Best time to travel to Florida

Marco Island and Ten Thousand Islands in Florida

Explore the best shelling beaches in Florida

Best time: all year round

Marco Island and Ten Thousand Islands
Marco Island and Ten Thousand Islands
Marco Island and Ten Thousand Islands
Marco Island and Ten Thousand Islands

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.

Practical info

What is the recommended time to visit Ten Thousand Islands?

With December to April being the shelling season, the dry season is ideal for clear water with better visibility compared to the rainy season. However, Ten Thousand Islands is a year-round destination for good shelling. Check the weather before setting out as the area is frequently visited by Atlantic hurricanes from June through November. Show more

How can one find the abandoned house on stilts near Marco Island?

The abandoned six-domed house on stilts can be found on Cape Romano Island, south of Marco Beach. Built as a vacation home in the 1980s, it was bought in 1992 by another family who later abandoned it after Hurricane Wilma's severe damage in 2005. The house is now an interesting landmark and worth a visit. Show more

What kind of wildlife is present on Ten Thousand Islands?

The area boasts an abundance of wildlife species, including dolphins, alligators in deeper mangrove channels, sea turtles, manatees, as well as egrets, pelicans, bald eagles, great blue herons among others. The islands offer exceptional birdwatching, with records of over 200 species in the region, making it a paradise for nature lovers of all kinds. Show more

What are the available camping sites in the southern region of Ten Thousand Islands?

Rabbit Key, Hog Key, and Jewel Key are some of the fantastic camping options in the southern region of Ten Thousand Islands. Here you'll get a mixture of primitive camping and boat-in camping sites with basic amenities such as grills. Camping permits are controlled by either the National Park Service or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is advisable to book way in advance during peak season due to the high demand for spaces. Show more

What is the best time to go stargazing in Ten Thousand Islands?

Stargazing is best during the late fall through winter in Ten Thousand Islands. The dry season (December through April) offers the optimal clear sky for stargazing and viewing meteor showers. Evening paddles through the waterways can be peaceful and serene with beautifully lit skies full of bright stars through low levels of light pollution. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen