There are plenty of wonderful things to do on Marco Island, from shelling on the beaches to airboat rides through the Everglades.
I should know, I’ve been a part-time resident for nearly a decade and have explored all over Marco Island.
Marco Island, Florida is one of those vacation destinations that travelers experience once and continue to come back to year after year.
This small island town, about 30 minutes south of Naples and 45 minutes from the Fort Myers Airport, is a laidback oasis where life revolves around the beach. Marco Island is great for Father’s Day trips and it is one of the best places to visit in Florida for nature lovers.
The best things to do on Marco Island include:
- Shelling on the beaches
- Enjoy water sports
- Play a round of mini-golf
- Eat fresh and delicious seafood
- Take an airboat ride through the Everglades
- Explore Ten Thousand Islands
Ready to start planning your trip to Marco Island? Use Troupe’s vacation planner to let your group vote on their ideal travel dates and favorite places to stay! And learn more about what you need to pack for a beach vacation to Florida.
Top things to do on Marco Island
1. Shelling on the beaches
The abundance of seashells that cover Marco Island’s beaches is one of the city’s most famous features. South Beach and Tigertail Beach are two of the best places to search for shells on your own. However, there are also a number of companies that will take you on shelling tours.
Shelling tours are a great way to experience secluded beaches and learn from experts about the different shells, whether you’re a novice sheller or a shelling enthusiast. Beyond the shells, these tour guides can provide a wealth of information about the island’s history and wildlife as well.
Please note that while Marco Island is a great place to find sand dollars, these are actually living creatures. If you find them in the water they are likely still alive and should be left where they are.
If you’re looking for a fun activity away from the beach for a day, pay a visit to the quaint but enjoyable mini-golf course at Marco Golf and Garden. The 18-hole course is enjoyable for all ages and the grounds are well manicured with beautiful gardens. Watch out for lizards running across the greens and be sure to come back within 24 hours for half-off your round the next day.
3. Enjoy water sports
In addition to its wonderful shelling opportunities, Tigertail is a beautiful white sand beach that’s home to a tidal lagoon and it’s a hugely popular spot for water sports as you can rent equipment right on the beach. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and even windsurfing are some of the most popular activities to enjoy on the waters off Marco Island.
Insider tip: On your way into Tigertail Beach look for sectioned-off areas of grass. These are the protected homes of Burrowing Owls, a teeny species of owl that makes its home underground. You’ll also spot tortoises and bald eagles in the area.
4. Eat all the fresh and delicious seafood
Snook Inn is a casual, waterfront restaurant on Marco Island that is well known for live music and beautiful views. Arrive by car, bike, boat, or foot and enjoy fresh seafood like oysters, calamari, Mahi Mahi tacos, or their famous Grouper sandwich.
For something slightly more upscale, you have plenty of additional options on the island. Fin Bistro specializes in local and regional fish dishes which are caught, butchered, and cooked fresh every day.
If you visit between November and May, be sure to try stone crabs, the region’s specialty. They’re typically served with a mustard dipping sauce or drawn butter.
5. Enjoy an air boat ride
The best place to start your airboat tour experience near Marco Island is down in Everglades City, a 30-minute drive south. Everglades City is a quirky little town you can spend some time exploring by foot and a great place to try stone crabs and other fresh seafood. Many airboat tour operators have offices in Everglades City so take your pick and enjoy the unique experience of gliding through the Everglades’ mangroves where you’ll learn all you ever wanted to know about the fascinating ecosystem (and maybe spot some gators!).
6. Ten Thousand Islands
The Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is 35,000 acres of twisting waterways and mangrove islands. You can take a boat tour through the islands to learn more about the ecosystem. While you’re cruising, you’ll spot endless species of birds including bald eagles and nesting osprey. You’ll frequently happen upon manatees and dolphins during your journey, too.
These tours used to also take you by the Cape Romano Dome House. These stilted, igloo-like structures were unfortunately destroyed by the most recent hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Where to stay on Marco Island to explore
Stay at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is a 4-star hotel located on three miles of private beach. The resort has two championship golf courses and 12 on-site restaurants. Even if you don’t stay at the resort, be sure to pay a visit to Quinn’s on the beach where you can enjoy nightly fire dancers while sipping delicious cocktails. (Be sure to try the Dirty Banana!)
Ready to plan your trip to Marco Island and explore all the best things to do? Discover how Troupe’s group trip planner can help you arrange all the details. While you’re in Florida, consider paying a visit to Tampa, just three hours north of Marco Island.
Is Marco Island worth visiting?
Marco Island is absolutely worth a visit. There are plenty of things to do on Marco Island like boat tours, water sports, mini-golf, shelling, and more.
Is there a downtown on Marco Island?
Marco Island has an old town area called Olde Marco which is where you’ll find the Snook Inn restaurant and plenty of shops and cafes to explore.
Which is better Marco Island or Sanibel?
While Marco Island and Sanibel each have unique aspects that set them apart, Sanibel is still recovering from more widespread hurricane damage (March 2023)