Planning a beach vacation in Florida can be overwhelming. You have endless options, from Marco Island beaches to West Palm Beach to Miami. How are you ever supposed to choose the best place for your family vacation?
While we can’t make that decision for you, we can give you a guide to Marco Island beaches in southwest Florida.
If you’re looking for a tropical experience with some outdoor recreation, Tigertail and South Beach are great public beaches for you. Let’s dive in!
Where is Marco Island located?
Marco Island is located south of Naples in southwest Florida. You can reach the island via Highway 92 from the east or Collier Boulevard from the north.
As the largest of Florida’s ten thousand islands, Marco Island is considered the gateway to the Everglades.
What is Marco Island known for?
Because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Marco Island is known for its many outdoor recreational opportunities. Nature lovers love to kayak, boat, collect shells, fish and watch wildlife.
Nearby are world-class golf courses, stores and restaurants. Although the beaches are beautiful, most of them are private. Marco Island has only two public beaches: Tigertail and South Beach.
How to get to Marco Island, Florida?
You can easily reach Marco Island by car. Drive south from either Interstate 75 or Highway 41 on Route 951/Collier Boulevard.
From the south, follow Highway 90 north to Collier-Seminole State Park, then take Route 92/San Marco Road to the island.
To get to Tigertail Beach, drive to the northwestern part of the island. To visit South Beach, drive to the southwest side.
About Tigertail Beach on Marco Island
Tigertail Beach is one of only two public beaches on Marco Island and is located between Hernando Drive and Spinnaker Drive on the northwest side.
You can park at either Tigertail or South Beach for $8 per day or $50 per month. A large parking lot with over 200 spaces is located at 480 Hernando Drive.
After you park, you have two options to reach the beach: you can walk through the lagoon or walk around it. Walking through the lagoon is much faster, but it is about as deep as an adult’s waist and about 50 yards wide at high tide.
For families with children, this can be more of a challenge than it is worth. A walk around the lagoon takes 10 to 15 minutes.
There are many amenities available at Tigertail Beach, such as a vendor booth where you can rent jet skis, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more. In addition, you can join guided tours or visit the picnic areas, park, restrooms, and food options.
The northern tip of Tigertail Beach is called Sand Dollar Spit. Here you can walk and look for sand dollars and shells.
In addition, many enjoy paddling at Tigertail Beach because of the unique scenery of mangroves and lagoons. Nature lovers will love the bird and wildlife watching opportunities while kayaking or paddle boarding at Tigertail Beach.
Over South Beach on Marco Island
South Beach, the second of the two public beaches on Marco Island, is located on South Collier Boulevard in the southwestern part of the island. As with the parking lots mentioned above, you can park at either South Beach or Tigertail for $8 per day or $50 per month.
You can park at 930 Swallow Avenue. Parking is more difficult here due to the smaller lot, so plan to arrive early.
After you park, follow the path to the public beach between Apollo Condominiums and Cape Marco. If you want life jackets for kids, you can rent some for free along the way.
You’ll see right away that South Beach is more popular and therefore more crowded. Beachgoers usually line up with umbrellas, chairs and towels.
However, there are also fewer amenities at this beach. If you want a more old-fashioned day at the beach, South Beach is for you. But about a half-mile away, you’ll find Marco Island Water Sports, where you can rent surfers or book a dolphin or sunset cruise.
Which is the best of the beaches on Marco Island – Tigertail or South Beach?
The answer to this question depends on the experience you are looking for. Tigertail has more activities than South Beach and offers the most entertainment.
South Beach, however, is the more typical beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast with white sand and beautiful water. It is the nicer of the two beaches.
Are there any other beaches that are open to the public?
Unfortunately, there are only two public beaches on Marco Island. The others are only open to residents and members.
Residents’ Beach is only open to those who live on Marco Island or rent for longer than a month. Hideaway Beach is reserved for members and residents of the Hideaway Beach Club.
Are the beaches of Marco Island good for shell hunting?
The beaches of Marco Island are ideal for shell hunting. However, you can’t collect shells there.
If you want to spend a few hours collecting shells, head up from the waterline where there is marine debris. Look especially in the sea grass, where shells often get stuck and overlooked by others.
Shell collecting is very popular on Marco Island beaches, so expect to see many other people doing the same.
An hour before or after low tide is the best time to go clam hunting, as the high tide brings the clams to the beach.
There is also a two-hour tour that takes you to Cape Romano, where you can see bald eagles as you pass Kise Island. The tour takes you to the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Here you can explore the private beach and search for shells for about 45 minutes.
If you are a serious shell collector, you will have better luck finding interesting and rare shells here, as they are not picked off like the shells on Marco Island beaches.
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Can you kayak on the beaches of Marco Island?
Kayaking is very popular at Tigertail Beach. With 79 acres of mangroves and shoreline protected here on Marco Island, there is a lagoon full of wildlife at Tigertail.
This beautiful landscape is perfect for a paddle along the barrier island. The two-mile lagoon is home to all kinds of birds, from herons and egrets to wading birds and ospreys.
If you don’t have your own kayak, you can easily rent one here. Some companies even deliver free of charge.