Marathon: Beaches and marine parks along the Overseas Highway

Who I am
Martí Micolau

Along the scenic Overseas Highway bridge (US Hwy 1) our discovery of the Florida Keys (or simply Keys) in Monroe County continues. Time is never enough when traveling and that veil of sadness at leaving Key Largo and Islamorada in compliance with our itinerary to the south is offset by the joy of having other keys ahead of us yet to be explored.

We are indeed about to get to Marathon, the union of various islets (seven of which are main) that extend over 25 square kilometers with a population of about 8300 people.

Nature, water sports, fauna, beaches, tranquility and sun characterize Marathon, a place where you can free yourself from stress or simply live different experiences from the normal routine. Here and in all the keys you can do it. And then to reach Key West, the terminus, it will be an "inevitable pleasure" to walk the stretch of the motorway bridge called 7 mile bridge with beautiful views to be enjoyed in every panoramic point, after which you should not miss a stop in the paradise of Bahia Honda State Park.


  • Curiosity, origin of the name and climate
  • What to see in Marathon
    • Marine museums and parks
    • The natural parks
  • The beaches of Marathon
  • Where to eat
  • Where sleeping in Marathon
  • How to reach Marathon

Curiosity, origin of the name and climate

It seems that the workers who built the railway complained of working day and night and of being subjected to a real "marathon" to finish the work: this could be the origin of the name of the city. This hypothesis is the most accredited, but there is another that wants the name to come from a verse by the poet Byron, referring however to the famous Greek battle. The climate is tropical with two distinct seasons: one very hot and humid from June to November, the other hot and dry from December to May. A curiosity: with its 44 meters, the Bonefish Tower (2000 Coco Plum Tower) is the tallest building in the archipelago of the Keys.

What to see in Marathon

Like other islands in the Florida Keys archipelago, this destination is also popular for diving, snorkeling and fishing. From the marina (1021 11th St. Ocean) boats leave every morning for sport fishing in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Here you can not find the classic large shopping centers and we are happy because they would not be in harmony with the environment. To satisfy some craving for Shopping we report The Tackle Box (1901 Overseas Hwy) designed primarily for fishing enthusiasts. It is one of the largest shops in the area dedicated to them, but there is also no shortage of clothing, camping supplies, beach accessories and marine equipment. Of course there are other commercial realities in the area which are nice to discover as you discover Marathon.

Marine museums and parks

We have recently entered the city agglomeration, the northern part of Marathon, and a large wooden sign welcomes us. It does not take long and we are attracted to the sign of Dolphin Research Center (58901 Overseas Hwy) which is located on Grassy Key, one of the islets that make up the town. Sea lions and dolphins await us at this non-profit educational and research center. We swim with them and have fun watching them play in the water, then at the Dolphin Theater a video allows us to get to know these nice finned friends better. We can also talk to the instructors and staff. The center is open every day from 9 to 16.30 at a cost of $ 28 for adults and $ 23 for ages 4 to 12.

Il Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters (11710 Overseas Hwy) is home to stingrays, angelfish, sharks, alligators and cute iguanas, but there's more. You can snorkel in the coral reef, swim with manta rays and even with sharks. Those who prefer a "dry" encounter can feed and touch small manta rays. Then, those interested in learning more about the aquarium can take advantage of exploratory tours of the park and attractions. The Eagle Ray Cafè is a refreshment point where you can enjoy fish sandwiches but also excellent sweets and desserts. The aquarium is open from 9 to 17, admission costs $ 20 for adults and $ 15 for ages 4 to 12.

Living in open spaces is almost a watchword here. Take your time to see what the Crane Point Museum & Nature Center (5550 Overseas Hwy) where paths lead among plants, shrubs and vigorous hammock trees, typical of the southern States. And then, coral reefs, sea turtles, tropical fish, shells and butterflies; we like this place. And those who are sportier than us also like it and take advantage of the daily guided kayak tours. In this park, at the Wild Bird Center, we go to visit injured or orphaned birds.

