MARCO ISLAND

TROPICAL ISLAND PARADISE

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 islands.


 

 

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, off Seaview 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 south.

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 shopping district.



VISIT COLLIER-SEMINOLE 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 and October.

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.