Marathon Florida – What to do in Marathon – full guide
On our Florida trip, we stopped in the town of Marathon to spend the night at the best Hyatt Place Florida Keys hotel. It was a preplanned vacation in the Florida Keys that brought us to Miami, rented us a car at the airport, and took us on an unforgettable drive through the Florida Keys – the coral islands and reefs that we had been dreaming about for years. After all, the islands on the above-water part of the ancient coral reef – a unique creation of nature, which is worth seeing if not in the Maldives, then in Florida!
Marathon Florida is a small resort town near Miami Beach, which is located on an elongated chain of closely spaced 13 coral islands (the main ones are Vaca Key, Fat Deer Key and Grassy Key) about 10 miles long, located in the central Florida Keys along the Pacific coast on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. It is known among tourists who have been here for its wonderful white-sand beaches, crystal-clear water, beautiful barrier reefs and their colorful inhabitants.
What to do in Marathon?
- Interact with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center
- View and feed our reef fish, sharks and rays at Aquarium Encounters
- Care for sea turtles at Turtle Hospital
- Bushwalk at Curry Hammock State Park
- Visit a lush grove of trees and a settler family home at Crane Point Museum
- Learn about the history of the local railroad at Pigeon Key Island (Old 7 Mile Bridge)
- Sunbathe on Sombrero Beach, where sea turtles come to lay their eggs.
- Snorkel from Bahia Honda Park on the beautiful reefs of the Gulf of Mexico
- Learn to scuba dive on a living barrier reef just a few miles off shore, then explore the sunken ship Thunderbolt
- Name: City of Marathon, Florida, USA
- Year founded: 1961
- Population: 9000
- Where is it from: Knight’s Key, Boot, Key Vaca, Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Crawl Key, and Grassy Key in the middle of the Florida Keys, part of Monroe County
- GPS coordinates: 24°43′35″N, 81°2′25″W
- Distance from Miami Airport: 175 km, travel time 2.5 hours
- elevation: 1 m
- Official website: www.ci.marathon.fl.us
For more information about the city of Marathon, read Wikipedia, and we’ll tell you what we went there for from Miami.
Why go to Marathon
To visit the best beaches in the Florida Keys – Sombrero Beach with sea turtles and Bahia Honda, known for its great coral reef snorkeling.
A trip to Marathon, like weekends in Lake Tahoe, has long had its traditions, observed by weekend visitors or vacationers who decide to spend their vacations at sea. It is customary here to enjoy a leisurely and measured old-Keys lifestyle, to catch fresh fish, crab and lobster, and to participate in culinary festivals with all sorts of seafood dishes.
Important to know:
Marathon vacations are first and foremost a variety of family-friendly water-related activities. There are no rowdy bars, clubs, and youth activities, but there are plenty of fishing boats and speedboats (there are more docks than in Delray Beach – about 2.5 thousand), trips on which are quite expensive.
So do not go here just for the idle interest (as on the beach of Santa Monica), and it is better to prepare in advance and allocate a fairly tangible budget for a full holiday with spa treatments, marine excursions, fishing and scuba diving along the beautiful reefs.
Visitors who prefer privacy on their Florida vacations choose Marathon hotels with a pool and spa for relatively private (compared to Miami hotels) time and relaxation, kayaking, individual trips to sea creatures by boat, unforgettable fishing and evening gatherings in cozy restaurants for dinner with cocktails and baked fish delicacies.
How to get to Marathon
You can get to the town of Marathon from Miami or Key West on your own by car or bus. The distance from Miami to Marathon Florida is 170 km and the travel time is 2.5-3 hours, depending on traffic.
All ground transportation options are available, including a personal shuttle to the airport, as well as cab service and rental cars (link).
The 301 Dade-Monroe Express bus runs from the Florida City area in south Miami, costing about $3 (schedule).
There are also regular flights to Key West Airport, which is a little closer, about 80 kilometers away. From there, you can get to Marathon in just 1 hour by car (rental) or Lower Keys Shuttle for only $4-5.
