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First Trip, many questions.

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Illinois
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First Trip, many questions.

Hi everyone. My family and I are planning our first trip to Marco Island the first week of December. While my husband has been here before as a child, this will be a new experience for me.

I've been digging through TA to find all I can about this island and was hoping for some additional tips.

We're bringing along our 7 year old son, 16 month old daughter, and I will be 28 weeks pregnant at the time.

We've rented a condo at Seawinds on the south part of the beach.

I was hoping I could pick your brains with some questions.

1. I've never been shell hunting, being on the south part of the beach is there a good place to find shells in walking distance for me?

2. Being a midwest girl I have very little experience with the ocean, heck I can't even swim. That said, I'm terrified of the idea of sharks, jellyfish and stingrays. Are these a problem or a likely encounter during the beginning of December?

3. How long is the drive from the south part of the beach to the north part?

4. I've always dreamed of seeing a manatee, is there a good place that will do a boat tour to see them?

5. Are there any must see family friendly attractions within a 1-2 hour drive of Marco Island?

Thanks so much for your time!

Western NY
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1. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Ooh, a first time visitor! You'll get lots of information from the MI regulars.

First, visit www.tinytikestreasures.com and www.marcoreview.com for some prep work. I've been taking babies and kids to MI for years and have always had great luck renting cribs, high chairs, beach strollers, gates, etc. Delivered right to the door!

Do a search on the Marco Island forum for shelling advice. Many discussions of the great shelling on South Beach around the cove.

Manatees tend to stay in protected corners of the canals. Captain Barry offers fun manatee boat tours where he "guarantees" you'll see some. You'll find his ads in the Marco Review magazine.

The area off The Snook Inn where the Marco River meets the mouth of the Gulf is great for dolphin sighting as is South Beach. Don't think you have to worry about sharks.

If you're comfortable driving a pontoon/deck boat, I recommend doing a half-day rental and exploring the canals and winding your way to Keewaydin Island, a true paradise. And its very easy with the canal maps provided by the marina.

There's a small zoo/animal preserve in Naples which is about 25 minutes North of Marco.

Take the kids to Jack's Lookout at the Rose Marco Marina on Bald Eagle Drive. Get there when the

fishing charter boats arrive in the afternoon (4:30pm-ish) and watch the MANY pelicans arrive for the free leftovers as the captains clean the catch.

Plan a trip to The Dollar Tree in the Shops of San Marco (corner of Barfield and San Marco) for all of your beach and pool supplies. There are 3 grocery stores on the Island, too.

The Island isn't big; take you less than 10 minutes to go from one end to the other and its a beautiful drive down Collier Blvd.

Feel free to ask any other questions you have. We love to talk about taking kids to Marco. They will love it.

Cincinnati, OH
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2. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Oh, have you picked a great place! Jackie has pretty much covered the lay of the land. Hitting the dollar store for floaties, etc, is a must! The entire island is extremely family friendly, that's why we've gone for years. As far as sea life, you're in the off season for most. It is the Gulf of Mexico, you're gonna see some, but most are really docile. Leave them alone, they'll leave you alone. We actually drove the entire circumference of the island once and it took us 30 minutes. The entire legnth of Collier Blvd. is 10 minutes tops! Wait until you see that incredible white sand. Go, have a great time and keep us posted!

Illinois
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3. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Wow, thanks so much for all the great advice! I guess the map makes it look longer than it really is.

I've also been digging through the reviews on places to eat...hey I'm pregnant...I love food right now. Anyone have any favorites that they want to share? We're low key, no dressy stuff. Italian-Grill-American style food.

I'm really excited about searching out some seashells. We went to Jamaica for our last babymoon (it was a disaster) and no shells. :-(

Western NY
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4. Re: First Trip, many questions.

I've done Marco 5 months pregnant and had a great time. And we all love eating on Marco, too! Lots of suggestions (where's unsurenow?!)

Some of my faves (and definitely read the restaurant reviews on TA) and all are kid-friendly:

1. You can't go to Marco for the first time without at least one trip to The Snook Inn (standard American fare). Great view. Sit outside on a very casual picnic table, watch for dolphins, listen to the Jimmy Buffett-esque singer, get a frozen mocktail. The Grouper Sandwich is great. Decent standard salad bar, too. Take the kids to the upper deck. Incredible view. Check out their webcam at their website (www.snookinn.com).

