Thursday, September 28, 2006

Marco Island

Marco Island
A few miles south of Naples lies the unique community of Marco Island, a thoroughly American (and to its critics, charmless) version of Venice, Italy, with a zillion mansions on a zillion canals. The picture is completed with a dense tourist quarter of very high-rise hotels and condos along much of the beach.

But: Marco Island stands at the gateway to the fabled 10,000 Islands fishing and recreation area, the northern gateway to Everglades National Park. And that is what makes Marco unique. (More on that shortly.) This duality is part of what defines Marco Island today.
Marco “on land”
Marco “on land” is a mix of ultra-modern beachside resort hotels and condominium complexes with a lot of seasonal English, German, and wealthy Northeastern visitors, and single-family homes on all those canals, owned partly by full-time retiree residents or Northeastern snowbirds. Apart from the usual resort hotel offerings, Marco basically rolls up its sidewalks at night, but nearby Naples provides an active, upscale social and entertainment venue.
So: boating or golf by day, Naples or stay home at night. All in a place that wears the mantle “paradise” quite comfortably. If you fit the description, and like a relaxed and Palm Beach-like lifestyle, Marco Island is heaven.

In between
As a collection of beautiful places, the Naples-Marco area offers some of the nicest beaches in all of Florida, one of which is Tigertail on Marco Island. My close friend who partly grew up on Marco tells me that you haven’t lived until you’ve gazed at a full moon from this magical spot. In fact the whole western coast of the island, called Crescent Beach, is pretty nice. There’s a good public beach at the southern tip of the island, adjacent to Caxambas Pass, with a jetty straight out of the movie “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”.

You can easily find other landside or land-based water diversions, of course; this is Florida. Resort hotels offer the usual tropical playthings, from SCUBA to windsurfing, and lots of residents (of all ages) partake. It’s an important part of the mix. Tennis is an important part of many residents’ lifestyle, and it’s everywhere. Just off island there are several good golf courses, and golf is big here.

Marco “on the water”
But what really sets this area apart from all of the rest of Florida is its easy access by boat to one of the world’s great Mangrove estuaries, stretching all the way to the remote Shark River in Everglades National Park on Florida’s far southwest coast. There’s fishing, exploring, secret rivers, dolphin, rays, incredible bird life, eagles – you name it. Few places in America can rival this.

With a backcountry boat you can be in some of the remotest waters in North America in ten minutes. South and east of Cape Romano is a whole different world.
This is surprisingly wild country even if you have to stay offshore the very shallow inland waters. (There are deep channels in some places, but captains beware.) With a big yacht you can still cruise, if a bit offshore, the remote mangrove islands that harbor all that backcountry and still be virtually alone. (Why? Because, as we all know, most boats always seem to stay in port. Why is that? If all Marco’s boats went out at once, it would be unfortunate.) And then you swim or fish off your boat in beautiful Gulf waters.

Or – and here is that duality of Marco again – you can cruise north to Naples and enjoy both amazingly wild islands (Little Marco, Keewaydin) along the way and then another version of mansions on the water (Port Royal), not to mention the delights of Naples Bay.

Some Basic Facts
Marco Island is located at the southernmost tip of mainland Florida’s west coast about 100 miles from Miami via the Tamiami Trail highway (US Hwy 1, in the 1930’s a great engineering feat across the Everglades). Marco is the largest inhabited isle of the "Ten Thousand Islands."
It has a year-round population just over 15,000 (seasonal 2-3x) and an average median age of 60 (which would be lower if you factored in seasonal visitors, many of whom are future buyers; like many of Florida’s wealthy formerly retirement communities, Marco Island is evolving towards a more eclectic mix).

Basically this is a resort area which attracts tourists looking for the good life and residents who want elegance on a small island lifestyle with all the amenities. Mixed in with both of these are those looking for, and finding, one of the world’s great outdoor adventures.
Marco Island includes four miles of beach, and most of the resorts and condominiums are located directly on the beach.
The climate is (sort of) subtropical with nice breezes from the Gulf of Mexico. It is blessed with spectacular sunsets and Gulf sea breezes. The island’s natural rainfall is fairly sparse; it is actually somewhat dry, and was partially desert before developers and homeowners started watering it extensively – and then, presto, it looked subtropical like the rest of South Florida. Temperatures can be a lot more pleasant than other more humid areas of South Florida

* Average Annual High Temperature: 85F (29 C)
* Average Annual Low 65F (18 C)

One does not live and work on Marco Island – not often, anyway. The workforce is mostly off-island dayworkers, with some exceptions, who more frequent as you go up the income scale.

Here’s the mix:

* Tourist-related services (21.5%),
* Finance, insurance, real Estate and rental and leasing (17.6%),
* Retail trade (12.1%),
* Educational, health and social services (11.4%),
* Professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management services (10.7%)

[Above info from]


* Fishing
* Incredible backcountry fishing among mangrove islands for redfish, snook, tarpon, and sea trout.
* Surf casting for black drum and sheepshead.
* Offshore fishing on reefs for grouper, king mackerel, amberjack and snapper.
* Golf is a major attraction here
* Ecotours and sightseeing
* Historical Sites (Indian and pioneer Florida, mostly off Island)
* Island-type Shopping: Resort boutiques and specialty shops feature everything from bathing suits and designer wear to sandals and sunglasses.
* Dining: Numerous restaurants and eateries renowned for straight-from-the-docks seafood specialties.


Yes, this is an expensive area, in fact its rated cost of living index is 104.8 or number one in the state. However compared to New York with a CGI of 364 it’s affordable, especially if you’d like to be in an area of soft ocean breezes and palm trees, perhaps with your own boat moored at your back door. And for those who covet this life style, there are wonderful neighborhoods and condominium complexes to choose among.

As of September 2005, the least expensive home was $445,000.

1 comment:

Marco Island Condominiums said...

Thanks for these great tips..Nice to read!
Marco Island Real Estate