History of Marco Island

The rich and varied history of Marco Island begins in 500 A.D., when a Native American people, known as the Calusa, settled throughout Southwest Florida. They developed a complex culture based on fishing rather than agriculture, and they adapted to the island by becoming skilled woodworkers who built their homes, docks and canoes from the island’s trees. 


They also created some of the finest pre-historic art in North America, most prominently a wooden figure known as the Key Marco Cat, which is permanently displayed in the Smithsonian Institute. You can see similar artifacts from this period at the Marco Island Historical Society, where you’ll also experience the re-creation of a village depicting the day-to-day life of the Calusa. 


In the mid-1500’s, Spanish explorers arrived and gave the island its name, “La Isla de San Marco,” but development didn’t begin until William Thomas Collier founded the village of Marco in 1870. His son, William D. Collier, opened the Olde Marco Inn, which is still operating in Olde Marco, on the North of the island. Today, visitors to Olde Marco can stroll through the brick courtyards of Royal Palm Drive, where small tin-roofed shops bring the island’s colorful history to life. 


The modern period of Marco Island begins in the 1960’s when the Mackle brothers developed the island into a world-class destination for visitors, complete with the S.S. Jolley Bridge, which gave people access to Marco Island from Naples. When you cross that bridge today, you’ll be entering the modern Marco Island, a blend of old and new, of unspoiled beaches and elegant houses and resorts, of slow-paced living and adrenaline-pumping watersports. It’s this harmony of comfort and fine living within a setting of natural splendor that makes Marco Island the destination of choice for over six million visitors per year, from around the world.


You can find much more detailed area information with our proprietary app. It lists all Marco Island’s beaches, parks, attractions, restaurants, shopping areas, grocery stores and other important information you need during your stay in Marco Island.