Part of The Resortist series of destination commentary and travel book reviews. This blog post celebrates my memory of a February 2009 trip to Marco Island, Florida. Our experience was so overwhelmingly positive that it has carried with us to this day. Join in the destination conversation and share your own reflections, interests and comments.
On the gulf side of South Florida, along the Paradise Coast, lies Marco Island. No, not just lies. Marco lounges, and her visitors and inhabitants alike lounge with her, to some degree, in quietude and contentment. The island is delightfully, comfortably warm when much of the United States is oh so cold during the winter months. The city is wealth intensified, boasting luxury accommodations and high-end boutiques seemingly at every water-lapped street bend. But in this richly saturated resort atmosphere can also be found accessible, affordable and pleasant lodging options.
One such pleasing option is the Boat House Motel. Just as the Marco Island Winn Dixie parking lot is a vision of loveliness compared to most lots, with its palms and generous islands of grass offsetting the functional asphalt black, the Boat House is no typical motel. In a town where it appears the average everyman drives a fresh, new Mercedes, the Boat House could be expensive. It is not.
Meeting-planner friends had put Marco Island on our vacation radar. Once we were sufficiently enticed_it certainly didn’t take long_our need for affordable, pet-friendly lodging brought us to the Boat House Motel website. After scrutinizing every corner of each photo posted, scanning each panoramic video image from every conceivable angle, knowing well that we could be fooled from that distant, two-dimensional vantage point, we held our collective breath and clicked the reservation button. We hoped for the best, and what we got was damn good_our ideal, in fact.
While the motel is practical rather than embellished in its furnishings and amenities, it is a destination in itself for its comfort, space and location. The decor is classic seabreeze freshness. The rooms are expansive, large enough to accommodate another couple and their dog. Off the living area of our ground-floor room was a super-private patio; the upper floor features walk-out balconies. (Pets-allowed accommodations are designated to the ground-floor rooms.) The out-of-doors warmth and the city’s genteel charm are the only additional embellishments this lodging needs.
The Boat House is tucked away from the main cluster of seaside condo buildings, at the northern tip of the island at Collier Bay. It has a pool and an extended deck area overlooking the bay. A bonus feature for those visitors docking at the marina or driving on extended trips is the coin-operated washer and dryer.
The house rules for the dog are specific and reasonable: Don’t let her disturb the other guests. Hang the special doorknob sign for housekeeping. Don’t leave the dog alone in the room past 9:00 p.m. The desk clerk was welcoming to both us and our pet, and that sensibility pervaded our entire stay. (At our checkout, she insisted we take home several of the motel’s pens_which now are one of my favorite souvenirs from the trip for their characteristic ocean theme and the glimmer of warm satisfaction they recall.)
Leading from the downtown/business district area up to the Boat House Motel is Olde Marco Historic Village. Here you’ll find a pavered arcade with shops, a café, a resort and a high-end restaurant, all evoking a sheltered quaintness where the world slows down to window-shopping speed.
If you’re traveling with your dog, walk him or her out of the marina area through Olde Marco, past the popular Snook Inn and along Bald Eagle Drive. The historic village area feeds into a wide-open expanse, where from the sidewalk you will take in alternating views of the Gulf and high-rise luxury condo buildings framed by lush, vast lawns. With the average temperature of 74 degrees, the sea breezes, sun and Marco civic kindness, your and the pet’s constitutions will surely be fortified for the return to colder climes.
Despite the mild traffic jam we encountered when crossing from mainland to island, we found neither hustle nor bustle along the main business district route of Collier Boulevard. The effect of driving or walking through the area is one of gliding without effort. The Esplanade Shoppes served as a hub for our explorations. We would stop for a coffee, linger outside with our caffeine in hand and dog in tow, observe with interest the parade of well-heeled folk in their uber-luxury conveyances, then launch the day’s touring. On the one day I was obligated to work, I found that I had little resentment for it when I located myself outside the coffee shop, focused on the articles I was editing while gratefully aware of the enveloping resort weather and activities of others.
While You’re There
While you’re visiting Marco Island, seek out and enjoy the local seafood restaurants and rib joints favored by the local inhabitants. If you’re traveling with several people, Snook Inn is cheerily touristy and well suited to group dinner outings. If you’re a fan of karaoke, don’t hesitate to check out Porky’s Last Stand. The food is good and the singing is fairly competitive. We heard no warbling strains of “With or Without You” the entire evening we spent there. (Some disclosure is warranted here: My husband is a very good karaoke singer. I don’t get karaoke, don’t get it at all. And I enjoyed myself there.)
If you’re a meeting planner looking for a site to convene an education cluster or event for an executive or other professional association, your members will experience excellent service provided unobtrusively and will come away refreshed and rejuvenated.
Most important for a visit to Marco Island is to smile, accept the graciousness of the locals and take your dog for walks. Lots of walks. Then start planning your next trip there, immediately if at all possible.