With a warm, breezy tropical climate, beautiful beaches, and ideal location, this gorgeous, 24-square-mile barrier island has long lured travelers seeking laid-back serenity and set amidst a stunning Gulf Coast setting. Until fairly recently, Marco Island was sparsely populated and largely undeveloped.


Marco Island’s history can be traced as far back as 500 A.D. when the Calusa people inhabited much of southwest Florida. The Calusa left a fascinating documentation of their lives, knowing how to fish well with woven nets and as a result dined on clams, mussels, oysters, turtles, and fish. As artisans, they also made impressive clothing, jewelry and clay masks. The shell mounds built by the Calusa remain today and are the highest points in Collier County.  

In the mid-16th century, Spanish explorers stumbled upon the island and its two springs located near what is now known as Caxambas Pass. The island became a watering hole of sorts for them as they filled their wooden casks with fresh water for their return trip to Spain. Gradually the island gained the name of La Isla de San Marco (the island of Saint Mark). While the Calusa were known as fierce warriors, they could not overcome the diseases brought by European explorers and Spanish conquistadors.

Later in the 19th century, William Thomas Collier became Marco Island's first permanent settler. Collier and his family had been sailing around the Florida peninsula in 1871 when they caught sight of the island and decided to try and live on it. In 1883, the town of Marco was founded; and Collier's son, William D. "Captain Bill" Collier, became the first postmaster. By 1890, word was out that Marco was a great place for tarpon fishing and soon fishermen were coming from far and wide to partake of the bounty from the beautiful blue waters.

It was Captain Collier who happened upon evidence of the existence of the prehistoric Calusa people. His 1896 find prompted a visit by archaeologist Frank Hamilton Cushing who would ultimately uncover surprisingly well-preserved artifacts hidden for years in the coastal muck. It was one of the most significant archaeological finds in North America.

In 1922, Barron G. Collier (no relation to W.T. Collier) purchased most of Marco Island. He had great plans to develop the island with the arrival of rail service in 1927, but then came the Great Depression and the island languished. The stalemate to development even after the Depression was that the only way to reach the island was by a narrow, wooden hand-operated swinging bridge which was not strong enough to bear the weight of construction machinery and materials. Then in 1964 came the Deltona Corporation. They saw it as a great opportunity to create a planned community. The population at that time was about 550 and by 1980 it had grown to 4,700.

These days Marco Island only hints of its sleepy fishing village past having been transformed into a popular resort community anchoring down an impressive crescent-shaped, white sand beach.


Today, Marco Island has a population of approximately 15,000 to 35,000 people depending on the time of year. Its location in the Ten Thousand Islands also makes it popular with boaters and those who love to fish. Kayaking among the mangrove covered islands is a very popular activity, as is bird-watching.

Visitors can launch a boat from Caxambas Park which also has a marina store on site with fuel, snacks, and docking. Keewaydin Island, a by-boat-only accessible island, is just a few minutes away offering a near-oval of sandy beaches. Key Island, as it is sometimes referred to, is a popular place for boaters to park and party.

Nature lovers won’t want to pass up Collier Seminole State Park as it offers excellent canoeing, fishing, boating, picnic grounds, and a mile-long nature walk. Narrated boat tours of the park run on a daily basis. Briggs Nature Center features a half-mile boardwalk where visitors can observe wildlife in its natural habitat.

When it comes to experiencing the very best of Marco Island, few resorts match the sophistication and warm grandeur of the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. Situated along three miles of pristine private beaches, the luxury resort balances relaxation with elevated fun and entertainment. Rooms and suites are spacious and feature private balconies. Guests can sample cuisine from around the globe at the resort's 12 restaurants, tee off from one of two championship golf courses, take a fitness class, or simply enjoy one of the many family activities available. Adult guests are invited to experience Paradise by Sirene, an escape curated exclusively for them.

JW Marriott Marco Beach Resort also offers the ultimate in luxury services and massages to help guests recharge and rejuvenate. The resort makes an ideal host for weddings, business events, and social galas with its elegant meeting rooms that feature terraces with awe-inspiring Gulf views.

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