So, you’ve probably been to Florida before.
Maybe you’ve hung out with Mickey and Co. in Orlando, cruised to Key West or caroused South Beach like you were a regular Mr. 305.
But have you ever jet-skied through the Everglades with dolphins dancing in your wake? Did you ever want to play championship golf at a course headed by a PGA Master Pro? Could you see yourself setting sail out to a private island — frozen cocktail in hand — and shelling long into the Florida sunset?
You should think about visiting Marco Island.
Located just under an hour from Fort Myers and snug along the Gulf Coast, Marco Island and its Marriott Golf Resort and Spa maintain a quiet and charm difficult to find elsewhere in the state. It’s Florida at its most natural. It’s Florida at its best.
First, there’s the golf. The recently-refurbished Rookery is a short 15-minute drive from the hotel. Fifteen of the 18 holes include water (bring some extra balls) and each tee box is met with wonderful 360-degree views of the 7.100-yarder. Head pro Dennis Clark holds a Master Class distinction — a title less than one percent of golf professionals can insert in front of their name. If you’re a beginner or just looking to work out a kink in your swing (he cut my slice down with a few quick grip changes), take a lesson at his Golf Academy. His advice is insightful and easily-delivered.
The course recently underwent a massive $4 million renovation under the watchful eyes of designers Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy. New bunkers were added along with a Paspalum turf that allows for a clean lift off fairways and around the green. Hammock Bay, a par-72’er located even closer to the hotel, is also available for guests – offering a much easier, but just as picturesque, round of 18.
Now, who wants to see some dolphins? Unlike many resorts, the Marriott urges its guests to get off property and experience the surrounding area. Included in this surrounding area are the 10,000 Islands — tiny, uninhabited islets just west of the Everglades. Hop on one of the resort’s 90-minute waverunner tours and cruise through the labyrinth of mangroves and palm trees. Keep an eye out for manatees, sea turtles and various species of birds. Pods of dolphins are also everywhere in this area (Marco has the largest concentration of bottlenose dolphins in the country) and they’ll be apt to swim just ahead of your jet-ski — making as good a guide as any.
Sailing excursions are also available and best to take advantage of in the late-afternoon. You’ll either take off from the Marriott’s expansive beach or via a harbor a five-minute drive away. The Gulf of Mexico provides an incredibly smooth surface to sail upon and views of the sky turning from a bright blue to a hazy, sunset orange might provide the best picture from your trip.
Oh, and you’ll probably run into more dolphins – a sight that never gets old.
Let’s get back on property. It’s been a busy day.
Take a couple hours in the resort’s spa. Relax with a hot seashell massage, sit back in the outdoor wading pool while staring out into the Gulf or lounge in your bathrobe in front of the flat screen TVs. Either way, you can’t really lose and you’ll never feel stressed.
Now, where to eat …
Korals is a new sushi bar located just across from the lobby. It’s a great place for dinner with a large group, to enjoy some appetizers or sip on a tropical drink. A giant, 3,600-foot aquarium greets you and a dutiful wait staff seats you. (If you do go for a meal, try the lobster sushi and one of their featured mojitos, the combination is delicious.)
If you want a larger variety of entrees, head downstairs to Kurrents. The large, luxurious dining space can fit any size party you’re traveling with. Try a seafood dish – there are countless options on the menu, from Maine Lobster to Florida Red Snapper to Atlantic Salmon. I had the Chilean Sea Bass and its buttery-flavored texture almost melts in your mouth. Feel free to wash it down with the rum/pineapple-inspired Cloud Nine cocktail. It’ll leave you on, well, Cloud Nine.
End your night with some Florida IPA (a Tampa-brewed concoction) at Quinn’s On the Beach. Grab a seat at the bar, chat with some locals and let the cool, ocean breeze wash over you – refreshing after a hot day in the sun. You’ve had a good time. You’ve seen nearly everything the resort has to offer. But wait, what’s that? The Marriott plans to undergo a $150 million expansion next summer, adding an adults-only complex with a rooftop pool?
Hmmm, guess you’ll just have to come back …
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