For those living on the East Coast of the United States, Florida can be a convenient and fun family vacation destination. In addition to the Orlando theme parks that are almost a rite of passage for families, there are also many beautiful beach destinations in Florida.
When looking for a spring break destination for our family, I looked at JetBlue Vacations to find a great deal, and ended up booking Marco Island. We loved our relaxing trip to Marco Island and found that there were lots of fun things to do in Marco Island with kids.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. We paid for our trip to Marco Island, but did receive complimentary admission to the Naples Botanical Gardens.
Things to Do in Marco Island With Kids
Location of Marco Island
Marco Island is located south of Naples and Fort Myers in southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. We flew into the Fort Myers Airport (Southwest Florida International Airport), rented a car, and drove about an hour south to Marco Island.
The Gulf Coast of Florida offers some gorgeous beaches, and Marco Island is no exception. It’s the largest island in the Ten Thousand Islands of Florida, although it still feels like a quaint beach island.
Visit the Beach on Marco Island
With its gorgeous Gulf Coast location, the beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Marco Island with kids. If you want to spend lots of time on the Marco Island beaches, I’d definitely recommend reserving a hotel right on the water. We stayed at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, which offers beachfront access.
Marco Island offers two public beaches that are open to guests. These include Tigertail Beach, which has concessions, a playground, restrooms, and more. There’s also the South Marco Beach Access, which has parking and restrooms.
Water Activities on the Beach
While we enjoyed just sitting on the beach and enjoying the water, you can also book water sports from the beach. There are lots of different options. One day, my daughter and husband went parasailing right from the front of the hotel. Jet Skiing, paddleboarding, and other water sports are also available.
Shelling is also a popular activity on Marco Island. We didn’t find as many shells on the beach at our hotel, but did find them on the boat tour we took during our trip.
The Dolphin Explorer Eco-Tour and Cruise
Dolphin Study Eco-Tour and Cruise, located on Marco Island, is the only Florida activity included in the book “100 Places that Can Change Your Child’s Life“. This three-hour tour (we chose the afternoon tour), guided by a naturalist, was the perfect way to teach my kids about dolphins and nature around Marco Island. We even went to an uninhabited island to collect shells.
During the trip, we also had the opportunity to see other wildlife, including ospreys and bald eagles. Of course, what you see will vary by the trip. This tour was one of my favorite boat tours I’ve ever taken on vacation. It’s a must-do on Marco Island, in my opinion – especially if you are traveling with kids who love dolphins.
Naples Botanical Gardens
On the third day of our trip, we spent the morning on the beach, and then headed to Naples to the Naples Botanical Gardens. I received complimentary tickets to review it (the only comp on this trip), and it was a great way to spend the afternoon. There’s a large children’s garden that the kids loved playing in, but they also enjoyed walking around all of the gardens. I’d recommend going in the morning, however, because it was pretty hot in the afternoon.
Naples is a short drive from the island, so if you plan to do a few things in the town, you may want to combine them in one day.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
If you are up for an adventure and want to to explore nature, you may consider visiting the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. It’s located between Marco Island and Everglades City, with boating access points at Calusa Island Marina and Port-of-the-Islands marina. We didn’t visit the refuge during our vacation, but it looks like it would be a great place to explore for the day.
Marco Island Historical Museum
The Marco Island Historical Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Marco Island, including the Calusa Indians that lived there. It’s probably best for older kids or adults. In addition to the life-size Calusa Village at the museum, you’ll also find some original Marco artifacts on loan, including the famous Key Marco Cat.
If you want to do some shopping while you are on vacation, you’ll definitely have some options. Marco Island itself is home to gift shops, boutiques, and surf shops. The Esplanade Shoppes and the Marco Town Center Mall are two destination areas where you can find shops.
There’s also the Naples Outlet Center, a small outlet mall offering some popular shops like Coach and Hanes.
Where to Stay on Marco Island
There are several great options for family hotels. During our trip, we stayed at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort, an all-suite beachfront hotel offering a pool. We loved our stay there and would definitely recommend it to families.
Other hotels in the area include the following:
As you’d expect based on the location, you can find some delicious seafood in Marco Island. Most of the restaurants are fairly casual and are kid-friendly. During our trip, we loved the following restaurants:
- The Snook Inn
- Philly Grill
- The Crazy Flamingo
Frequently asked questions about Marco Island
Do you need a car on Marco Island?
We typically took our car out from valet about once a day. I’d definitely recommend having one, because you’ll probably want to drive to the grocery store, restaurants, and attractions during your trip.
Do you need to take a ferry to Marco Island?
Marco Island is accessible via a bridge, so you don’t need to worry about taking a ferry there.