MARCO ISLAND ,the site of a famous archaeological expedition in 1895,
is a six by four mile island at the southwest corner of Florida. Fishing and farming dominated Marco Island
life even after 1870 when Captain W. T. Collier and his son William D.
Collier of Tennessee
arrived in their schooner Robert E. Lee.
In 1922 New York
advertising executive Barron Collier no relation) brought his Fort Myers to Southern Railroad to Marco Island.
It was not until after World War II when developers like the Mackle Brothers turned most of the pristine tropical island
into an upscale retirement community and resort, with a maze of canals and
roadways. There is little of the wilderness left in Marco Island
although the island is still surrounded by the hundreds of virgin
WHERE TO START: One usually enters Marco Island
from the north and in winter the ninety minute trolley tours will give
newcomers a good look at the developments.
Sadly there is little of physical buildings of
historic note to see – the local historical group does a good job of erecting
historic signs, but this makes a tour even more disturbing.
If you drive west on Capri Boulevard to the (1) ISLES OF
CAPRI, you'll see the remains of a quaint fishing village which most of
the area resembled prior to the 1950's.
Return to FL 951 and turn left on North
Collier. At 1102 North Collier is the (2) MARCO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ,
which has brochures and often a historic display.
Turn right (north) on Bald Eagle Drive after
a stop by Elkcam Circle Note: Elkcam
is Mackle spelt backwards. The north end of Marco Island
contains the last remnants of the fishing community, including (3) MARCO ISLAND CEMETERY
where the graves of pioneers like the first Colliers reside. I like the
tropical remains of the northern tip of Marcos Island
more than the crowded beachfront.
The Northern tip also contains the (4) W.
D.COLLIER HOUSE, on North Bald Eagle, not far from the site of Olde Marco Ferry Landing, which brought in visitors from
1920 to 1938. The Village
School (1889) was located
at this spot. AT 100 Palm Street
is the (5) OLDE MARCO INN (1883), a restaurant occupying part of
W. D. Collier's Inn.
Returning to Collier Drive, head
west to the Gulf of Mexico. A good diversion is (6) TIGERTAIL BEACH,
Circle. It is the only large public beach on Marco Island,
but it is lovely tropical setting.
Traveling south on Collier,
one passes rows of condominiums and some large resort hotels. At the tip of Collier is (7) POINT MARCO, with
a good view of the thousands of coastal islands stretching into the Everglades.
Drive east on Winterberry and then right on Inlet Drive. On
your left is the (9) SITE OF THE CAXAMBAS CLAM FACTORY (1904),
off Osceola Court
and (10) INDIAN HILL CALUSA MOUND. Not much of the fifty foot
site where the Cazambras School
survived huricanes survived civilization. There are
surviving Calusa complexes in the islands further
Returning to Barfield Road you'll pass the (12) SITE
OF THE PINEAPPLE PLANTATION and if you continue westward, you'd reach
(13) GOODLAND, a small fishing town with a good mix of old
buildings and seafood restaurants. Of particular note is the LITTLE BAR
& RESTAURANT whose main dining room is the interior of the Star of
the Everglades, a boat used in movies and by Presidents Truman and
Eisenhower to tour the Everglades.
Going northward on Barfield Drive, it is heavily residential
with (14) THE ESTATES, rows of large mansions off the road. Off Inlet Drive is the
(15) GEORGE YOKE ESTATE, an early estate whose stone fence
angered the neighborhood. Before you return to FL 951, you'll pass the Marcos
Island Golf and Country Club with its (16) ISLAND CLUB.
RETURN to NORTH COLLIER and the Marco Island
STATE PARK, 15 miles northeast
off US41. The 4,760 acre
wilderness is a tropical hammock forest with good picnic areas and canoe
trails. Near the park is a massive Walking Dredge used by Barron Collier's
crews to carve US41 (Tamiami Trail) out of the Everglades. The bugs take control of the park between May
VISIT ROOKERY BAY SANCTUARY, 10 miles south of Naples on Shell Island Road. There are hundreds of
wading birds seen from an observation platform in one of America's largest estuarine
sanctuaries. Again, summer is the bad bug season in these tropics.