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Overseas Experience Trail: Marathon


The islands of Marathon in the Middle Keys include 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 islands of Marathon in the Middle Keys include 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.

Marathon is home to the Seven Mile Bridge, the centerpiece of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway and one of the longest segmental bridges in the world. The Old Seven Mile Bridge that parallels the modern span was the jewel of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, completed in 1912, whose track stretched from mainland Florida throughout the Keys.

Appealing to multigenerational families and recreational boaters, Marathon's bustling community boasts cozy inns, luxury resorts, waterside vacation homes, RV parks, marinas and other modern conveniences including both a newly constructed hospital and high-tech library, as well as plenty of dining and natural attractions.

For example …

The Lagoon on Grassy Key. Founded in 2011 as Keys Cable Park and reimagined in 2020 as The Lagoon on Grassy Key, this Middle Keys staple was created for teaching locals and visitors alike to enjoy board, wind and paddle sports. Tides flow freely in and out of the lagoon with clean ocean water. Previously a limestone quarry and an aquaculture site, today the mile marker 59 facility is a tropical adventure park, organic marketplace and day resort. ridethelagoon.com

Dolphin Research Center. This acclaimed nonprofit marine mammal research and education facility, located at mile marker 59 on Grassy Key, offers a variety of swim programs that enable visitors of all ages to get an up-close look at the beauty of the resident marine mammals. dolphins.org

Curry Hammock State Park. Fishing, swimming, kayaking and picnicking are offered at this waterfront park at mile marker 56.2 on Little Crawl Key. The spot also is a popular beach launch for kiteboarders and viewing area for the autumnal migration of birds of prey such as falcons, hawks, ospreys, eagles and kites. floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/curry-hammock-state-park

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. Feeding the fish is not permitted in the open waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary - but at this unique spot at mile marker 53, families can swim with and feed the fishes while learning about the region's marine habitats. Visitors can safely feed sharks and other predators through small holes in a thick acrylic barrier. Another highlight is interacting with debarbed spotted eagle and cownose stingrays. Additional interactive experiences such as an immersive coral reef encounter are available. floridakeysaquariumencounters.com

Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trail. This 63.5-acre tract at mile marker 50.5 is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. Crane Point contains evidence of prehistoric Indian artifacts and was once the site of a Bahamian village. Other features include the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum, a kayak launch, nature trails, a wild bird rehabilitation center and natural habitat for birds and butterflies. cranepoint.net

Sombrero Beach. This well-maintained Middle Keys gem is a free-access public park and beach open daily from sunrise to sunset at mile marker 50. Attractions include a kayak launch, fishing pier, volleyball courts, children's playground, shady picnic pavilions, freshwater shower and restroom facilities. The park at Sombrero Beach also is wheelchair accessible. 

Turtle Hospital. Opened in 1986 at mile marker 48.5, the Turtle Hospital treats injured sea turtles and, when possible, returns them to the wild. Daily educational tours introduce visitors to the resident sea turtles and the hospital's curative programs for loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles. turtlehospital.org

Old Seven Mile Bridge. Visitors can cycle, walk, run, rollerblade, view marine life and watch sunrises and sunsets along a section of the famed Old Seven Mile Bridge that parallels the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in the Middle Keys. Nicknamed "Old Seven," the oft-photographed 2.2-mile span reopened to pedestrian recreation in January 2022 after a multiyear restoration. Sometimes described as a linear park, it also serves as the gateway to historic Pigeon Key. 

Pigeon Key. Lying beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at mile marker 44.8, Pigeon Key formerly served as a camp for laborers constructing the iconic bridge. The island now showcases a museum, offers opportunities to picnic and snorkel, and hosts a robust marine science research program for school-age children from around the world. Daily tours are available. Pigeon Key is accessible by walking or bicycling the reopened Old Seven Mile Bridge or by ferry boat. A visitor tram is expected to be operational by May 2022. pigeonkey.net

Marathon visitor information: fla-keys.com/marathon or 1-800-262-7284
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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