Southwest Florida is home to so many gorgeous beaches that we couldn’t just stick to one on our trip to Naples. We debated driving up to Sanibel or Captiva to find some seashells, but decided to stay a bit closer. We ended up finding out that a Marco Island day trip is the perfect addition to a Naples vacation.
Marco Island is a tropical spot just west of the Everglades and only a thirty minute drive from Naples. It’s a bit more secluded than other Southwest Florida areas with calm, warm water beaches. There’s plenty of hotels and golf courses to check out here, but you’ll want to hang out at the beach if you come here for the day. This guide will share everything you need to know before you take a Marco Island day trip.
Beaches To Visit in Marco Island
There are only a couple of public beaches to choose from in Marco Island. Tigertail Beach or South Beach were the ones we debated between.
We ended up going to South Beach because we heard it was the less crowded one. We easily found it at the edge of the island, parked in the lot for $8 and then took the five minute walk to the beach. When we got there, the water was as still as glass and very inviting.
We had no problem finding a spot and enjoying the sunshine. I will say it got busier around lunchtime, but there was still plenty of sand. The highlight of the beach was taking a walk south past the condos and seeing some dolphins play by the rocks. There was a bit of seaweed here so we didn’t snorkel, but we saw someone else snorkeling and the dolphins came so close to her!
If you are going with a family, Tiger Tail might be a better bet. This beach has a concession stand and beach chairs and water sport rentals available. However, the nicest part of the beach requires a mile long walk to the Sand Dollar split. Both options are some of the nicest beaches in Southwest Florida, so you can’t go wrong with either!
Lunch Options for a Marco Island Day Trip
For lunch, there are a variety of options on the island. Of course, if you want an all day beach day, you can bring a picnic. I think it’s worth it to venture off the beach for lunch though. We were satisfied with spending about three hours on the beach and then headed to the JW Marriott Marco Island.
This is a giant resort complex located right on the beach. You can park here for only $5 and then explore the resort. There did not seem to be a way of stopping people from using the beach here, but you might get stopped from bringing your own beach supplies. We took a quick dip in the pool and there were so many people, that it was easy to sneak a swim.
There are a few lunch options here but we were attracted to the Kane Tiki Bar & Grill. This tiki bar is right on the sand and offers drinks and food. They had happy hour drink deals and we really enjoyed the rum punch. For lunch we shared a poke bowl, shishito peppers and the potstickers. I was shocked at how good all three options were, especially the peppers with the peanut dipping sauce. For less than $30, it was a huge amount of food! If you like things island style, this is the place to go.
Other lunch options near the beach include Mango’s Dockside Bistro and CJ’s on the Bay. Both are on the water and are a great place to have a casual, tropical meal. If you prefer some tasty pizza after the beach, Sami’s Pizza and Grill and Joey’s Pizza and Pasta are popular spots as well.
Afternoon Things To Do On Marco Island
Again, the beach is the big highlight here and I recommend finding something relaxing to do. We hung out at the Marriott until mid-afternoon and then drove back to Naples. It was well worth the $5 parking!
However, if you are young or young at heart, the Marco Golf and Gardens is a fun spot for a game of mini golf. There’s also Sweet Annie’s Ice Cream Parlor for a sweet treat.
For more of an adult treat, Marco Island Brewery is one of the best place to find good beer on the island. They also serve food and have some games to play at the brewery. If cocktails are more you thing, Dolphin Tiki Bar and Snook Inn are excellent waterfront drinking holes.
Probably the best way to end the day on Marco Island is with a sunset view. If we had more time, I would have loved to take a sunset cruise with either Cool Beans Cruises for a casual time or Marco Island Princess for an upscale experience. Even if you just watch the sunset from land, you will still end the day with some beautiful Marco Island memories.
Know Before You Go: Marco Island Day Trip
I was very pleased with our Marco Island day trip experience. It may me glad we were staying in Naples because there is a bit more to do there, but also gave me a taste of this tropical escape. Here are my tips to keep in mind if you are planning a day at Marco Island as well.
- Marco Island is a half an hour (20 mile drive) from Naples, a 50 minute, (35 mile drive) from Bonita Springs and a 75 minute (60 mile drive) from Fort Myers.
- Parking costs $8 for the day at South Beach and is a 5 or so minute walk from the beach. There are bathrooms located near the parking area.
- At Tigertail Beach, parking is also $8. You either have to walk a mile to the beach or wade through the lagoon, which can be difficult at high tide. The bathroom is also in this parking area so keep in mind, it’s a long walk back.
- If you need to buy any beach stuff like sunscreen or noodles, go to the CVS or Walgreens on Tamiami Trail, as everything is more expensive on the island.
- The high temperature is usually in the 70’s or greater, so it’s a great place to visit throughout the year. It can get pretty hot in the summer, as well as stormy especially in August and September.
It is pretty common for Andrew and I to take day trips and road trips like this all over the state. One thing that has made our life so much easier for car trips, is a collapsible trunk organizer! It fits everything we need for the beach and then we can fold it down when we don’t need it anymore. You can purchase it online here to make your road trips so much easier!
What’s your favorite place to visit in Southwest Florida? Marco Island was definitely a one of a kind experience for us! For more ideas for things to do in Florida, check out my Ultimate Bucket List!