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Marco Island A to Z

Kelly Merritt

As the largest barrier island within the Ten Thousand Islands area, Marco features beaches that are consistently ranked among the nation’s best. But there is much more to the island’s 24 square miles than meets the beachcomber’s eye. Discover this Southwest Florida gem with our insider’s guide from A to Z.

 

Art in Marco Island ranges from casual gift shops to serious collections. At the top of the list is the Elizabeth Evans Gallery. Founder Diana Evans Gratz has created a gallery of fine art photography (think Iran Issa Khan and Greg Lotus) where discriminating art lovers fawn over exhibits such as Bryan Bogater’s “Forgotten America” collection. Marco Island Center for the Arts also hosts events, workshops and classes, while showcasing the work of many artists at the Lauritzen & Rush Gallery and La Petite Galerie.

Marco Island - beaches - Marriott Marco Island Resort & Spa
This shot at the Marriott Marco Island Resort & Spa is a prime of example of why Marco Island's beaches are consistantly ranked as some of the nation's best.

Beaches. Marco Island has more than 100 miles of waterways and six miles of shoreline. The beach at Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort is a wide berth of sand that beckons on lazy afternoons between lunch at Quinn’s on the Beach and drinks at sunset. Public beaches like South Marco Beach and Tigertail Beach draw water babies and sun worshippers. Family-oriented Tigertail features the famous Sand Dollar Spit (once a detached island) where you can go shelling, fishing and birdwatching to spot everything from herons and egrets to ibis and terns.

Cocktails & Brews. When you’ve finished exploring and it’s time to sit back with a libation, the gazebo holds up the happy-hour fun at CJ’s on the Bay in the Esplanade Shoppes. That’s where you’ll also find locally owned Mango’s Dockside Bistro and its lovely tropical cocktail menu. For beer connoisseurs, the Marco Island Brewery is home to excellent craft beers and burgers. And Don Henley’s classic tune “Down at the Sunset Grill” may not have been about the Sunset Grill in the Apollo Condos on Marco Island, but it’s worth a stop nonetheless—the views and vibe are all island.

Shops at Olde Marco - dining and shopping in Marco Island

Photo by Kelly Merritt

Dining Options. There’s no shortage of places to eat on Marco, whether it’s a quick bite or a lavish meal—and we’re sharing some of our favorites. For a quick bite, try Empire Bagel (239-642-4141) on Collier Boulevard and Marco Island Italian Deli. For a variety of gluten-free options, check out Summer Day Market & Café. When dining out in the evening, some sumptuous dishes we love are the west Florida cobia with vegetables and morel emulsion at Fin Bistro, the mushroom crostini in gorgonzola cream sauce at Verdi’s and the shellfish bisque and lobster thermidore at Marek’s Restaurant. And we’re still craving the melt-in-your-mouth croissants and Comté mac n’ cheese at Petit Soleil.

Events. Contrasting with the serenity of the beaches are events happening across the island in any given week. Among the most popular: the Marco Island Paddle Challenge at The Esplanade Marina; Annual Mullet Festival at Stan’s Idle Hour; Marco Island Film Festival; Southwest Florida Soap Fest Charity Weekend for local children’s charities; and Goodland’s Annual Holiday Bazaar (239-734-5523). Event dates are subject to change, so check with the organizations for details.

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