With its pristine beaches and wonderful weather, Marco Island is a relaxing place to spend a quiet family vacation. This beautiful barrier island is located on the southwestern edge of Florida, which provides easy access to some of the state’s most popular activities. If you’re looking for things to do around your Marco Island vacation rental, here are some family-friendly activities to try on your tropical vacation.

1. Hit the Beach

No trip to Florida would be complete without time spent relaxing by the ocean, and Marco Island offers two public beaches for you to enjoy. Tigertail Beach is the largest and most popular option. It features barbecue grills, picnic tables and other amenities, plus lifeguards are on duty during busy summer days for added safety. South Marco Beach is quieter and less populated so there’s plenty of room to spread out and build sandcastles.

2. See the Dolphins

If your children are animal lovers, there are few things more exciting than getting up close with wildlife. Consider taking a guided boat tour to find the best spots for spotting dolphins, manatees and other amazing animals. The Dolphin Explorer, a National Geographic-approved educational tour, is a particularly popular choice. Dreamlander Tours also offer an alligator-focused tour for kids who prefer learning about reptiles.

3. Go For an Airboat Ride

With their distinctive large propeller and open design, airboats are a fun and exciting way to explore the swamps and lagoons of southern Florida. These fun tours combine occasional high-speed thrills with nature viewing and education about the local ecosystem. One popular provider is Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours. After the tour, guests can stay for a live alligator show and even pet a baby gator.

4. Visit Keewaydin Island

The only way to get to Keewaydin Island is by boat, but the pristine beauty of this unusual island is worth it. It had no roads or boardwalks, but small paths wind through the public area. Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises and bobcats as you explore, or just find a private spot on the beach and relax. For a unique experience, buy a snack from one of the food boats that frequent the island.

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5. Explore the Everglades

Marco Island is located near the edge of Everglades National Park, and there are plenty of easy ways to experience this amazing natural resource. A good place to start is the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City, where you can learn about wildlife viewing areas, guided tours and hiking trails appropriate for kids of all ages. You can also hire a private tour company for a more personalized experience.

6. Go Shelling

Collecting seashells is fun for kids of all ages, and Marco Island is an excellent place to find a diverse collection. Tigertail Island is a good place to start, especially if you wade across the shallow lagoon to Sand Dollar Spit, which is named after many sand dollars in the area. Low tide is the best time to look, but you can find small treasures at any time of day. There are also shelling tours that visit sandbars known for a high quantity of beautiful seashells. Just make sure that all of the shells you take are empty, as removing live animals is illegal.

7. Paddle Through the Mangroves

One of the most popular ways to explore the estuaries, rivers and mangrove forests is by kayak. If you have your own, your vacation rental makes it easy for you to bring it along and explore. If not, there are plenty of rental options in the area. Double kayaks are a good choice for those with smaller children so that an adult or teenager can handle most of the paddling. Explore on your own at the Isles of Capri Paddle Craft Park, or take a guided tour at one of the state parks or reserves in the area.

8. Catch a Fish

Fishing is a favorite pastime in Florida, and there are plenty of opportunities for your family to join in. If you have your own poles, you can fish from most public beaches and piers, or rent a boat for deeper sea fishing. Kids under 16 don’t even need a license. For a more curated experience, sign up for a charter boat to take your family out on the ocean and supply everything you need.

9. Take a Walking Tour

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center is a 13,000-acre sanctuary located just a short distance from Marco Island. It offers free, family-friendly guided tours along with an easy boardwalk that puts you right in the center of an ancient cypress swamp. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can join in on a beginner swamp walk, which lets you actually wade through the waters and see everything up close and personal. Swamp walks can be strenuous, however, so only children over the age of 10 are allowed.

10. Check Out the Children’s Museum

The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples is just half an hour from Marco Island and offers numerous interactive exhibits designed for kids of all ages. Art projects and building blocks let them express their creativity, while nature-themed educational exhibits teach them about Florida’s ecosystems and other natural resources. There’s even a full-sized hedge maze to explore.

11. Discover the Island’s History

Marco Island has a long and rich history, and the Marco Island Historical Museum brings it to life. Interesting exhibits showcase artifacts and tell the story of the Calusa Indians, including an entire room designed as a life-size replica of an ancient Calusa village. The museum also explores the history of early European settlers in the region. Be sure to visit the beautiful gardens outside the museum for a relaxing experience.

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