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Marathon: The Heart of the Florida Keys
Midway between Key Largo to the north and Key West to the south, the city of Marathon, FL sits smack bang in the middle of the Florida Keys. A frequent resting point for those driving to the better-known Key West, savvy travellers know that Marathon actually has plenty of merits of its own. From sandy beaches and historic attractions to picturesque views and marvellous wildlife, there’s plenty to see and do in Marathon.
Exploring Vaca Key
If Marathon, FL is more than just a pit stop on your journey south, you’ll want to make for Vaca Key, which serves as the main hub of activity in the city. The city actually stretches across more than ten islands, but most are fairly limited when it comes to city amenities.
On Vaca Key you’ll find a compendium of shops, restaurants and bars, as well as marinas, harbours and other water-based facilities. Marathon is also home to one of only three hospitals in the Florida Keys, Fishermen’s Hospital, as well as Marathon International Airport.
Almost all accommodation options in Marathon can be found on Vaca Key too. Expect to find cosy guest houses, retro motels, independent hotels, resort-style properties, and more. Some are located on the waterfront, whilst others flank US 1, the main road that passes through the city.
Enjoying the Beach Life
It’s true that Marathon isn’t blessed with countless beaches and endless stretches of soft sand but here it’s truly a case of quality over quantity. The city’s main beaches all offer the perfect backdrop against which to enjoy the beach life.
Sombrero Beach is perhaps the most popular beach in the region. Boasting soft sands and azure waters, the beach is busy with holidaymakers looking to enjoy sunbathing and sand castle building. It also features a campsite, picnic area, softball field, and designated swimming area. Visit between April and October and you may even see Loggerhead turtles nesting.
Although not technically in Marathon – it’s just across a causeway – Key Colony Beach is another popular choice. Here you’ll find beach clubs and bars flanking the soft sands, while a nine-hole golf course is nearby.
If you’re hoping to spend a quiet day at the beach, Coco Plum Beach may be your best option. Less crowded than other beaches in the region, visitors find it to be peaceful and refreshing. As an added bonus, it’s also a good place to collect seashells.
It’s well known that the Florida Keys are the perfect destination if you’re into fishing, boating or diving. Marathon ticks each of these boxes too. If you’re looking for an aquatic adventure, you won’t need to look very far.
Sport fishing and deep-sea fishing is big business in Marathon. A whole slew of boat operators offer trips out onto the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, where you can catch everything from swordfish and snapper to barracuda and bonefish. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can also try out some spearfishing while you’re in town.
Even if you’re not into fishing, a day out at sea is a great way to unwind. Numerous operators in the city offer boat trips and cruises. Sightseeing trips are, of course, popular, but many visitors also enjoy party cruises, breakfast cruises, and sunset cruises.
Thanks to crystal clear waters, Marathon is also a great place to go snorkelling or scuba diving. In addition to reefs and marine life, you may even come across a shipwreck or two. Ask at your hotel where the best place is to see such underwater delights.
History and Wildlife
Located right in the heart of Marathon, Crane Point Museum, Nature Center and Historic Site offers visitors the opportunity to explore the history of the region and see some of its wild inhabitants up close and personal.
The Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys, found within Crane Point, features a treasure trove of historical artefacts, including the remains of pirate ships! You’ll also come across a 600-year-old canoe as you peruse the displays. The Florida Keys Children’s Museum, meanwhile, is a great choice for families with younger children.
At Marathon Wild Bird Center, volunteers work tirelessly to rehabilitate injured birds and release them into the wild. Visits to the facility can be arranged, with most visitors impressed with the work that goes on here, not to mention the fact that they get to see some truly unique birds up close.
Pigeon Key and Old Seven
One of the more unique attractions you’ll find in Marathon is the old Seven Mile Bridge. Constructed between 1908 and 1912 as part of the Overseas Railroad, the seven-mile-long bridge was in operation until 1982, when a new, improved bridge was constructed as part of the Overseas Highway.
Today, the bridge, which ends abruptly out at sea on the other side of Pigeon Key, is only accessible by pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a major draw though, with tourists loving the uniqueness of being able to stroll across the waters. It’s not uncommon to see fishermen cast off over the side of the bridge, while joggers are a common sight.
Pigeon Key itself is worthy of a visit. It was here than many of the workers involved in the construction of the original railroad stayed. You can learn more about the work involved at the island’s museum, while several other historic properties are to be found here.