The palm tree-lined city of Marco Island can be found in the Gulf of Mexico on Florida's turquoise southwest coast. It's the largest barrier island in the region called Ten Thousand Islands. Peppered with resorts, marinas, and spas, as well as a long, sandy beach, there are plenty of things to do on Marco Island. Besides the picturesque beach, the island has a vibrant museum and arts scene. You'll soak up rays, culture, and history all on one charming island community.

01Relax and Play on South Marco Island Beach

Gather Seashells at the Seashore on Marco Island Beach aguonaaa / Getty Images

If you think South Florida is all about white, sandy beaches, then you're right! You have to hit the shore on the public South Marco Island Beach on South Collier Boulevard. Comb for shells and watch for playful dolphins before finding a great seaside restaurant serving up Florida favorites. The sunsets here are spectacular too.

02Party at the Marco Island Seafood & Music Festival

Fresh Seafood is Cooking at the Marco Island Seafood & Music Festival KathleenSnow / Getty Images

Every year, during the third week in March, families and neighbors turn out to celebrate Spring at the Marco Island Seafood & Music Festival. Row and after row of vendors come to serve seafood and other fares with great live music in the background. There are also arts and crafts to browse and activities for children.

03Get Back to Nature at the Briggs Nature Center

Located in nearby Naples, the Briggs Nature Center is popular for its three miles of trails and a huge variety of wildlife. Snakes and foxes are easily seen from the boardwalk. As part of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, visitors also have access to the natural hatcheries there for birds, turtles, and fish. It's open year-round, and leashed dogs are welcome.

04Explore From the Water

Kayak glides through water along the coastline of Marco Island, Florida near Tigertail Beach. LagunaticPhoto / Getty Images

Rent a boat or kayak at one of the island's marinas for a new perspective of Marco Island or neighboring Naples. You're sure to see dolphins playing in the waves, and the bird watching is unparalleled. Stop awhile and relax on one of the islands or sand bars in the area. Or book a romantic dinner cruise at sunset.

05See Strange Cape Romano

Cape Romano Abandoned siestaimage / Getty Images

At the island's southern tip, bizarre concrete structures sit on top of the waves, where they've become part of the island's lore. Cape Romano was built by a rich Florida oilman for a vacation home when he retired in the 1980s. Now, it sits abandoned except for game fish who like to hide in its shadows. Only accessible by boat but totally worth a look.

06Venture Out On the Ocean

The different wildlife on the gorgeous island paradise called Marco. DonnaOchoaPhotography / Getty Images

Tour operators are available to take you and your whole family for an exciting day of ocean wildlife watching. You're sure to see dolphins, turtles, and manatees on these popular boating tours. If you're looking for something active, sign up for water skiing and wake-boarding. Or, take a trip to a remote beach for shelling and relaxation.

07A Shell Collector's Dream: Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Close to Marco Island lies Sanibel, and there's where you'll find the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. Both Marco Island and Sanibel are famous among shell collectors. But, even if you aren't into beach-combing, you can still see these natural beauties with a visit. Enjoy guided activities and talks with the resident biologist.

08Get Remote at Tigertail Beach

Find Peace and Quiet on Tigertail Beach Robert Mintzes / Getty Images

Tigertail Beach is unspoiled and remote — perfect for a quiet afternoon of shell hunting and relaxing. Find sand dollars, scallops, and other treasures as you beach comb in peace surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Although you won't see too many people, there are still restrooms and a snack bar for your comfort.

Take a Walk Through Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Near Naples is the 14,000 acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary--one of the largest cypress swamps in the U.S. It's easy to walk through on the elevated boardwalks, and you'll see many alligators, snakes, and turtles. Wading birds are also plentiful. It's open year-round, weather permitting. Because of the humidity, you will want to carry some insect-repellent, especially in warmer months.

See Gators at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary ideeone / Getty Images

Book a Day at the Spa

Many of the resorts on Marcos Island have spas. Take advantage of your down-time and book a treatment or two. You'll feel rejuvenated after a massage and facial and ready to handle whatever life throws at you. Afterward, indulge in a spa lunch and cucumber-infused water for enhanced wellness and relaxation.  

Three sets of beach chairs with sun umbrellas on white sand beach overlooking ocean. NoDerog / Getty Images