Marco Island Beaches

Marco Island is located about 30 minutes south of Naples by car. It is the southernmost island on the southwest coast of Florida that has beaches accessible by car. Marco Island is very overdeveloped. It was once covered with mangroves and Indian middens, but most of the mangroves were bulldozed, finger canals were carved into the coast so everyone could have a boat dock, and the land was filled in so homes and condos could be built. So here it is, out in the middle of nowhere, a retirement/vacation paradise with all the comforts of any small city.

Sand Dollar Island on Tigertail Beach, Marco Island, Florida.

Visiting Sand Dollar Island at Tigertail Park requires a good long walk, but it's well worth it. The island is quiet and fairly remote and the shelling is excellent. Birding is also quite good. 

Much of the development on Marco is relatively recent, so everything is new. There are no "bad neighborhoods" on Marco. The landscaping is beautiful, with coconut palms and tropical foliage and flowers everywhere. The beaches are beautiful.

On Marco Island there are a lot of condominiums and luxury resorts on the beach. Marco is upscale all the way and caters to the well-to-do. But you can still get a good rate on a beachfront hotel, especially in the off season. Don't look for a Motel 6.

In fact, since most of the luxury condominiums and resorts are actually timeshare resorts, you can find a great price from a private owner. Marco Island timeshares such as the Club Regency or Marriott Crystal Shores are located right on the shoreline, and you'll often find home-like amenities such as extra spacious living quarters, full kitchens, TVs, laundry facilities, A/C, free wifie and private balconies. These properties will also have some other vacation-essential features like heated pools, whirlpool spas, a tennis and basketball court, BBQ areas, fitness centers and exclusive restaurants.

Driving on the Jolley Bridge onto Marco Island, Florida.

This is your view of Marco Island from the top of the Jolley Bridge. Those tall buildings on the horizon are not the downtown area. They are sitting directly on the Gulf of Mexico beach. Notice how green and lush the island is. Marco is the most tropical island on the Gulf coast. You'll find lots of coconut palms and tropical fruit trees. The climate is similar to Miami. But in other respects, Marco and Miami are much different.

Why Choose Marco Island?

Did you find a reason that fits you in that list?

Typical Marco Island beachfront resort. Florida.

The Marco Beach Ocean Resort is typical of what you'll find on Marco Island. No budget motels here.

Marco Island Beaches

Marco has great beaches. But most of them are regularly raked and tilled by tractors and beach equipment. This is done to keep the seaweed from piling up (some people don't like seaweed) and to keep the sand and shell from forming a hard crust. Marco's beaches are renourished, which means that sand and shell is pumped in from offshore to make the beach wider. This kind of beach will get too hard-packed if not properly maintained. The raking also helps keep the insect (no-see-um) populations down.

South Marco Beach and Marco Island, Florida condominiums.

I took this photo from South Marco Beach. The tall buildings you see are on the northern part of Marco, near Tigertail Beach. The greenery you see to the left of the tall condos is Tigertail Beach Park. The telephoto lens I was using makes the condos appear much closer than they actually are.

Marco's beaches are relatively flat, creating a gentle slope into the shallow water that is great for kids and the mobility challenged. And, being so far south, the water stays fairly warm all year, though January through March can seem a bit nippy to us Florida residents.

If you're not staying on the beach and your accommodations don't provide an easement to the beach, you'll need to use one of the two public access points. South Marco Beach is the easiest to get to, but Tigertail Beach on the northern part of Marco is more of a true park. Both have a fee for parking.

Sand Dollar Island on Marco's Tigertail Beach. Florida.

I took this photo from Sand Dollar Island looking toward South Marco. The beach where I'm standing is very quiet and has very few people. 

The attraction to Tigertail Beach is Sand Dollar Island, which is a somewhat remote beach that is excellent for long walks and for shelling. It is quite a hike to get to it from the parking area though. The only other good option at Tigertail is to swim in the shallow, muddy lagoon, which some people do. You can also walk straight across the lagoon to take somewhat of a short-cut to Sand Dollar Island. Tigertail Park has excellent shelling.

Tigertail is a full-service beach with a small restaurant, restrooms and beach equipment rentals.

Tigertail Beach equipment vendor, Marco Island, Florida.

Beach vendor at Tigertail Park.

Sand Dollar Island beach on Marco Island.

Here I'm standing on Sand Dollar Island looking back east. Behind the island is the muddy lagoon, which separates Sand Dollar Island from Tigertail Park.

BeachHunter on Sand Dollar Island, Tigertail Beach, Marco, Florida.

Here I am standing on Sand Dollar Island. It was a really hot day and I had been dodging pop-up thunderstorms all morning on Marco.

Tigertail Beach condominiums, Marco Island, Florida.

To get from Tigertail Beach Park out to the Gulf Beach on Sand Dollar Island, you can either wade across the murky lagoon, or you can walk around the lagoon like these people are doing. The beach is really wide in front of those condominiums--nearly 1,000 feet from the condos to the water's edge.

South Marco Island beach access easement, Marco, Florida.

This is the easement to get from the paid parking at South Marco Beach to the Gulf Beach.

South Marco Island condominiums on the beach.

These huge condominiums mark the south end of Marco Island. They overlook Caxambas Pass. There are no beaches further south on the Gulf coast that you can reach by car.

South Marco Beach, Marco Island, Florida.

South Marco Beach is raked and manicured. Despite that, the sand is coarse and full of shell fragments.

Copyright: David McRee,