Marathon, FL, is an ideal location if you’re looking for a Florida family vacation spot or fishing retreat. You may spend your entire trip in the water. But if you decide to get out of the water and off the beach, you’ll find plenty more to do. Delicious fresh fish and infamous key lime pie are just the tips of the iceberg. Let’s jump in and explore how to spend a day in Marathon.
About Marathon, FL
Marathon is a city in the middle of the Florida Keys. Locals love Marathon, FL, for its proximity to the ocean and Gulf of Mexico, its water and marine life, and its nearby attractions.
This 10-mile long city goes by many nicknames like “the boating and family destination” of the Keys and “the heart of the Florida Keys.” It’s one of the most marine-friendly cities in the Keys. Marathon, FL, gives off an old-Keys culture vibe and has a strong fishing heritage. It’s also home to the Seven Mile Bridge, which was one of the longest bridges in the world when it was built.
Reasons to Visit Marathon, FL
If you love the ocean, the beach, marine life, and palm trees, Marathon is the place to be. Enjoy all the water activities, like reef diving, fishing and sailing charters, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Or take it easy and soak in the sun on one of many beaches, like Sombrero and Coco Plum, which are both free.
Then there’s the Original Marathon Seafood Festival. Enjoy waterside restaurants serving fresh catches. Marathon is home to a national historic landmark, Pigeon Key. Dating to the early 1900s, it housed the men who built part of the Florida East Coast Railway.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Marathon, Florida
Remember, you’re on island time when you’re in Marathon. Enjoy the slower pace while still having a memorable day.
Grab a Local’s Breakfast at the Stuffed Pig
Address: 3520 Overseas Hwy., Marathon, FL 33050
The family-owned Stuffed Pig has been serving up yummy breakfasts, lunches, and drinks since 1984. It’s the “Home of the Ultimate Bloody Mary,” loaded with bacon, shrimp, sausage, and other glorious fillings. They’re also known for their Willie B. Bacon figurines, great food, and generous portions. And don’t forget about the iguanas that might just peek out at you during your meal. Note that they’re cash-only, and you can bring your dog on the outdoor patio.
Go to a Dolphin Day Camp
Address: 58901 Overseas Hwy., Grassy Key, FL 33050
Visit the Dolphin Research Center to get up close with bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and exotic birds. Watch the dolphins and sea lions during a behavior session, or purchase one of the packages to meet or swim with the dolphins. You can even book a “Researcher Experience” to hang with their research crew or the “Ultimate Trainer for the Day” to accompany their trainers all day.
They also have a Veterans Garden on-site, a sprayground, and a dolphin theater to learn more about marine mammals. If you’re bringing kids, check into their DolphinCamp and Teen DolphinLab programs.
This non-profit organization started with humble beginnings and is now a leader in caring for marine animals. Many of its first animals starred in the original “Flipper” movie. The Dolphin Research Center is just a 10-minute drive from Marathon.
Get Served a Fresh Catch for Lunch
Address: 11711 Overseas Hwy., Marathon, FL 33050
Eat at the oldest fish market and restaurant in Marathon, the award-winning Florida Tales Market & Eatery. This full-service fish house will cook your catch for lunch. Or try their Rambler Sandwich, a fresh catch of the day on grilled swirled rye with toppings. It won an award for the best fish sandwich. They also offer burgers, steaks, homemade bratwurst and Italian sausage, and other Florida-inspired favorites if you want something different. Try one of their award-winning items, like the white lobster bisque or smoked fish spread. Then get key lime pie for dessert.
Their market has seafood for sale like you’d expect from the Keys. Plus, they sell ribeyes, tenderloins, homemade sausages, cheese, and homemade key lime pies. They can also ship your catch anywhere in the U.S.
Visit the Turtle Hospital (and Feed Their Residents)
Address: 2396 Overseas Hwy., Marathon, FL 33050
Since 1986, this small non-profit has rehabilitated endangered sea turtles. These injuries include intestinal impact caused by ingesting foreign materials, shell damage, and even entanglement injuries. They also perform surgeries on sea turtles.
In addition, The Turtle Hospital conducts research, specifically on fibropapilloma, a viral tumor affecting animals worldwide. Once healthy, the hospital releases the turtles back into their natural habitats. The hospital has released more than 1,500 sea turtles to date. Turtle species include Greens, Loggerheads, and the Kemp’s Ridleys.
You can visit for a guided educational tour of the hospital and rehabilitation facilities. We recommend making reservations before your visit. At the end of the tour, you’ll get to feed their five permanent turtle residents.
Get a Fish Pedicure at Crane Point
Address: 5550 Overseas Hwy., Marathon, FL 33050
This pedicure doesn’t involve nail polish but fish. Visit the tidal pool at Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trail, and dip your toes in to let the minnows nibble on your feet. Your feet will be squeaky clean, and you’ll have a good story to share back home.
Afterward, visit the museum to learn about the native peoples of the Keys and the early explorers and pioneers. They have other historical artifacts from the area as well. You can also take a guided tour and visit the gift shop. Or check out fish native to the Atlantic Ocean in their Lagoon area. Finally, visit the on-site rescue hospital for wild birds.
The facilities are ADA compliant, and there’s plenty of walking paths and landscapes to marvel at. Finally, tour the oldest house in the Keys outside Key West, a classic Bahamian-style home at Crane Point.
Make a Reservation at the Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House
Address: 3660 Overseas Hwy., Marathon, FL 33050
Tripadvisor voted this place the number one restaurant in Marathon, and it’s the winner of the “2019 Best of Marathon” in the categories of Best Place to Take a Date, Best Fine Dining, and Best Bloody Mary. It’s family-friendly and offers plenty of options for everyone in your group.
For lunch, you can get an overstuffed New York-style deli sandwich, hand-crafted signature burger, wrap, or platter. They also offer a full sushi menu and a daily happy hour (but for 6.5 hours) with affordable drinks and appetizers.
For dinner, enjoy affordable early-bird specials that include a side and their homemade key lime pie or flan. For their regular dinners, you’ve got the finest beef steaks, wet-aged for three weeks to ensure maximum flavor and tenderness. There are also fresh surf and turf meals, vegetarian and vegan entrees, and veal, among the typical steakhouse fare. Finally, they offer Stonegrill dining, allowing you to cook your own raw meat at your table for a fun dining experience.
Is Marathon, FL, Worth a Visit?
Where else can you do one-of-a-kind activities like visiting a turtle hospital and getting a fish pedicure? And all while in a 19th-century fishing village turned modern-day boating community.
Marathon will be a memorable vacation spot for a solo getaway to decompress or a group vacation. Whether you’re someone who loves the vintage Keys experience or a water-lover wanting to spend some time fishing, Marathon has it. Or maybe you’re a lover of marine animals and want to learn more about them. Marathon’s got that, too.
Water, beaches, history, marine animals, and a vintage vibe — Marathon, FL, offers something for everyone. You won’t regret taking a break in this cozy beach town. What would you look forward to most during a trip to Marathon?