat your sweetheart to a romantic meal
Marco Prime Steaks and Seafood is one Marco’s more sophisticated restaurants, and serves up a haute-cuisine version of the classic-American steakhouse with hints of French, Italian and Asian influences. This family-run restaurant has a warm welcoming atmosphere and is an ideal choice if you’re looking for romantic things to do in Marco Island.
Head to a brewery
The Marco Island Brewery isn’t a typical full-scale brewery but it does offer a great selection of house brews including Tigertail Red Ale, Pelican Pilsner and The Rock IPA. There’s a great selection of other beers too with more than 40 different varieties from all over the world.
Watch the game at a sports bar
History and culture
Visit a free museum
You can find out everything you need to know about Marco’s fascinating past at The Marco Island Historical Museum. There are lively displays and recreated village scenes based on Southwest Florida’s Calusa Indians, with artefacts including the famous Key Marco Cat, a half-human, half-panther figure thought to have religious significance. You can learn about Marco’s early pioneer roots as a fishing village and pineapple plantation. You can also find out more about the island’s explosive growth in the 1960s. The museum is located on Heathwood Drive and entry is free.
Explore an old pineapple plantation
Captain Horr’s Pineapple Plantation is the former vacation home of Captain John Horr, a Civil War veteran who established a pineapple plantation on the south side of Marco Island. The plantation was built in 1877 however all that remains of the house are a few of the 12-inch-thick walls which are made of shells and mortar. There isn’t a huge amount to see, but you’ll probably spot a few gopher tortoises standing guard around the property and the trip is well worth it if you’re looking for interesting things to do in Marco Island.
Hang out at an arts center
The Marco Island Center for the Arts hosts regular art exhibits, crafts fairs, workshops and music events that are open to visitors of all ages. The venue is open from Monday to Friday (not counting special events) and is home to a gift shop that sells fantastic local artworks and souvenirs.
If you’re thinking of booking a vacation in Marco Island and you need advice on the best places to stay then contact us today. Additionally, our dedicated concierge team can arrange any added extras you need such as great-value car hire. You can see all of our Marco Island villas here.