Finishing up this series, we will look at some of the best things to do in both Marathon and Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Marathon is in the middle of the Florida Keys on 13 different islands: mainly, Knight’s Key, Boots Key, Key Vaca, Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Crawl Key, and Grassy Key Islands. It is 9.6 sq miles, with 1 sq miles of that being water. It was named Marathon after the railroad workers worked such long and hard hours, they started saying, “it got to be a real marathon,” and hence, the name came to be. It has some of the best boating, from flat bottom, deep sea, or reef. Islamorada, or Islas Moradas, is located on five islands between Key West and Miami, on Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key, and Plantation Key. It was a location of one of the stations of the Overseas Railroad. It is best known for its sports fishing and watersports.
In this article, we will go over some of the most popular things to do in both Marathon and Islamorada, from natural attractions to places to visit, or restaurants to eat.
In Marathon, you can visit the Dolphin Research Center, a nonprofit research and education center. You can swim with the dolphins, watch the dolphins and sea lions play and interact, Meet a Dolphin, and paint with a dolphin.
Then, there is the Aquarium Encounter, which has the Stingray Encounter, Big Shark Encounter, and Coral Reef Snorkel Encounter. They have guided tours, touch tanks, a tarpon basin, and even a restaurant for your enjoyment.
Then, there is also the Turtle Hospital, a small nonprofit dedicated to preserving and rehabilitating endangered sea turtles. They also educate about sea turtles, conduct research, and hold sea releases for rehabilitated and rescued sea turtles.
The Crane Point Hammock and Nature Trail is an excellent place to get back to nature. Visit the Adderly House, built in 1904, or The Crane House, perfect for events. The hammock trail is full of tree canopies and the animals that live there. See the museum or the lagoon or view the beautiful butterflies.
Curry Hammock State Park is located in a secluded area between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. It is an important part of the migration and habitat for the peregrine falcon. There may be paddlers or kiteboarders, depending on the weather. Also are the large mangrove swamps, rockland hammock trees, and seagrass beds, which are protected here.
Pigeon Key Island, which is part of Marathon, is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. It was the home base for rail workers building the last leg of Henry M Flagler’s Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway, The Old Seven-Mile Bridge. This made the Florida Keys accessible by the Florida mainland. There are guided tours and you can walk or bike The Old Seven-Mile Bridge, or ride the ferry to the island.
Enjoy eating at the Florida Keys Seafood Festival on Marathon. Eat at Lazy Days South restaurant. Sunset Grille and Raw Bar are located at the foot of the Old Seven-Mile Bridge and are where you can eat oceanfront or have a drink on their beach. Island Fish Co is the only restaurant in the keys that you can reach by land, sea, or air. The Stuffed Pig is at mile marker 49 and has a tiki section perfect for your large events. They have been serving the locals and area since 1984. All this talk of food is making me hungry!
One of the popular places to visit in Islamorada, is Anne’s Beach, named after environmentalist, Anne Eaton. It has calm and shallow waters and is perfect for all swimmers. It has picnic shelters, bathrooms, two parking lots, and a boardwalk.
The History of Diving Museum opened in 2005 and has 40 years of collected diving gear and memorabilia. Exhibits cover the stories of divers and influences behind 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Only accessible by water, Indian Key Historic State Park is an uninhabited 11-mile island. It houses a ghost town from the 1800s. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, fishing, and canoeing.
One of the world’s first marine mammal habitats, the Theater of the Sea is home to dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, alligators, birds and so much more. There are shows and guided tours and for an additional fee, you can interact with some of the animals. Enjoy the glass bottom boat ride around the dolphin lagoon or enjoy snorkeling, swimming, or sunning on their private beach.
Famous for its scuba diving, Islamorada has excellent waters for this. Key Dives is a local company that specializes in diving, snorkeling, and spearfishing services. They have valet service, certified guide instructors, and 60 dive locations.
oTHErside offers rentals for other water sports, such as paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and kiteboarding. They have a 7-acre wakeboard park, LED paddleboard tour, kayak trips to the boat graveyard, and combination paddleboard and snorkel trips to Alligator Reef Lighthouse.
Now, if eating and drinking are your favorite things to do on vacation, there are places for that, too. The Florida Keys Brewing Company is the first microbrewery in the Upper Florida Keys and has a brewery and taproom. They brew 30 brands of beer and they are only offered here. There are also games and local artwork displayed. The Islamorada Beer Company Brewery and Tasting room make beer reflective of the Islamorada lifestyle. They sell souvenirs and have an in-house sandbar and a volleyball net outside for kids to play on. The Green Turtle Inn has been open since 1947 and serves Florida Keys-style seafood sure to delight. They serve locally-sourced products, as well as seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and other locales. Florida Keys Food Tours introduces you to the history and faces of the cuisines of Islamorada. The walking tour takes about three hours and takes you through the Rayburn neighborhood, where you may see the filming of the show, Bloodline, and restaurants shown on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. The Florida Keys Farm Market is a place with rotating vendors where you can buy fresh produce, jewelry, art, or seafood. Artwork by Miami artist DaveL can be found displayed here. Growfest is held every October in the Islamorada Gardens parking lot. Charli’s Shave Ice is located in Robbi’s tropical open-air market. The syrups are made with 100% cane sugar and they also serve key lime pie on a stick and organic ice cream. The Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory is home to some of the best key lime pies in the world, made daily. You can purchase, key lime pie on a stick, key lime pie cookies, and candies. Midway Cafe and Coffee Bar is rated one of the best restaurants in Islamorada. They sell souvenirs and gifts and serve organic and locally sourced food when possible. Bread and baked goods are made daily and coffee is locally roasted. And I am hungry again….
No matter what your pleasure is, whether it may be fishing, snorkeling, kiteboarding, scuba diving, visiting historic landmarks, or eating and drinking, there is a place for you in Marathon and Islamorada. Both have wide areas to visit over several islands to explore, full of history and rich environments full of nature to enjoy. From playtime to relaxation, your vacation spot may be here in one or both of these locations. Happy vacation!
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