Florida is known for its beaches and theme parks, reasons why thousands of tourists come here every year from every state of the USA and abroad, in search of relaxation and fun. But Florida also means large areas of untouched and wild nature, where you can discover some of the most evocative reserves of tropical flora and fauna. The Everglades is undoubtedly the most famous protected area, but not the only one to visit in the sunshine state.
In the southwest of the state, a stone's throw from the city of Naples, we find a series of natural parks of great interest. Among these have a great value Ten Thousand Islands: an archipelago located along the coast, between the lagoon and the ocean. If some of these numerous islands (but there are a hundred and not ten thousand as the name implies), are little more than rocks covered with mangroves, others are the habitat of many animals. The largest, and also inhabited by man with a town of over 17 inhabitants, is Marco Island.
- Where is it and how to get there
- What to see in Marco Island
- Guided tours
- Where sleeping in Marco Island
Where is it and how to get there
As mentioned, Marco Island is the main of the Ten Thousand Islands. Being an island, one of the most obvious ways to reach it is on a boatOne example is the Key West Express tours, which offer catamaran connections between several Florida coastal locations, including Marco Island.
But Marco Island is connected to the mainland by a bridge, therefore the best solution to reach it, if you have a car, is to drive to the island, where you will have no difficulty in finding parking. By car it will take less than half an hour from Naples, which is the closest city. Taking the other cities in southern Florida as a reference, allow approximately one hour from Fort Myers and approximately two hours from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
If you don't have a car, or if you prefer to leave it in Naples, be aware that CAT (Collier Area Transit) buses also arrive at Marco Island. Line 21 goes around the island, while line 121 arrives there from the mainland. From the center of Naples you will have to make a change, using a different line depending on the area. On the official website you will find all the details and here you can open the map of the lines to have a clear view.
What to see in Marco Island
The island can visit independently without major difficulties, either by using your own car, or by using the bus n.21 of the CAT, which makes a circular route connecting all the most important places.
Among the things not to be missed we suggest the splendid one Tigertail Beach, a long and white beach, which can be reached by walking for ten minutes among the vegetation after having left the car at the parking lot located in Hernando Dr. In winter, numerous people come here to nest migratory birds, but throughout the year the area is the habitat of many varieties of birds. Among others, it is not difficult to spot pelicans and birds of prey such as eagles and hawks.
The sand of the long beach is instead one of the sites of nesting of sea turtles (obviously the nests are protected by special fences). Another really bizarre place is Cape Romano, where you can see some buildings partially submerged by the sea. However, this place can only be reached by boat, so the only way to visit it is to participate in a guided tour that includes it.
On the island you will also find a local history museum, if you want to take the opportunity to learn more about the area. But the real value of Marco Island is the environment in which it is immersed. In fact, this is the perfect starting point for a tour through the suggestive mangrove forests of Ten Thousand Island, to discover the rich wildlife that inhabits these islands and the narrow channels that the lagoon creates between them.
Dolphins, turtles and an infinite variety of fish are just some of the species you will encounter in these waters. Of all the animals with which you can come face to face, the most curious is undoubtedly the West Indian manatee, here known as manatee, a distant relative of the walrus today at risk of extinction and therefore protected. Advice? Choose the tour that's right for you and set sail from Marco Island to the surrounding beauties.
The best way to explore Ten Thousand Island Nature Park is to join a guided tour. There are different types and on site you can find some last minute offers, but since it is a very popular location, it is convenient to book in advance.
What we recommend is to rely on one of the boat tours where you will be accompanied by one nature guide, which can explain the unique natural environment in which you will immerse yourself during the trip. Below you can find two of these tours, of different duration, where you will meet dolphins, birds and many other animals.
2 hour tour
3 hour tour
If you feel like paddling, an alternative is to embark on a kayak tour through the mangrove labyrinth that makes up a large part of this magnificent archipelago. Thanks to the agility of the kayak, you can also get to where larger boats cannot find their way, discovering even more in detail how much magnificent nature has to offer.
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Where sleeping in Marco Island
As you may have understood, Marco Island is a tourist resort very popular and therefore the hotel offers are numerous.
- JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort (400 South Collier Boulevard). One of the most popular hotels in the area and perhaps the most luxurious. Built practically on the beach, it houses not one, but two golf courses and three swimming pools.
- Olde Marco Island Inn and Suites (100 Palm Street). As you might guess from the name, it is one of the most historic properties in the area and is less than ten minutes' drive from Tigertail Beach. It can be a recommended choice for those who value value for money as primary when it comes to choosing a place to stay.
- Marco Beach Ocean Resort (480 South Collier Boulevard). Let's go back to luxury with this four-star hotel, which offers a spa and exclusive access to the private beach, located a stone's throw from the hotel, as well as the inevitable swimming pool. From the terraces of the suites overlooking the Gulf of Mexico you can admire the beautiful sunsets.
- Boat House Motel (1180 Edington Place). A beautiful but at the same time curious solution is this three stele obtained from a houseboat. What more characteristic accommodation to stay on an island?
Find a hotel on Marco Island