Hotels in Marathon Florida
The city of Marathon, which is conveniently located in the middle of the Florida Keys, has a large selection of modern hotels and guesthouses for almost every taste, from the modest Captain Pip’s to the modern and respectable Hyatt Place, where we decided to stay.
Keep in mind that room rates here will be higher than in Miami, which is quite understandable because of Marathon’s resort status and its exceptional popularity among wealthy vacationers.
Good to know: There are several private hotels and apartments such as Sombrero Beach Retreat near Sombrero Beach, the best beach in Marathon for beach vacations. It is convenient to settle there if you are going to go to this beach every day.
Hyatt Place Florida Keys Hotel – our review
Let me briefly tell you why we chose the Hyatt Place Florida Keys in Marathon City.
Usually Hyatt Place hotels in the United States live up to their name and are in the best locations with beautiful views and interesting attractions. Marathon is just such a case in point.
This modern 4-star luxury hotel is conveniently located in the middle of town, within walking distance of The Turtle Hospital and the Pigeon Key Foundation. It is also very close to the famous Seven Mile Bridge and Florida Keys Country Club.
But its main advantage is the unique opportunity to stay in the heart of the Florida Keys on the harbor with the Faro Blanco Lighthouse and the good fish restaurant Lighthouse Grill, known far beyond the city limits.
The Hyatt Place Marathon has 125 rooms, 2 on-site swimming pools and free Internet, business center with computers and printer, fitness room, meeting rooms, first floor bar and concierge service.
A nice bonus for us was the Lighthouse Grill restaurant with fresh seafood, located right on the harbor with a panoramic view of the Faro Blanco Lighthouse. It’s a great place to dine on the terrace with a beautiful sunset.
We booked the King Room with Sofa Bed and it was just perfect! We were pleased with the modern furnishings as well as the good service both during check-in and in dealing with our minor issues during our stay. Completing our experience was a nice hot breakfast with fresh juice, farm yogurt and fresh berries.
We rate our stay at the Hyatt Place Florida Keys as high as possible and recommend an overnight stay here to anyone traveling on their own in the Florida Keys!
Marathon is located on the Mid Keys of Florida. After the railroad was built from Miami to Key West in the early 20th century, there was a railroad station and a small fishing village. The opening of the highway through Marathon gave impetus to its gradual enlargement.
Development of the Mid Keys began in the late 1950s when Floyd W. Davis thought of developing the area more actively because its infrastructure was already far inferior to Key West because of the lack of amenities for visitors who came to vacation on the Florida Keys. He dreamed of a harbor with docks and lighthouse and his own yacht club, and along the shore to build apartments, restaurants with cocktail lounges and a swimming pool.
In 1957, most of the Davis Docks project was completed, beginning the gradual enlargement of the small community of Marathon, which received city status in 1999.
Interesting fact: The name Marathon was given to the small town on the Florida Keys during the construction of the railroad along Florida’s East Coast in the first half of the 20th century. It was coined by railroad construction workers who worked day and night to get the new line up and running as quickly as possible. Because of the relentless pace of work and the constant struggle to finish the project as quickly as possible, they complained that “their work became a real marathon.” Subsequently, the railroad station built there became known as Marathon.
Faro Blanco Lighthouse
Built in 1950, the Faro Blanco Lighthouse is located in the harbor at the Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht, part of the Hyatt Place hotel group, and is categorized as a recreational lighthouse (Faux Lighthouse). Compared with classic lighthouses to facilitate navigation, this lighthouse has a simplified design and is not intended to solve the problems of navigation. But it attracts tourists like the Native American observation tower in Grand Canyon Park or the tree ark in Sequoia Park.
We were lucky with the sunset that evening, it was quite beautiful. And we enjoyed walking near the lighthouse so much that we decided to go to it again in the morning to admire the sunrise, which didn’t disappoint us either.
