Going to the Florida Keys? The Marathon area of the Keys spans roughly 10 miles over several islands.
On the way to Marathon, you’ll drive right past three more spectacular Florida State Parks – Long Key, Curry Hammock, and Bahia Honda. Each of these parks offers campgrounds and if you can get a site we’d highly recommend it!
Long Key State Park was once the home of the upscale Long Key Fishing Camp. It was a mecca for the world’s saltwater anglers before it was wiped out by a hurricane in 1935. The state park officially reopened in 1969.
Unfortunately, it was also significantly damaged in 2017 by Hurricane Irma and recovery efforts are still ongoing.
There are two nice hiking trails here. The Golden Orb Trail, named after the Golden Silk Orbweaver spider, is a leisurely
1.5-mile walk and the Layton Trail is a quick 15-minute walk along the bay.
The shallow shorelines here also make for great paddling. If you can, try to get out on the water! Kayaks are available for rent from the Ranger Station. The cost is $17.50 for a single and $21.50 for a double for 2 hours.
Call or check ahead for this State Park as the campgrounds were closed for construction in June 2021.
On Grassy Key, you can spend the day with dolphins and sea lions at the Dolphin Research Center!
The Dolphin Research Center began as a marine mammal retreat in the 1950s. Local fisherman Milton Santini collected Atlantic bottlenose dolphins to form Santini's Porpoise Training School.
The Center now focuses on marine mammal care, research, and education and houses 22 dolphins and three sea lions.
The Center has 90,000 sq ft of lagoon for the dolphins to play in and offers several programs to swim, play, and interact with the dolphins.
The Center is open daily from 9 am-4:30 pm and admission is $28/person.
Getting back on the Overseas Highway you’ll hit Curry Hammock State Park which offers 1,000 acres of uninhabited land, ripe for exploration.
It is the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The park protects large areas of mangrove swamp, rockland hammocks, and seagrass beds essential to the Florida Keys ecosystem.
If you stop here, make sure to rent a kayak to paddle through the dense mangrove swamp and circumnavigate Little Crawl Key.
The shallow waters are usually calm with gentle currents. There are miles of shoreline on both the Atlantic and Bay of Florida sides of the park and a beautiful mangrove creek to explore.
Similar to Long Key State Park kayaks are available for rent from the Ranger Station, a two-hour rental is $17.50 for a single kayak and $21.50 for a double kayak.
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On Marathon, you can explore the local history by visiting the Crane Point Museum, Nature Center, and Historic Site.
This complex is situated on a 63-acre property of a protected thatch-palm hammock. It offers a lot to do and a great insight to the area's cultural and natural history.
Near the entrance is the Crane Point Museum where you can learn about local wildlife and the region's indigenous peoples. Then visit the Butterfly Meadow garden and you can take one of several interpretive nature trails to the Adderley House which is the oldest house in the Keys outside of Key West.
Continuing on the nature trail, you’ll hit the Marathon Wild Bird Center, the Crane House, and The Point which offers
spectacular, solitary views of the Florida Bay beyond it.
The entire nature trail is about 1.5 miles one-way, if you don’t want to walk there are free trolley tours and the drivers are a wealth of information!
Admission is $14.95/person and hours are Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm.
Just down the road from Crane Point is The Turtle Hospital. This is an amazing facility that rescues and rehabilitates sick
and injured sea turtles so they can be returned to the wild.
Since they opened their doors in 1986 they’ve rehabilitated and released over 1,500 turtles!
The Turtle Hospital offers guided educational tours that are an hour long. You'll learn about sea turtles and get a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital facilities and rehabilitation area.
These tours are run hourly from 9am to 4 pm. There is limited space on each tour so we’d recommend you get a reservation if you want to visit.
The Education Center and Gift Shop are open daily from 9am-6pm and admission is $27/person.
Also on Marathon is one of the best public beaches in the Florida Keys, Sombrero Beach. This beach is a little off the beaten path so it’s less known by tourists.
To get there turn off the Overseas Highway toward the Atlantic Ocean side at Mile Marker 50 and wind along Sombrero Beach Road until you reach it.
There’s a lot to love here with soft white sand, shallow water, and lots of amenities. Grassy lawns shaded with palm trees, changing rooms, restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grills, and a playground.
Leaving Marathon, you’ll drive across the Seven Mile Bridge which spans the channel between Knight’s Key and Little Duck Key.
The history of this iconic structure dates back to the early 1900s when Henry Flagler built the Overseas Railroad as an attempt to lure tourists to the Lower Keys. The railroad was eventually converted into a highway, which stood for decades before a new span was built in the 1980s.
There are amazing water views along the entirety of the bridge and even better sunsets.
Remains of the Old Seven Mile Bridge run parallel to the new. More than two miles of the older structure remain open to foot traffic and the span is a popular spot for biking and fishing.
After the Seven Mile Bridge, you’ll hit Bahia Honda State Park. This state park is unique among other islands in the Keys due to its white-sand beaches and deep waters close by offshore which provide exceptional snorkeling.
There are three spectacular natural white sand beaches here, known as some of the best beaches in the Keys – Calusa, Loggerhead, and Sandspur.
Calusa Beach is tucked into a gentle cove at the foot of the old Bahia Honda bridge at the southern end of the park. A portion of the bridge has been maintained as an elevated walkway. It is a nice little hike and offers spectacular views of the beach and inlet.
Loggerhead Beach is also on the western end of the island but faces the open Atlantic. It’s a shallow beach with a large shallow sand bar a few feet offshore.
The park concessionaire runs snorkeling tours to Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, which has about fifty species of corals present, including staghorn, elkhorn, star, brain, and fire corals as well as extensive marine life.
There’s less traffic to this area so the reefs are more untouched and there’s a vibrant ecosystem.
Tours depart at 9:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 4:45 pm daily. Each trip provides about 1.5 hours of snorkeling, tickets are $29.95, and you can rent all the snorkeling gear. Reservations are recommended and you can find more details here.
We've written a lot about Florida! You can find all of our posts right here.
What About the Florida Keys?
Do you want to hit Key West, the Everglades National Park, and all the other great things the Keys have to offer? Well, we have just the thing for you. Jennifer and I love traveling to the Keys, so we've created a complete 7-Day RV Adventure Guide: Florida Keys. This downloadable guide includes a suggested itinerary and a list of the best RV parks along the way.
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