What to know before you go to Marco Island

We’ve visited many beaches in the Sunshine State, but our favorite Florida spring break destination by far is Marco Island. It’s the perfect combination of white sand, turquoise water and warm temps year round.

Marco Island has a very family friendly feel, no spring breakers and just the right amount of open beach space and activities for a rainy day.

Our favorite time of year to visit Marco Island is during the month of March, when it’s still miserably cold in PA and summer still feels a long way off.

We chose to stay in a Home Away rental, since we have a family of seven. We trade having the beachfront location many hotels offer, for the extra space, our own private pool and full kitchen.

How about this view overlooking Smokehouse Bay? While we all want to stay oceanfront, if your budget doesn’t allow it (ours usually doesn’t) having a water view makes such a difference.

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Although we visited Marco Island during the high season, which runs January – April, (and Marco does have its share of high rises) we never felt the beaches were too overly crowded during the week. However, traffic definitely picked up on weekends and you have to stake out your space early.

The only downside to Marco Island is the parking. There are four main public access beaches on Marco, and parking is a bit tricky for all of them.

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Let’s start with our review of all the Marco Island beach spots!

Tigertail Beach~ Oh boy, where do I start with Tigertail?

Tigertail is the northern most Marco Island beach. It is the only beach that has restroom facilities, as well as concession stands and beach rentals etc. Since we always try to go to a beach with restrooms, we definitely wanted to give this beach a try.

We soon discovered that the tricky thing about Tigertail Beach is getting from the parking area to the actual beach. Let’s just say that it is a either a very long walk, or a very wet walk to get to get to the ocean.

If you want all the details about what to expect at Tigertail Beach, along with our epic Tigertail beach fail, check out this post.

Marriot Vacation Club Beach Access ~We enjoyed this beach, and felt this location was probably the least crowded of all the options we explored. There are no restroom facilities here and the Turtle Public Parking lot was too far away, so we ended up parking at a nearby grocery store lot and walking over.

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South Beach Access~ This was our personal favorite Marco Island beach. It is located at the southern tip of the island and offers the best views.

Parking was also the easiest at this location. You pay $8 to park in the public parking lot and it is just a short distance from the access point. There are also restroom facilities at the parking lot, which comes in handy with little ones!

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Our Recommendations

Parking ~ The best strategy we have found for dealing with Marco Island parking issues is to have your driver, in our case Big Papi, drop you, the children and most of the beach gear off at the beach access while they find parking.

Plan to arrive early (by 10am) to get a decent parking space, or time your arrival during the lunch hour when some folks leave to eat and you can grab their parking space.

Of course, if you have a smaller family and a bigger budget you can stay at one of the many beautiful oceanfront resorts or hotels and skip the parking dilemma altogether!

Esplanade Shoppes ~ Plan to eat dinner out one evening at The Esplanade. Beautiful shopping complex with boutiques and restaurants overlooking the Smokehouse Bay. Big Papi and I were able to leave the kids with grandparents and enjoy an evening out!

We enjoyed eating at Mango’s Dockside Bistro and loved the outdoor music and dancing at CJ’s on the bay!

Home Away ~ If you have never booked a vacation with Home Away before, we encourage you to give it a try! We’ve had great success with the quality of the homes and the responsiveness of the owners. Not to mention you can usually get a much better deal than staying in a hotel or resort!

Boating ~ Exploring Marco Island and the surrounding area by boat is truly amazing. In fact, exploring any tropical location by boat is one of our family’s favorite activities.

You will get a unique perspective and see amazing wildlife up close (dolphins and manatees!) that you can’t appreciate from the mainland.

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Fortunately for us, we have friends in southern Florida who have a boat membership. They have taken us to explore amazing places! If you don’t have boating friends of your own, there are several marinas who will do half or full day boat rentals. No experience required!

Hope you have fun planning your trip to Marco Island and that this review and recommendation has been helpful!

Enjoy the quick video overview I made of our trip!

Please comment below with any questions or to let me know how your trip went!


















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  1. Harmony, Momma To Go | 4th Feb 18

    we visit Naples every year and one time we tried Marco. We went to Tigertail and didnt love it. Too calm, we like the ocean etc. Maybe we will use this guide for next time!

    • Lisa | 4th Feb 18

      Thanks for stopping by! Naples is a beautiful area too, especially fun for shopping! My older kids love the waves so we may look into the Fort Lauderdale area next year!

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