We also allow ourselves a stop at Museum of Natural History for a learning journey of the natural and cultural history of the Keys. Even if you are not fond of museums, it is interesting to visit it for its informative contents; in fact, it ranges from the Calusa Indians to the Spanish explorers, passing through the epic of the pirates. Also located here is George Adderley House, the oldest house in the Keys outside of Key West. Finally, we point out the Florida Keys Children's Museum dedicated to children with two saltwater lagoons, fish tanks and also an interactive area on the subject of pirates. The park is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 17pm and Sunday from 12pm to 17pm. The entrance fee is $ 12.50 for adults and $ 11 for 5 to 11 year olds.

An important reality awaits us at Turtle Hospital (2396 Overseas Hwy), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of Keys sea turtles. These endangered creatures, sick or injured, are cared for by volunteer veterinarians. Many of the "patients" are temporary and leave the hospital as soon as they are able to take care of themselves, while others are "resident" in good hands. Guided tours of the facility and rehabilitation area can be taken. The entrance ticket costs $ 25 for adults and $ 12 for 4 to 12 years old.

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Do you love water sports? If the answer is yes, then Dolphin Bay Watersports (1996 Overseas Hwy) is to be included in the itinerary because jet skis, kayaks, paddle-boards can be hired and adrenaline-charged jet ski tours are also organized. Half day kayaking costs $ 45, paddle board $ 65 and half an hour of jet ski costs $ 65.

The natural parks

Curry Hammock State Park

A protagonist sea does not exclude the pleasure of discovering precious things green areas; we dedicate some of our time to them on our way south. Sunset Bay Park (Morton St. & Kyle Ave. on Grassy Key) overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. Sturdy hammock, palm, mahogany and mangrove trees create a beautiful harmony of greenery, but crabs and birds are also found here, such as ospreys, woodpeckers, thrushes, cardinals and cute hummingbirds.

And while we are here we witness the sunset; on the other hand the name almost imposes it on us. Curry Hammock State Park (56200 Overseas Hwy) is a splendid park where nature is appreciated and lived in many ways: you can walk paths that wind for about two and a half kilometers, you can devote yourself to kayaking and paddle-boarding in shallow pristine waters and you can also go fishing. When the area is windy it is the ideal time for windsurfing and kiteboarding.

There are great bird watching opportunities throughout the year as well. The park, open daily from 8am to sunset, protects a vast area of ​​mangroves and hammock trees, essential to the Keys ecosystem. The area has a campsite with 28 pitches and it is possible to rent the necessary equipment for water activities. Admission is $ 5 for vehicles carrying 2 to 8 passengers, $ 4 for vehicles with 1 passenger, and $ 2 for pedestrians and bicycles.

Al Marathon’s Dog Park e Oceanfront Park  (9805 Overseas Hwy) we relax among paths and picnic areas. Fishing is a popular activity here, but scenic boat trips are also frequent thanks to the docking ramp. Part of this oceanfront park is officially dedicated to dogs who can have fun and play without a leash. There are toilets and parking on site. If there is no space, you can park at the nearby town hall. The park is open every day from 7.30 to sunset.

Il Community Park (200 36th St.) is a green city area with many resources: you can have fun playing sports, walking along the paths, having a picnic, attending events in the amphitheater and letting the children play in the area. dedicated. Inside the park we point out to the youngest, or to those who simply want to have fun, the section called Marathon Skate Park which, as the name shows, is structured to practice this sport. Between 7.30 and 16 the slopes are not supervised while they are from 16 to 20 in the evening, the times with greater turnout.

The beaches of Marathon

Even if the Keys are definitely places of excellence for water sports and there are not many sandy coasts due to their nature of coral rock, they still manage to satisfy even those seeking bathing and relaxation. Here at Marathon we like to point out two beaches.

Coming from the north, not far from the aquarium, the first one we meet is Coco Plum Beach (109 Coco Plum Dr.), a long coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean, accessible from 7am to sunset, with shallow waters that do not make it particularly suitable for swimming near the shore. Although this is a private area on a residential level, the beach fortunately has public access. It is ideal for walking, windsurfing and enjoying beautiful sunsets. The beach is equipped with bathrooms and has a pavilion with tables. It is the only shoreline in Marathon that is completely dog ​​friendly.

Towards the south we arrive at Boot Key, another of the islets that make up Marathon. Here there is a harbor for boats used in recreational activities and in autumn you can spot hawks, then, further south, beach hat (MM 50 Sombrero Beach Rd.) Is a white sand beach embellished with palm trees and facing the Atlantic Ocean. It is also a good location for snorkeling and near a small pier there is a mooring for kayaks. Four-legged friends are welcome on a leash. In both the aforementioned coasts, from April to October, in the evening you can observe the sea turtles that reach the beach to go to lay their eggs.

