Marco Island, Florida – A Piece of Paradise on the Gulf of Mexico

Jocelyn Murray January 12, 2013 No Comments

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Marco Island borders a strip of islets off the southwestern Florida coast called the Ten Thousand Islands.  It is a barrier island known for its tropical rainy and dry seasons, powdery-soft white sand beaches, and passionate sunsets that blaze over a shimmering horizon on the Gulf Coast. It is the kind of place where one takes a deep breath and exhales with a long and satisfying finish, as if to say “ahh… this is paradise.” And it is.

Marco Island Shoreline

Gorgeous beaches stretch along Marco Island’s shoreline

The island’s history dates back to at least 2,000 years when the native Calusa Indian tribes lived here. They used seashells to fortify and raise the foundations of their dwellings which were built by the water. The Spanish explorers arrived in the sixteenth century with Juan Ponce de Leon and named the island La Isla de San Marco after Saint Mark the Evangelist. It was later shortened to Marco Island. Ensuing war and disease eventually left the island deserted until it was rediscovered in 1870 by the pioneer Captain W.T. Collier and his family. Today Marco Island has a population of about 17,000 people.

Marco Island Spanish Moss Trees

Spanish moss hang like long gray beards from the old trees

About an hour from Southwest Florida International Airport in the South Fort Myers Beach area, Marco Island is accessible through a comfortable drive along roads bordered by stately bald-cypresses and southern live oaks hanging with Spanish moss that drapes along their branches like long gray beards. The road cuts through these trees which have a decidedly primeval feel, romantic in a haunting way of the Old South, much like a dilapidated Victorian mansion depicted in a ghost story where shadows and misty light filter through thick cobwebs hanging in spooky silence. It is one of those places where the journey itself can be savored as a prelude to the destination.

The long stretch of beach is dotted with an array of hotels and resorts that stare out at the shallow shores that are strewn with lovely shells of every variety, and perfect for relaxing with a good book, or building sand castles under the sun. While the water is a bit chilly in the winter months, it makes for a refreshing dip with the balmy warm weather that reaches well into the 80s during the day.

Marco Island White Sand Beach

Powdery-white sand beaches are one of the island’s treasures

The warmer months see a dramatic rise in the water’s temperature, making it perfect for swimming and a variety of water sports including water skiing, para-sailing, paddle boarding, sailing, fishing and more.  But what might be most enjoyed on this stretch of paradise, is to simply stroll along the pristine beach by the tranquil waters of the Gulf, imagining the ships that might have passed through these parts centuries ago, or searching for shells and sand dollars like the remnants of sunken treasure washed upon the shore.

Marco Island is about 17 square miles, of which 6 ½ miles are water. It has a quaint, small-town charm and a luxurious laid-back feel with its elegant homes and real estate including stately mansions worth millions. Its year-round warm weather draws many snowbirds looking to escape the cold winters elsewhere.

Marco Island Marriott Room

Luxurious accommodations provide a relaxing haven, like this room in the Marco Island Marriott

The hotels are perfect for families and offer luxurious accommodations with stunning views that can be appreciated from the balconies. Many, like the Marco Island Marriott, offer swimming pools, kids’ activities and programs, family-friendly dining, and amenities like an onsite arcade, a waterslide, scavenger hunts, games, crafts and more. A spa and fitness center are a staple at most of the resorts as well. And for those who enjoy golf, tennis and other sports, there is plenty here to get you moving.

The mangrove forests Florida

The mangrove forests are wild, alluring, and a testament to their survival in the primitive tidal swamps

A visit to Marco Island would not be complete without exploring Everglades National Park, or the mangrove forest in the lush backwaters of the Ten Thousand Islands.  Its red mangrove jungle is the largest of its kind in the world, spanning 93 miles from Marco Island down to the Florida Keys. Visitors can learn about the wildlife, nature and geography through a guided waverunner tour where they might see dolphins, manatees,  pelicans, eagles, and a variety of other birds, land and sea creatures. Everglade excursions also offer guests a chance to discover more of nature’s wonders through airboat tours.

Most of the islets belonging to the Ten Thousand Islands are uninhabited, and conjure up images of swampy marshes teeming with wildlife pecking its way among the long aerial roots of the tropical trees that thrive in the tidal groves, estuaries and marine shorelines that flourish here.  It is the kind of place where one would not want to get lost, but where the imagination can run wild through the heady tropics that abound.

Marco Island Sunset

A perfect sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Marco Island makes for a wonderful family destination any time of year. It is a sanctuary that warms your soul as it does your body. And after a long day of sightseeing, playing, relaxing or doing a little of everything, nothing beats a stroll along the beach at sunset when the water glows like liquid gold in the dying light of day.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

Tags: Reviews, Travel Excursions

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