* Just one "seasoned" (older) traveler's observations. Not to be considered a review or endorsement by Seasoned Times.
Walking along a white sand beach, I look down and spot one of the most bewitching seashells I have ever come across. I sink to my knees and pick up the small treasure for a closer look. Turning the shell this way and that, I watch its iridescent colors change hue in the bright sunshine. When I look up again, I see a horizon of blue ocean meeting blue sky, and I can’t believe I am in the United States and not standing at the edge of some tropical island paradise far, far away.
But this is Marco Island, Florida, and it is not at all what I expected. Standing here gazing out to sea on a five mile stretch of beautiful white sand beach, I feel completely surrounded by natural beauty. Until, that is, I look behind me at the predictable array of hotels and condos perched there. Still, all in all, I have to say that Marco Island’s shoreline has surprised me.
With its long-held reputation as a popular destination for seniors and retirees, Marco Island is not the spot for anyone looking for an action-packed adventure or exciting nightlife. This is a place for people who want to relax, lie on the beach, collect seashells, fish a little, swim, enjoy some water sports, play tennis or golf, or take a cruise around the island to see the sights and perhaps a few friendly dolphins.
Truthfully, however, once you leave the beach, Marco Island really is not much different from many other towns scattered along United States coastlines. The island is cut up into neighborhoods separated by man-made canals. There are hotels, condos, stores, and restaurants galore, as well as plenty of residential and vacation homes.
With about 100 eateries to choose from, you can find anything you might be craving and everything from sandwich shops to seafood shacks to upscale five star restaurants. There’s also plenty of action for shopping enthusiasts. The Marco Town Center Mall shouldn’t be missed. It is a quaint village setting, complete with cobblestone walkways and tin roofs. Of course, golfers enjoy the first class courses in the area with their beautiful, lush greens and scenic ocean views.
For me, one of the most unexpected things about Marco Island is the amount of wildlife that still exists despite the area's built-up environment. It isn’t surprising to come across an osprey, heron, turtle, or even bald eagle. Visitors are often warned to be wary of the rare panther encounter as well. In fact, there are “panther crossing” signs posted along almost every roadway. No need to be alarmed, however, because they don’t seem to care much for us humans. After questioning quite a few locals, I found only one or two who had ever actually seen a panther wandering freely on the island.
As a first time visitor to Marco Island, I can tell you this… if you are looking for the feel of a tropical beach vacation with all the conveniences of home, this spot just might exceed your expectations. I have thoroughly enjoyed walking along the beautiful beach, adding to my growing seashell collection, and lazing away a few days without having to leave the States. For me, Marco Island is just what I was looking for in a quick beach getaway. My visit to the island has been much more than a pleasant surprise, it has turned out to be a truly great vacation.