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Marco Island and Ten Thousand Islands

Explore the best shelling beaches in Florida


Last updated: by Olha Savych
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Ten Thousand Islands is one of Florida's best-kept secrets. Located on the west coast of Florida and washed by the Gulf of Mexico, this chain of islands and mangrove islets stretches between Everglades City and Naples. There are actually several hundred islets, many of which were created by mangroves growing on top of oyster bars. The islands are famous for unique wildlife, birds, and pristine shelling beaches. They can be visited year-round, but tours get canceled in case of bad weather so check forecasts, especially during the Atlantic hurricane season from June to November.

The largest in the chain is Marco Island, the only inhabited place in the area. It's also famous for a picturesque Cape Romano located on the southern tip of the neighboring Cape Romano island. It is known for its strange abandoned six-domed house on stilts located about 300 ft (91 m) from the shore.

The southern section of the Ten Thousands Islands lies by Everglades and hosts several camping sites: on Hog Key, Turkey Key, Mormon Key, Rabbit Key, Jewel Key, and Picnic Key. Due to no development, at night Ten Thousand Islands become one of the best spots for stargazing in Florida.

The best way to explore the islands is by kayaking. For example, take the Sandfly Loop kayak trail to Sandfly Island, which is just about 5 mi (8 km) long and can be easily done in about three hours. Kayaks and canoe rentals are located in Everglades City. Alternatively, you can take a boat tour from Marco Island.

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