2. Joey's for Italian (we love the thin pizza and pasta although some reviewers have a different opinion)

3. Esplanade for Guy Harvey's, The Star Bar and Cold Stone Creamery/Starbuck's (although I'll stick with The Star Bar). If you're lucky, there will be dancing under the stars and the kids will have a good time.

4. Captain Brien's for burgers, bbq

5. Sunset Grille at the Apollo Condo for American fare but a fantastic sunset

6. Capri Fish House on Isles of Capri (next island north of Marco; about 2 minutes off the Jolley Bridge)

7. Old Marco Crab House on Goodland

8. Quinn's at the Marriott

9. Nene's for breakfast

10. La Casita for Mexican and for music and entertainment

Cincinnati, OH
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5. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Captain Brien's is one of our favorites. Stan's on Goodland Island (a 10 minute drive) is also a must. Picnic tables and the food comes in plastic baskets. The food's amazing, the atmosphere is amazing. I've had some of the best times of my life at Stan's drinking diet coke. (I was the DD and/or chasing small children.) Also, I was born and raised all over Illinois, where are you?

Wisconsin
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6. Re: First Trip, many questions.

You will not have any trouble finding shells. I love shelling on the South end of the island. From SeaWinds, walk onto the beach and turn left (toward Cape Marco). When you can walk no further, and are by some rock outcroppings, you will find good shelling. However, you can walk the entire beach and find shells. The shelling is great in the Tigertail area also. I am on Marco right now and the shelling has been great. If you want to be really adventurous, get up at the crack of dawn and sneak out to go shelling with a flashlight in tow. Very fun.

We ate at Snooks tonight and it did not disappoint. There were families all over.

The evenings have been cold this week. We arrived on Tuesday evening and the temps were in the 40's. It really warmed up today. I think the cold snap is over for now.

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7. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Thanks so much for all the great advice everyone!

Turner - we're in Chatham about 10 minutes south of Springfield, but born and raised in Springfield.

I have a REALLY dumb question...I read that you are suppose to look for shells during low tide..correct?

Well I looked at a chart that gave the time of low tide for the week we'll be there and the times were late morning, ranging from 9am to 1pm. Should I be looking at those times or before?

Leicester, United...
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8. Re: First Trip, many questions.

..............Did someone mention STANS!!!

Yeo here ladies... just been extremley busy this week...

TB & JP - I think you have covered everything this lady needs to know... you both have experieinced being pregnant there..... my question is -doesnt the bump get in the way of the -- oh dear- senior moment - whats the stoop called when collecting shells?

Bashfulcat......... the only thing i will add is -hey relax and enjoy- it s a wonderful island which my family adore (notice othe drop in exchange rate!!)

The little ones will have a great time....Has anyine mentioned doing the shuffle in the sea.. or is the season wrong for this??

I would certainly go for a boat trip.... whether for manatee,dolphins or gators.......with 2 little ones apart from the zoo - i really cannot think of anything too close by...

There are acouple of parks on the island.. swings etc which my 17 yr old enjoyed as a little one..

Hmm not long till you go.. I hope you have a fabulous time....

Cincinnati, OH
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9. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Unsure, I confess it was I! But, have a heart, they're first timers, someone has to take the heat and let them in on the secret of Stan's. I know all about the oath. (Not to tell too many people about Stan's because then it will become typical south floridian and you have to eat a buzzard!) But they seem like nice people and I was willing to take the risk. Jackie, help me out here! December is not the shuffle season! You can wade, splash, swim all you want and you might, if you're lucky, have a big old sea turtle take some interest in you (it's happened twice to my daughter) or some dolphins may happen by. Other than that, it's you and that incredible blue water!

Dayton, OH / Marco...
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10. Re: First Trip, many questions.

Re: During my Trip to Marco - Shelling on Marco Beach Oct 10-20 2008

1) shelling was better on South Beach than Tigertail

2) sunrise at 7:30?AM was a good time to go shelling ... so don't wait until 9AM

4) shelling was good but not fantastic (fantastic if you compare it to Miami Beach)

3) it was humid until 15 Oct then the moisture left the air and it was very comfortable

4) $8 to park at Tigertail Beach but you can get a year? pass for $50