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8 Best Things To Do in Marathon Florida

by Andy Vanr

Explore Marathon’s natural beauty and history and learn about sea turtle and dolphin conservation efforts at world class facilities. 

Marathon has a captivating blend of activities that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for Florida Keys geography and animals.  We’ve got all the best things that Marathon, Florida has to offer.

1-Day Itinerary for Marathon Florida

What to do in Marathon Florida in one day:

With additional days, cover all of the best Marathon activities.

8 Best Things To Do in Marathon, Florida

  1. Take a tram ride and explore the unique history of Pigeon Key.
  2. Rent a bike and cycle the Old Seven Mile Bridge.
  3. Learn about sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation efforts at the Turtle Hospital.
  4. Enjoy the natural beauty and history of Crane Point Museum & Nature Trails.
  5. Interact with marine life up close at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.
  6. Kayak Curry Hammock State Park’s mangrove tunnel loop.
  7. Discover the world of dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center.
  8. Ride the wake and experience cable wakeboarding at Keys Cable Park.

Marathon Florida Map

Map of Marathon Florida with stars noting tourist attractions
Click above on the map of Marathon Florida for an interactive map of the entire Florida Keys.

Pigeon Key Historic District

Learn about the many uses of Pigeon Key over the past century, beginning as Henry Flagler’s largest railway work camp.  It’s been a fishing camp and is now a marine science center. 

While you can walk or cycle the Old Seven Mile Bridge to get to Pigeon Key, a better and easier option is to take the tram.  This tram, designed and painted to look like a train, departs from the Visitor Center and Gift Shop kiosk.  The kiosk is at 1090 Overseas Highway, Marathon, between Porky’s Bayside Restaurant and the eastern end of the Seven Mile Bridge. 

Steam engine-styled tram and car Old Seven Mile Bridge
Ride the Pigeon Key Express train along the old Seven Mile Bridge to the historic district.

Note: No matter how you arrive at Pigeon Key, the General Admission fee applies.  Pigeon Key is a non-profit organization and admission fees go toward the maintenance and upkeep of the island and its buildings.  There is no federal or state funding.

Once on the island, enjoy a one-hour, guided walking tour.  Wander for an additional hour on your own, exploring the island and the public buildings before heading back on the “train”.

Our guide provided interesting information on Henry Flagler and his dream of building the Overseas Railroad, a transportation connection between the Florida mainland and Key West.  We learned about his use of the island and its different occupants over the years. 

yellow 1-storey building steps to front door
The Pigeon Key Museum is in the building that was the Assistant Bridge Tender’s House built in 1912.
Display case wall of pictures around doorway to another room of museum
The museum has a huge collection of artifacts about the Overseas Railway, its construction and how the island was used as a camp for workers and a staging area.

Be sure to visit the museum and the buildings in the Historic District which have been preserved to tell the story of the workers who built Flagler’s engineering feat.  You can also enjoy the beach area for snorkeling or fish from the fishing pier.

For tour times, fees or to book a visit, see the Pigeon Key website.

Gap between 2 parts of Old Seven Mile Bridge
A 2.2-mile section of the old Seven Mile Bridge was restored between 2017 and 2022. It is open for walking and cycling from Marathon to Pigeon Key. The restored section has the blue bridge trusses. The new Seven Mile Bridge in the distance on the left.

Seven Mile Bridges

Enjoy walking or cycling the 2.2-mile section of the Old Seven Mile Bridge from Marathon to Pigeon Key.  It was refurbished between 2017 and January 2022 and provides access to Pigeon Key.  Parking and access are from the parking lot at mile marker 47.    

The Old Seven Mile Bridge, a historic landmark, was constructed between 1909 and 1912 by Henry Flagler to carry his Overseas Railway.  It rested on 546 concrete piers between Marathon and Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys.  When completed in 1912, it was the world’s longest railroad bridge of steel and concrete.  It carried the railway until the Labour Day Hurricane of 1935, which damaged the railway beyond repair.  The entire railway, including the tracks, bridges and rights-of-way, were sold to the US Government.  It refurbished the bridge as part of its new highway to Key West, part of US Route #1.

Red antique Florida East Coast Railway car at Crane Point Marathon Florida
Marathon and Pigeon Key were the center of the construction activities for the extension of Henry Flagler’s East Coast Railway from Miami to Key West. The Key’s section was called the Overseas Railway. Learn about the Pigeon Key construction worker’s camp and lots of details about the railroad’s construction at the museum in the Pigeon Key Historic District. This railway car sits outside the grounds of Crane Point Museum.

By the 1970s the old bridge was in poor condition.  Construction began in 1978 on a new, modern highway bridge.  It took 4 years to construct the new Seven Mile Bridge which opened in 1982 replacing the old bridge.  Parking is available at both ends of the bridge.  It is worth stopping for the views of the bridge and the stunning turquoise waters of both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the old bridge still exists.  A swing bridge at Moser Channel was removed as well as spans at Little Duck Key and Pigeon Key.  A 0.75-mile section at Little Duck Key is used as a fishing pier. 

