Getting to know Marco

Edge of the Storm

The Florida Chronicles continue…

In spite of Jester’s parents having moved to Naples many years ago, we hadn’t spent much time on it’s neighbor, Marco Island. Nestled off the southwest Florida coast, Marco is very much a vacation playground. Very little remains in its natural state but that isn’t to say you can’t find a few natural little gems to explore, particularly in the surrounding back bays and Ten Thousand Islands area.

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Since we were visiting family on this trip, we were obviously a bit separated from the tourist crowd and were able to explore with our own personal tour guides a.k.a. Gma and Gpa. But before I delve into the people stories of our Florida adventures, I thought I’d give you a taste of the nature of Marco Island away from the high-rise hotels.

Meet Sue…

First some introduction is necessary. Since most of our adventures were courtesy of Gpa and his trusty boat, it’s only fitting to give you a sense of our vantage point aboard The Runaround Sue. And yes, I highly recommend having your own private captain to portage you around the islands. (I might rent him out if you ask nicely.)

View from Sue
View from Sue

Around the island…

This is a typical view around Marco (away from the hotels that is), the main bridge (Collier Road) and lots and lots of Mangrove islands, hence the Ten Thousand Islands moniker.

Welcome to Marco
Collier Road bridge to Marco and the mangroves.

Of course, even with your own personal tour guide, there are rules to be followed. This little fellow, a cormorant of some flavor I believe, seemed to be making certain the “No Wake” zone was being honored. It’s the ocean version of a school zone.

Feathered Traffic Cop
Feathered Traffic Cop

Ah, the ubiquitous brown pelican. Precisely because they’re everywhere and not terribly shy, they lend themselves to countless photo ops. I’ll let you off with just this one under the Collier Road bridge.

Mr. Pelican
Mr. Pelican

As common as the pelican is, there is the very uncommon Martian Houses (a.k.a. Dome Houses) on Cape Romano at the southern end of the island.

Martian Houses
Martian Houses

But go a little further south to the point of Cape Romano and you find the grass-dotted tip, jutting out in a tenuous finger.

Tip of the Cape
Tip of the Cape

Given the level of development on the island, you do have to get away from it for the most part to enjoy wildlife beyond the common birds and a fleeting manatee sighting.

And now, for the rest of the story…

After much of the week spent engaged in one water sport or another, I was running out of time to get my “Val Shots” (as Jester puts it) of Marco. So Gma and I enlisted Gpa to ferry us out to Tigertail Beach for some sweet-light captures of the birds and a sunset photo op. Can’t go to Florida and not get a sunset right? That would be like going to Paris and not getting a shot of the Eiffel Tower.

Off we went to discover the joys of Tigertail which we’d heard so much about. We stopped towards the northern end which is a really stunning section of nearly pristine beach with light, fluffy, glorious meringue-like sand the likes I’ve never had the privilege to experience before. With little human foot-traffic and its position on a spit beyond a lagoon, it is a nature lover’s dream and a must-see if you’re planning a visit.

I just don’t recommend doing it quite the way we did.

An unexpected adventure…

Our intrepid captain attempted to gently beach Sue on the outside of the spit but the restless sea had other ideas. The water was getting rough very quickly so he went into valet mode and decided to drop us off.

Now, before you get an image of Fantasy Island in your head, let me assure you we were not greeted with leis, tropical drinks, and men dressed in crisp white suits. Rather, an evacuation drill ensued in which we (not quite) threw the kids out of the boat as close to the beach as possible followed by the adults desperately trying to get camera gear to shore without an unscheduled swim in the ocean. At least the gear stayed dry. But it was close.

Gear safe upon the beach, we then had a boat problem on our hands in which The Runaround Sue was about to become The Run-Aground Sue. With the captain at the wheel and the three able-bodied adults in the water, we managed to fight the boat back out far enough for Gpa to get Sue back on track. So let’s just call the situation…tense.

The Valet
The Marco Island version of valet service

With Sue handled and Gpa headed back around to the much less boat-jarring lagoon side of the spit, we got busy exploring the magic that is Tigertail. The sun was low enough to provide some very nice light and the bird life has a lot to offer on this particular beach. There were coy plovers of course. None of which I had the time to coax into close-ups so I had to move on to the larger, less-skiddish avian types.

Sneaky Plovers
Cheeky Plovers

But what’s a photographer to do when you’re stuck behind a roped-off section, all the big birds are hanging out in their private little bird club, and your maximum zoom is 200? Well, you enjoy the view…

Tiget by the tail
The tiger's tail

Get what you can…

Skimming the Lagoon
Skimmers taunting me from within their safety zone.

And put a bigger lens on your wish list when you get home.

In the Lagoon
Safe from nosy photographers without big zoom lenses.

But wait there’s more…

Yes, there’s still the sunset to tickle our fancy right? You’d think. But you’d be wrong. It was setting up nicely you see…

Boat Silhouette
Emerging Sunset

But one thing you should always do (this applies to both photographers and boat captains) is look behind you…

Brace for Impact

You’d think, with the collective wisdom of the Runaround Sue’s crew running at 200+ years, that we would have had the good sense to check the bleeping weather before we headed out. Granted, Gpa was quietly aware of the impending situation but he was also trying to give us as much shooting time as possible without pressuring us to wrap it up. He finally pulled the plug on us though knowing, as any good captain does, what we were up for in getting back home. And it wasn’t pretty.

If you’ve ever been in a storm on a boat, you know how intense and uncertain it can be. The ride home was definitely a nail-biter but Gpa handled it like the pro he is. George loved every hang-on-for-dear-life minute of it. Fred on the other hand, was not at all pleased by the situation. Gee, which one is my thrill-seeker?

At any rate, to give you a sense of the insanity of Florida storms and what we’d gotten ourselves into, here’s a shot of the nice little sunset we were anticipating…

Deceptive Peace
Deceptive Peace

Pan ever-so-slightly to the south and this is what was really happening…

On the edge of the storm
Can the Runaround Sue outrun this?

As you can imagine, our sunset photo shoot was cut tragically short. In fact, the last four shots were not taken from the beach but from the wildly-jostling boat which, it turns out, is no easy shooting situation. When we cleared the lagoon and Gpa was setting Sue to full-speed-ahead in the stinging rain, we had to bag our cameras lest we send them to an early grave. One camera-plus-water close call was enough for one day thanks.

So we headed home…away from the sunset. And as the rain whipped into our eyes, Gma and I turned in cameraless photographer agony toward the clear horizon and the enormous, perfect orange ball slipping silently into the ocean. Like the proverbial fish, it was the one that got away. And it was this big.

That’s your all-too-real-life introduction to Marco Island by way of Camp Granola and our crazy adventures.

Did you have any crazy adventures this summer?

And now for your moment of green…

Safe Harbor
A safer, but much less exhilarating, sunset vantage point.


  1. It was fun read all about your adventure again, it’s even better the second time.

    1. Fun to go back isn’t it? So glad you took us! It’s probably not something we would have thought about doing if you hadn’t convinced us it would be so neat.

  2. Nice job Val. I love the pictures and the presentation. I am so impressed with the professionalism and quality of the pictures, you’ve really come a long way in the past year. I also love the changes you made to your website. I look forward to reading your posts, keep up the great work!

    1. Thx Gma. Got lots more to write about our Florida adventures but with school back in full force, I’ve been a little slow. Ok, a lot slow but who’s counting?

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