Seven Mile Bridge
After breakfast, we went to see the Old Seven Mile Bridge. To do this, we drove from Marathon toward Key West over the new road bridge over the Mauser Canal and stopped in the parking lot right behind it. There begins the old bridge, which is accessible 24 hours a day, and completely free.
The old 7-mile bridge is 6.77 miles (10,888 m) long and was built in 1912 for the railroad that ran along the east coast of Florida from Jacksonville through the towns of St. Augustine, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami to the southernmost point of Florida, the city of Key West.
Immediately after its construction in the Florida Keys, the 7-Mile Bridge became the next “Eighth Wonder of the World,” as it was a state-of-the-art infrastructure project at the time, and the launch of rail traffic on it generated as much interest as the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in its time.
We looked at the old bridge from all angles and even took a short walk across it, and we recommend you stop by the bridge for 5-10 minutes too, to take beautiful photos and breathe in the fresh sea air on your way to Key West.
Bahia Honda Park
Bahia Honda Park is the most famous snorkeling spot on the Keys, with expansive sandy beaches that can match the size of Krabi beaches in Thailand. It’s almost just over the 7 Mile Bridge, and we decided to visit it too, setting aside 2 hours to walk the most beautiful beaches of the Florida Keys.
Interesting to know:
The name Bahia Honda means “deep bay” in Spanish, which pretty accurately reflects what hundreds of Florida vacationers come to this park every day for – to relax on the beach and go snorkeling on the reefs.
At Bahia Honda, you can see for yourself all the variety of marine life (live corals, colorful tropical fish, seaweed, and even lobsters) not very far from the shore, literally a couple hundred meters from the shore. You can also participate in a snorkeling tour at Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, which is home to one of the most beautiful reefs in the Florida Keys.
Overall, we were pleased with our walk along the beaches along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. They really are beautiful, and on weekday mornings they are also quite deserted.
There is a fee to enter Bahia Honda Park – $4.50 per person, and if there are more than 2 people in the car, starting from the third – 50 cents per person.
We advise you to prepare well for the trip, and in advance pack all the necessary beach gear and buy food, as there are no cafes and restaurants in Bahia Honda Park (except for the store with snacks), and rent umbrellas and sun loungers. Also, don’t forget your snorkeling mask and flippers.
We also stopped by Sombrero Beach to see for ourselves how good it is and whether it lives up to the many praises about it on the internet. To get to it, you have to turn in Marathon from Overseas Highway near K-Mart Plaza in a southbound direction at the Sombrero Beach Road sign, and drive a couple more miles to the free parking lot along the entire beach.
Sombrero Beach is said to be the most beautiful sandy beach in the city of Marathon Florida. It is also considered one of the best beaches in the United States, and sea turtles come to it to lay their eggs in the sand. Plus, its fortunate location on the southern part of the island makes it possible to watch beautiful sunrises and sunsets from Sombrero Beach, almost like the beaches of the Maldives.
Despite the small size of Sombrero Beach (its length is less than a kilometer, and the width is quite modest), it is not as crowded as Hollywood Beach in Fort Lauderdale or the famous Myrtle Beach.
Our impression of Sombrero Beach was the most pleasant: clean sand, palm trees and the absence of crowds of tourists really came to our liking. In general, the beach looks very natural and the atmosphere is conducive to a relaxing holiday. It’s a good alternative to the bustling beaches in Key West, known for its evening partying and nightlife.
We came to vacation in Marathon for just 1 day to appreciate its hospitality and get to know the recreational opportunities that are offered to tourists there.
In Marathon we relaxed well on Sombrero Beach, watched the sunset at Faro Blanco Lighthouse, slept in what we thought was the best hotel in the keys – Hyatt Place Florida Keys and saw the main attractions – the old 7 mile bridge and Bahia Honda Park with its pretty beaches with silvery palm trees.
We were very pleased with our decision to stay in the middle of the keys and not rush anywhere, and our hotel choice was the best of our trip from Miami to the beaches of Florida. We enjoyed Marathon so much that by the end we decided to come back to Marathon Florida for at least 3-5 days and on a bigger budget someday!
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