5 Best Beaches on Marco Island, FL
Set off on its own deep in southwestern Florida is the resort and beach destination of Marco Island. The former swamp and mangrove backwater was primarily developed in the 1960s, when the Mackle brothers decided to create, in their minds at least, a Hawaii of the East.
Some of the most consistent warm weather in Florida, even in the deepest darkest days of February, has been drawing people here since the 1920s. While other locations such as Tampa or Orlando may be shivering, the folks on Marco Island are lying out on the beach, soaking up the sun.
And soaking up the sun is easy here; Marco Island beaches are absolutely huge in depth. It can take quite some time to walk from the back of the beach to the water's edge. Fortunately, the effort is well rewarded with soft, white sand lapped by clear, warm waters. Although the beaches do not have lifeguards, the county provides free loaner lifejackets for children at each of the access points. Feel free to borrow one for the day if you have small ones that aren't strong swimmers.
Marco Island beaches extend for approximately four miles in a gradual curve running north to south. With the exception of one beach area, the entire length is backed by large condo and resort towers. Accessing the beaches of Marco Island can be challenging for day trippers, especially during high season. Street parking is not permitted, and two of the three lots available to the public have relatively limited spaces and fill up quickly.
That said, don't be discouraged. There's a very good chance you'll be able to hit the beach with all your gear; you just may need to walk a bit. Also, one bonus is that once you've paid your daily parking fee at one of the Collier County parking lots, you can access any of them throughout the day, making it easy to check out more than one of Marco Island's beaches or even others farther up the road in Naples and Bonita Springs.
Plan your trip with our list of the best beaches on Marco Island.
1. South Marco Island Beach
As the name implies, this beach is located at the far southern end of the beach. This area is a pleasant spot, traditionally a bit quieter than farther up the beach. The crowd here is a mix of day-trippers, local residents, and those staying in the condo towers at the back of the beach. If you plan to access the beach here, be sure to bring all your own chairs, umbrellas, and water toys, as no beach vendors offering lounge and umbrellas are located in this area.
The beach dead-ends at a rock pile at the very southern portion but head north, and you'll have roughly four miles of beach walking ahead of you. A bonus of hitting the beach in this area is that it's one of few areas where a beachfront restaurant is open to the public. The Sunset Grille is an ideal spot to escape the sun and grab a bite to eat.
Shelling at South Marco Island Beach is considered to be quite good. Not as many people make it down to this area, so you'll have a better chance of finding something interesting that someone else hasn't already grabbed.
Parking can be found at the South Beach Public Parking Lot, located on Swallow Avenue. Here, you'll find 70 spots; the daily fee is $8.00. This lot fills up quickly, so if you are planning on accessing South Marco Island Beach, try to arrive early. The walk from the parking lot to the beach is a fair distance. However, the city has thoughtfully provided a drop-off area immediately past the access point on South Collier Blvd, allowing you to offload all your gear and passengers.
2. Marco Island Beach near Turtle Parking Lot
If you are looking for a bit more of a lively scene, head to the midpoint on Marco Island Beach. This access is colloquially known as the Turtle access point, owing to the fact that the Turtle parking lot is located nearby. It's also near Marriott's Crystal Shores resort.
This area of the beach is the busiest, with beach vendors offering lounges and chairs for rent, Jet Skis for hire, along with sailboats and other fun water-based options. On a hot day in peak season, this is the place to see and be seen, with a constant parade of people walking up and down the water's edge.
For a bird's-eye view of the entire beach consider going parasailing. This can be easily arranged with the "activity desks" located in front of the Hilton, Marriott Crystal Springs, and J.W. Marriott hotels.
Parking for this area of the beach is at the privately owned Turtle Lot. Note that the fees are substantially higher (almost twice as much during the week and even more on the weekend) than the lots owned by the county. Plus, there are no in/out privileges.
3. Public Access beside Madeira Condominiums
This beach is the Goldilocks beach of Marco Island. It's not too busy, it's not too far from interesting things; overall, it's just about right. Located north of the busy mid-beach area, this access point near Madeira condominiums has everything that mid-beach has but without the crowds and noise.
