Marathon Key Overview
History tells us the name Marathon originated during the early 20th Century development of the Florida East Coast Railroad (ECR)—a massive undertaking to bring rail service through the Keys that was only halfway to Key West when workers began to refer to the ongoing labor as a marathon. The name stuck, describing the local community.
Or maybe the name derives from New York playwright Wittner Byner, visiting the area as a guest of the ECR, who cited a poem by Byron with the line “Marathon looks on the sea.”
Today, the 8,500 or so residents of Marathon make the municipality larger than Islamorada to the north, but smaller than southernmost Key West (population about 25,000), the Monroe County seat. However, Marathon is especially marine-friendly with nearly 1,200 wet slips, 1,200 dry slips, and resort and marina facilities to accommodate transient cruisers.
Enter the city of Marathon by vehicle off the Overseas Highway/U.S. 1 when you reach mile-marker 60, or you can land by boat via the Atlantic Ocean or Florida Bay (the Gulf of Mexico side of the Keys). Marathon is also home of the Florida Keys Marathon International Airport—the quickest point of entry.
A Keys tip: directions usually are given with the geographic directives bayside (on the side of Florida Bay) or oceanside (proximate to the Atlantic Ocean); that’s how you’ll know which side of the Overseas Highway your destination is located.
Best Time to Visit Marathon Key Marinas by Boat
The Florida Keys are subtropical, situated between the Gulf Stream and the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean—which means the Keys have a mild tropical-maritime climate and temperatures stay within about 10 degrees of warm (60s, 70s, 80s) throughout the year.
Essentially, you’ll encounter annual climate patterns in the Florida Keys—hot and wet (humid) through the late spring and summer months to August, at which point you enter hurricane season through the fall and early winter and weather extremes are possible. January to May can be windy and dry, so a good time for sailing, and generally pleasant for all boating.
Fun Things to do Along the Marathon, Florida Shoreline
Crane Point Hammock
When you’re ready to come ashore, the Crane Point Hammock museum and nature trails in Marathon provide a fun on-land adventure where you’ll be immersed in local history. Stroll through the butterfly gardens, walk the hiking trails, visit an old Keys house, learn about Key deer and other wildlife, and more. Guided tours are also available; 5550 Overseas Highway, bayside near mile-maker 50, (305) 743-9100, [email protected].
Dolphin Research Center
Hang out with aquatic mammals at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key, in the Marathon area. The facility states its mission as, “through education, research, and rescue, Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans and the environment.” DRC has three areas of scientific focus— Cognition, Behavior, and Husbandry. Studies range from examining how dolphins think, why they do what they do, and studies on the care and health of the dolphins and sea lions. Stop by and shake a fin! Dolphin Research Center, 58901 Overseas Highway, bayside, Grassy Key, (305) 289-0002, [email protected].
How about a visit to a veterinary hospital for sick and injured sea turtles? The Turtle Hospital in Marathon rescues, rehabs, and releases sea turtles in the Keys. The facility is housed on the grounds of a previous motel and the rooms are rehab quarters for sea turtles; 2396 Overseas Highway, bayside, MM 48.5, (802) 743-2552.
We’re talking about spending time in the tropical Keys, right?—so if you’re jonesing for beach time, Marathon offers two public strands—Sombrero and Coco Plum beaches. Both are on the Atlantic Ocean, and Sombrero is more of a park with shady areas, showers and restrooms, and picnic pavilions; it’s also a sea-turtle nesting beach, as is Coco Plum. Either offer waterfront relaxation.