Where to eat

We complete our journey by testing the local cuisine. We suggest a few restaurants where you can enjoy excellent dishes in a beautiful location. For lunch and dinner we recommend Island Fish Company (12648 Overseas Hwy) from which you can enjoy a spectacular sunset while eating. The menu features tortilla wraps, filet mignon, chicken wings, cajun chicken salad, crispy crab sandwich, stuffed shrimp, fried calamari and linguine with shellfish. Prices are not cheap but satisfaction is guaranteed. The venue boasts the longest tiki bar in the Florida Keys (an exotic Polynesian décor venue serving elaborate cocktails). The daily happy hour starts at 15pm and ends at 17pm. There is also a shop selling traditional island clothes on site.

Il Lighthouse Grill (1994 Overseas Hwy) is a restaurant inside the Faro Blanco Resort & Yatch Club, a hotel complex with a marina whose structure is recognized for its lighthouse. For lunch and dinner you can enjoy fresh fish cooked with local ingredients while you can watch the sun go down from the waterfront. The restaurant, with a casual atmosphere, has a veranda with a bar and you can have fun during happy hour from 15 to 18 pm. The restaurant's motto is: good time is always on the menu (pleasant moments are always on the menu).

Da Lazy Days South (725 11th St.) It is a pleasure to eat on the outdoor patio overlooking the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean while enjoying the sunset. The menu features excellent desserts, fresh fish, steaks, chicken, sandwiches, pasta with fish and vegetarian toppings. A very interesting thing is that here it is possible to cook your own fish with the only condition that it is well filleted and without bones.

At the Florida Keys Country Club (where golf and tennis are played) is theHarbor View Cafe (4000 Sombrero Blvd), a casual restaurant on the waterfront from which you can admire the view comfortably seated outside. The affordable menu features crab legs, sandwiches, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, salad with apple, pineapple and walnuts.

If you are on holiday in March do not miss theevento Marathon Seafood Festival at the Community Park (200 36th St.). The protagonist is fresh fish. Live music performances and games enliven the event which naturally also street vendors take part. Admission costs $ 5 for ages 12 and up.

Where sleeping in Marathon

Courtyard by Marriott Marathon

Between the accommodation of Marathon we point out Tranquility Bay Resort (2600 Overseas Hwy) located on the beach. The rooms and houses on the waterfront, decorated in pastel colors and shades of white, are in a tropical forest overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. In this oasis of serenity there are three swimming pools, a spa and a tiki bar.

The new structure of the Courtyard by Marriott Marathon Florida Keys (2146 Overseas Hwy) has rooms and suites equipped with wi-fi, mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker. The swimming pool and fitness center both have bay views but in general there are beautiful panoramic views from all over the property.

Il The Hammocks at Marathon (1688 Overseas Hwy) welcomes its customers in a lush setting among palm trees, hammock trees and suggestive tiki torches where the rooms have balconies and kitchens. A salt water aquarium with coral reef has been created in the lobby. The hotel has a heated outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, barbecue grills, outdoor parking and wi-fi. Boats, kayaks and jet skis can be hired on site.

Il Seascape Motel & Marina (1275 76 St. E.) has ten affordable accommodations including an apartment for six. The property is surrounded by a peaceful natural setting. Clients enjoy the marina and private beach, ocean view pool, barbecue station and panoramic ocean views.

Search among the hotels in Marathon

How to reach Marathon

To reach Marathon we refer to the connections with Europe onMiami airport (2100 NW 42nd Ave.) from which our destination is about 2 hours and 40 minutes. We recommend renting a car but for those who prefer to use local transport we give some suggestions. The bus of the Key West Transit line connect Marathon to Key West while those of the RT 301 of the Dade Monroe Express connect it to Florida City (south of Miami).

If you stay in the city you can easily rent a bicycle. About that Bike Marathon Rental (700 39th St.) is a great option. The bike is equipped with baskets, lights, locks and a protective helmet is also provided. The vehicle can also be rented for a whole week. Advance booking is recommended during the Christmas and Easter periods.

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