As the Southwest Florida coastline winds down to the Everglades it fractures into the multitude of islets, sandbars and mangrove stands known as the Ten Thousand Islands.
The largest of these is Marco Island, an oasis of sun-washed beaches kissed by the clear warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Once home to Native Americans, sea captains, and pirates, modern day Marco lures visitors with its upscale atmosphere.
Four star resorts, multimillion-dollar homes, and exclusive shops line its streets. At the same time, millionaires and fishermen rub elbows at the local watering holes.
But the white sand Marco Beach, warm climate and incredible year round fishing are still the main attractions.
Every year thousands of visitors flock to Marco Island drawn by the allure of its spectacular beaches.
The Macro beach is a crescent shaped wonder about 3 and half miles in length and 150-600 feet wide.
The best on the island is Tigertail Beach. Here there is something for everyone. A long white sand beach, snack bar, playground, kayak and paddle boat rentals, and 32 acres of parkland to enjoy.
The Native American Calusa
History has been traced back to as early as 500AD when the Calusa people inhabited the island. The early inhabitants considered Marco as a sacred place. This was in part due to the storm clouds rolling in from the ocean that often seemed to stop mysteriously before reaching land.
Today the Calusa would hardly recognize the land they called home.
The artifacts left by the ancient civilization tell a tale of a skilled and artistic people, whose fate was sealed by the arrival of modern man.
The advent of modern civilization arrived on Marco Island in the form of William Thomas Collier and his family in the late 1800s.
Collier founded the village of Marco in 1870.
His son, Captain W.D Collier caught and smoked fish to sell to Key West and Cuba, and charged fishermen and guests $2 a day for a room in his home.
By 1896, his tourism business had become so popular that he built a proper inn.
The building stands to this day, and houses one of Marco’s most popular restaurants, The Olde Marco Inn.
Although many tried to buy Captain Collier’s land holdings, he remained on the island and many of his descendants still call it home.
Modern day Marco
Today conductors aboard Marco Island Trolley Tours point out historical landmarks along their route and regale visitors with tales of Collier and Calusa Indians.
An Anglers Paradise
A vacation in Marco Island wouldn’t be complete without experiencing backwater fishing.
The undeveloped expanse of mangroves and estuaries known as the Ten Thousand Islands offers some of the best angling in the world.
Marco hosts numerous fishing guides and charter boats to steer you to all the best fishing spots where snook, redfish, trout and tarpon are all waiting to snap up your line.
There’s more to appreciate than just catching fish, as the islands provide sanctuary for abundant wildlife.
The Ten Thousand Islands
Nearly 200,000 acres of mangrove islands, tidal flats, and sea grass beds form the Ten Thousand Islands, a largely untouched wilderness sandwiched between the Southwest Florida coast and the vast Gulf of Mexico.
Tides, currents, and storms shape and reshape the constantly changing islands, as sands are built up by wave action and torn down by squalls.
Channels fill and disappear to arise again another day, and fresh and saltwater mix to form the precious balance that nurtures an astonishing array of life.
Ranging from large, forested landmasses surrounded by white sand to a few mangroves perched on a tiny shoal, the hundreds of islands support a diversity of wildlife seen nowhere else in the state.
Egrets, ibis, herons, pelicans and a host of other shore birds roost in the tops of mangroves, while raccoons scour the land below for fiddler crabs and horse conches.
Dolphins swim playfully through the estuaries, sharing the warm waters with the sedate Indian manatee.
Mangrove roots supply a spawning ground for an almost infinite number of fish, whose young depend on them for shelter and protection.
Nowhere else can the ebb and flow of life be so thoroughly appreciated.