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Marco Island is the largest of the Ten Thousand Islands, measuring 24 square miles. It is believed that at least 2,000 years before Christ, the ancestors of the tribe of Calusa Indians inhabited what was then a remote island. They were the only known inhabitants through the late 19th Century. The Calusa tribe knew well how to fish 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. They built shell mounds that remain today the highest points of Collier County.  The Calusa Indians were known as fierce warriors, but could not overcome the diseases brought by European explorers and Spanish conquistadors.

It was actually in the mid-1500s, that the Spaniards stumbled upon the island highlighted by two cool artesian 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), named for Saint Mark, the Christian evangelist and traditional author of the second gospel in the Bible.

That evolved into San Marco Island (Saint Mark's island) and finally, just Marco Island.

Marco Island's first permanent settler was William Thomas Collier. 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. And when you have visitors, well you need a hotel. And so, Captain Bill built the Marco Inn, which is now known as the Old Marco Inn.

It was Captain Collier who happened upon evidence of the existence of the prehistoric Calusa Indian. 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 on the Gulf of Mexico.


Today Marco Island has a population of approximately 15,000 to 35,000 people depending on the time of year. It is a hot spot for conventions held in its beautiful hotels lining shimmering beaches, and as with neighboring Naples, it is a popular winter destination for those wanting to come out of the cold.

Its location in the Ten Thousand Islands also makes it popular with boaters and those who love to fish, either seriously or recreationally. Kayaking among the mangrove covered islands is a very popular activity. So is bird-watching. Shore birds are everywhere. And you would have to travel the island blindfolded to avoid seeing a pelican.

You will find shopping throughout the island. A recent entry is the 50,000 square foot Esplanade Shoppes located along 1100 feet of Smokehouse Bay waterfront.

The beaches are also very beautiful here. The public beach is Tigertail open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Here you will find water sports rentals, chair and umbrella rentals and a concession-style restaurant. There are also two resident beaches.

You 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.

For more on Marco Island, please click on the link below, or enter it into your address browser:


Don’t miss our other tourist sites: www.BonitaTouristCenter.com, www.NaplesTouristCenter.com, www.EsteroTouristCenter.com

---This article complied by Christy Sanford and Marlene Graham---


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