Lounge chairs, umbrellas, and water sports are all available from the beach vendors. The one downside of this area for day-trippers is that no public parking is available. However, if you are staying at a place off the beach, this access is ideal.
If you find yourself on the beach after 5pm, a task that is easily accomplished, consider wandering into the luxe JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort and heading to Quinn's on the Beach. Non guests are permitted on the property at this time. Settle in and enjoy a pre-dinner snack, and be prepared to be entertained, not only by the sunset, but also by the impressive Fire Dancer show.
4. Tigertail Beach
If you are traveling to Marco Island during peak season, Tigertail Beach is most likely the one you will end up at, as this is probably the only place you'll find parking. This is not a hardship by any means. The beach is arguably the best one along the entire stretch of sand on Marco Island. The only downside is that you do need to walk almost a half of a mile, to the water's edge.
So, if you have lots of gear, be prepared to carry it or invest in a sand buggy with wide wheels to pull out to the water. Two hints to cut the distance: be sure to drive to the far end of the parking lot and take boardwalk #6. Secondly, as you exit the boardwalk and walk towards the beach, not far after you have made the turn and can see the ocean, keep an eye out for a trail through the scrub to your right. This will get you to the water faster and away from most of the crowds.
The reward for all the effort getting to the water is spectacular views southwards down Marco Island. You'll be able to see the entire graceful arc of the beach backed by the large towers, with sparkling waters off to your right. Turn northwards and see nothing but virgin beach; no towers, no development, just the wonders of Big Marco Pass.
Set up your beach gear here and hit the water, or settle into a good book. The water here is shallow and warm with soft sand, ideal for lounging in the shallows or for playing a game of water Frisbee or football. You'll be amazed by the sheer size of the beach at Tigertail and will have no trouble at all finding your own perfect patch of sand to set up and chill out.
If you are more active and prefer a bit of exploring as opposed to sloth time, head north, walk to the very tip of Big Marco Pass, and gaze out at Sand Island. This is one of the most important bird sites in the area and home to many migrating species.
Fans of shelling claim that this area is the best for finding the greatest assortment of shells. The currents and nearby Capri Pass combine to wash up oodles of good stuff.
Tigertail Beach isn't all about the Gulf of Mexico. The area in behind the barrier island is an ideal place for kayaking, canoeing, and wildlife spotting. Bring your own watercraft, or rent from the concessionaire and head out on the shallow inland waterway. Your only company will be wading birds, and jumping mullet. Paddle northwards, and before long, you'll have sand on one side and scrub on the other. If you go past Southpoint, you'll be able to access the exclusive Hideaway Beach.
Parking here is $8.00 for the entire day, and if you've parked at any one of the other Collier County beaches on the same day, your ticket is valid for same-day entry. These beaches include Delnor-Wiggins, Barefoot Beach, Clam Pass, and Vanderbilt Beach Park.
5. Keewaydin Island
If you are looking for something completely different, consider a trip out to Keewaydin Island. This is about as close to a desert island in the South Pacific without having to leave the United States. Easily reachable by boat, Keewaydin Island extends for eight miles and remains largely intact, owing to the fact that 85 percent of it is public land and therefore is undeveloped.
A fun thing to do is to take a 30-minute ferry ride from Marco Island to Keewaydin Island and spend part of the day soaking up the sun and exploring the island. You can bring whatever you like: coolers, chairs, water toys, even the dog is welcome on board. If you prefer a bit more freedom, launch your own boat and motor over, or rent one from one of the marinas.
Most people spend time at the southern end of the island, near an area known locally as the isthmus. Here, the water is shallow, calm, and bathtub warm. Boats will anchor offshore, and on the weekend, it can be quite a good time with a fun crowd. On the weekends, water-based "restaurants" will arrive and offer up hamburgers, hot dogs, and other beach fare, along with cold drinks.
Of all the areas in Florida, shellers will likely tell you that Keewaydin is the best of the best, the shelling here is spectacular, owing to the pristine nature and low number of visitors.
Apart from the cost of getting to Keewaydin, there are no other charges.