Whether it's a weekend getaway or an extended stay, Marathon provides a unique boating and family destination paired with an array of amenities that range from Keys laid-back to ultra-luxurious.
It's time to chart a southerly course for a larger-than-life excursion that docks in the "Heart of the Florida Keys." It's cruising time and Marathon beckons with a delightful port of call. Whether it's the comfort of a cruiser, the tranquility of a sailboat, a fast-paced high-performance machine, or aboard a 15-foot Boston Whaler, as I've enjoyed many times, navigating the waters of the Florida Keys is an incredible experience. It doesn't matter if you plot the course for an inside passage in the solitude of backcountry waters or opt for an outside run basking in the warm Atlantic breezes, this Marathon adventure provides a breathtaking ride for all on board. Don't forget to pack an extra bottle of suntan lotion because the weather really is picture-perfect nearly all year long and be sure to bookmark this guide for easy reference.
Your arrival begins at Mile 1188 and marks the beginning of Marathon (located on Vaca Key), dotted with resorts and marinas on the bayside, while the ocean side is home to beautiful Sombrero Beach and the city's oldest dining spot, Castaway Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Although it might prove challenging to find this hidden gem via car, the open-air eatery affords boating guests easy access with 75 feet of docking space.
Marathon boasts a historical mix that continues to shape its trademark as a boating destination. The area first appeared on a Spanish map in the 1500s, settled by a group of Bahamians, along with some fishing families from Connecticut in the early 1800s, and finally emerged as Marathon in 1910 when workers on Henry M. Flagler's Overseas Railroad called it home. While the completion of the railroad project saw many workers leave, it was the devastating 1935 hurricane that forever changed Marathon's landscape: the Overseas Railroad was destroyed and in its place, a scenic highway (known today as the Overseas Highway) connecting the mainland to Key West was built, transforming Marathon into its present-day status: a dynamic resort and sport-fishing haven. If you've never been to Marathon, here's a brief intro to what awaits you once you've docked the boat.
Things To Do & See
The 10-mile-long community comprises Boot, Knights, Hog, Vaca, Stirrup, Crawl and Little Crawl Keys, East and West Sister's Island, Deer and Fat Deer Keys, Long Pine, and Grassy Keys. The area's land side and sea side arenas welcome with an abundance of environmental and historical attractions—from swimming with dolphins, exploring hardwood hammocks, and enjoying an afternoon at the beach to exploring nearby Pigeon Key. During my visit, I stepped back in time as I strolled the 5-acre grounds of the original headquarters and staging area for the construction of the legendary Seven Mile Bridge and browsed the museum housing artifacts of the Florida Keys railroad era depicting life in the early 1900s.
There's a mega selection of water activities: You can snorkel and dive at Sombrero Reef or at the Thunderbolt shipwreck, and there are three state parks with pristine, relaxing beaches and incredible sport and flats fishing.
Among Marathon's many 'must see" treasures are Crane Point, a historical and archaeological 63.5-acre site that contains evidence of prehistoric Indian artifacts, as well as the Bahamian-style Adderly House and Dolphin Encounter, a thrilling, up-close experience to swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center (a non-profit marine mammal education and research facility established in 1984).
Make plans to visit one of Florida's best beaches at idyllic Bahia Honda State Park or take some time for a photo shoot of the Seven Mile Bridge. Bahia Honda lends a stunning view of the majestic pair of bridges (the old running parallel to the new). both of which are spectacles of modern-day engineering achievement.
While several restaurants serve up an amazing menu of fresh local seafood, the ever-popular Keys Fisheries Market & Marina on picturesque Florida Bay is a not-to-be-missed dining experience. Whether you arrive by car (just north of the Seven Mile Bridge) or boat (the marina accommodates vessels up to 60 feet), schedule a late afternoon visit and treat yourself with a couple of specialties: a Lobster Reuben sandwich topped off with a slice of homemade Key Lime Pie, while enjoying a spectacular sunset at the water's edge.
Since my first trip to Marathon back in 1986, the "Heart of the Florida Keys" has experienced an amazing transformation that continues to lure visitors with its own unique tropical ambiance. However, the renovation of the landmark Faro Blanco locale is the most dramatic re-dress to date. Following a total demolition of the old bungalow/ restaurant/pool structures. leaving only the iconic Faro Blanco lighthouse standing, the Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club opened its doors in 2015. The luxurious all-in-one destination welcomes boating guests with easy access from the Atlantic Ocean via the Seven Mile Bridge and Moser Channel. The 74-slip state-of-the-art marina accommodates boats up to 100 feet and provides an array of amenities. including concierge services to water enthusiasts. Should you choose not to stay on board your vessel, there's a 125-room Hyatt Place and an on-site restaurant, Lighthouse Grill, which offers indoor or al fresco dining options. Plan to spend some time at The Veranda, an outside bar that serves cool beverages with beautiful Gulf views.