DescriptionThe midway point between Key Largo and Key West, Marathon is the largest city in the Florida Keys. The Seven Mile Bridge, built on the foundation of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railroad, begins here and joins the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys. Named for the lament of a railroad engineer when told to continue the line still farther, the city is the commercial and sport fishing center of the Middle Keys. Anglers will find copious amounts of billfish, dolphin, tarpon and tuna in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, while sailors, scuba divers and snorkelers won't be able to resist the vast expanses of clear blue water.
Park your umbrella and beach towel at Sombrero Beach, oceanside at mile marker 50, favored by the locals for its family-friendly atmosphere and its variety of recreational opportunities. Chow down on sandwiches and chips at a shaded picnic table, join the kids on the playground or toss a ball on the volleyball court. The beach’s clear waters and soft sand encourage boating, shell collecting, snorkeling, swimming and windsurfing.
This family-oriented community has its fair share of events. Listen to live bands and munch on festival food while strolling through booths displaying the works of more than 70 artists at the Pigeon Key Art Festival, held early February. Visit the city’s beautifully decorated homes and lush gardens during the Marathon Home and Garden Tour in early March and see how the natives live.
Indulge in locally caught fresh fish, lobster, shrimp and stone crab at the 2-day Marathon Seafood Festival in mid-March; live music, children’s games, a flea market and a boat show round out the festivities. The Seven Mile Bridge closes for several hours on a Saturday morning in April every year for the Seven Mile Bridge Run, a Marathon tradition.
Visitor InfoGreater Marathon Chamber of Commerce 12222 Overseas Hwy. MARATHON, FL 33050. Phone:(305)743-5417 or (800)262-7284
ShoppingBayshore Clothing (8911 Overseas Hwy.) has been in operation since 1988 and specializes in men’s and women’s sportswear, including Life is Good T-shirts and baseball caps. More fashion must-haves can be found at Anthony’s Women’s Apparel (5800 Overseas Hwy.); think stylish juniors, petites and misses swimsuits and casual clothing by Ruby Rd. and Alfred Dunner.
NightlifeThe sleepy town of Marathon offers a handful of down-home, no-frills pubs where you can kick back with your buddies over a few beers and rock out to live music.
For the quintessential Keys experience, drop by the Dockside Tropical Café at the Sombrero Marina in Boot Key Harbor (off US 1 mile marker 50, 35 Sombrero Blvd.). Sit at a picnic table with a frosty mug, feel the gentle breezes floating in from the harbor and join the regulars getting their groove on to guitar-playing musicians.
Enjoy local talent perform nightly, or join in the beach and pool party on Sundays at Sunset Grille & Raw Bar (7 Knights Key Blvd.). Phone (305) 396-7235.
Blues and rock bands will rock you like a hurricane at local institution The Hurricane (4650 Overseas Hwy.). This gulfside juke joint is a popular hangout where regulars come to shoot the breeze, shoot some pool and throw back tropical house specialties like a Tropical Depression or the pub’s own version of a Hurricane. Phone (305) 743-2220.
Get funky at the Brass Monkey (234 55th St.). This unpretentious pub favored by locals comes complete with neon beer signs, a couple of pool tables and live classic rock music. Former resident Nick Carter (of Backstreet Boys fame) occasionally shows up to sing a few songs. Phone (305) 743-4028.
Things to SeeCrane Point Hammock Museum and Nature Center