Turtle Hospital

Since 1986, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon has been rehabilitating injured sea turtles and returning them to the ocean.  As part of their dedication to this important conservation work, they educate the public about sea turtle hazards and ways to help ensure their survival.

Take a guided public tour.  Learn about the different species of sea turtles, the challenges they face in their natural habitat and the work of the dedicated professionals and volunteers at the Turtle Hospital.  See the hospital and operating room.  Find out about the treatments available to the patients.

Outside the hospital building, visit the recovery tanks where there are turtles in various stages of rehabilitation.  For some of the residents, this is their permanent home.  Their injuries or illnesses prevent them from surviving in the wild.  The tour visits the tanks of these residents to give everyone a chance to feed these amazing creatures. 

Sea turtle swimming in recovery tank Turtle Hospital Marathon Florida
The turtles in the treatment tanks are undergoing rehaibilitation to return to their natural environments. Depending on their illness, injury or temperment, they may be in the tank by themselves or with another turtle.
Four sea turtles swim in huge tank people on left look in small tanks Turtle Hospital Marathon
Turtles which cannot be released back into the wild become permanent residents. On the tour, we visited them in the big tank at the back of the property near the Gulf shore. We fed the turtles fish food pellets.

Both kids and adults will enjoy a visit to this great place.  The only way to visit the hospital and the recovery tanks is on a guided tour which lasts 70 to 90 minutes. 

For more information, see the Turtle Hospital website.

Crane Point Museum & Nature Trails

Crane Point, sits on 63 acres of tropical hardwood hammock on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.  Learn about the local ecosystem, native inhabitants and some of the Keys’ early explorers at the museum in the visitor center. Hike the trails and discover the rest of the property.

The nature trails begin just outside the museum.  Enjoy a beautiful walk.  Adderley House is about halfway along the trail.  It was the home of George Adderley who arrived from the Bahamas in 1890, became a citizen and purchased the property in 1903.  He was a sponger and charcoal maker.  The building, the oldest house in the Florida Keys outside Key West, is a typical Bahamian-style house.  It is made of tabby, a mix of lime and water with shells, gravel or stones.

Andy walking gravel trail through hardwood hammock Crane Point Marathon
I enjoyed walking through the tropical hardwood hammock at Crane Point. A hammock is a forest of many different evergreen and semi-deciduous tree and shrub species.
White tabby Adderley House surrounded by flowering shrubs Crane Point Marathon
This house was built by George Adderley, an immigrant from the Bahamas. The house is built of tabby, a mix of lime and water with shells, gravel or stones.

Continue walking to the Marathon Wild Bird Center.  The center has rehabilitated and released over 16000 wild birds of many different species since opening in 1995.  Many of the birds in the outside enclosures are permanent residents who cannot be released back into their natural environment.

The trail ends at Crane Point on the waterfront.  Enjoy bird watching along this coast.  I took a rest here and even dipped my feet in the tidal pool, where I got a fish pedicure from the Gambusia fish.

For more information, see the Crane Point Museum website.

Pelicans sitting on edge of pool in enclosure at Marathon Wild Bird Center
The Wild Bird Center at Crane Point has been rescuing injured birds since 1995. Birds that cannot be returned to the wild become permanent residents of the center. See them in their enclosures close to Crane House.

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

Interact with a number of marine animals in touch tanks, and even hand-feed stingrays.  Marine biologists are on staff and happy to answer questions.  Learn about the animals at hourly animal feedings. 

There are options for closer encounters.  Snorkel or dive in the huge salt water tank with the colorful fish of the coral reef.  Wade in the shallow water tank with several stingray species.  For those not wanting to get wet, try feeding the nurse sharks or the juvenile stingrays (who have been de-barbed). 

This is a great place for families with educational and interactive exhibits.  To learn more, see the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters website.

Curry Hammock State Park

Curry Hammock State Park is a large, undeveloped area on the east side of Marathon with tropical hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. 

Relax at the sandy beach or enjoy a swim or snorkel in the turquoise waters of the Atlantic.  Kayak the park’s mangrove tunnel loop or along the beach.

Mangroves line water's edge Marathon Florida
Mangrove forests are at the edges of many of Marathon’s islands. Kayak Curry Hammock State Park’s excellent Mangrove Loop route.

Hike the hardwood hammock trail and learn more about this diverse ecosystem.

Birding is also popular with opportunities to see many local and migrating species, including peregrine falcons in the fall.  To learn more about spotting wildlife, take a ranger-led walk.

The park campground welcomes everyone from tenters to RVers.

Dolphin Research Center

Dolphin and sea lion research and education is the focus at the Dolphin Research Center.  The animals live at the center in natural, seawater lagoons in the Gulf of Mexico.  Some were born at the center while others arrive from rescue or rehabilitation centers.  Each is provided the best possible care and a safe and healthy home.

Learn about dolphin behavior and conservation efforts at education sessions.  The trainers are always there to answer questions about the animals and the center’s mission.  Spend a few hours or a whole day.  There are behavior sessions and educational presentations.  The kids will enjoy the Sprayground. 

For those wanting up-close encounters with the dolphins, programs such as Dolphin Encounters and Trainer for a Day are perfect.  Enjoy swimming or wading with these intelligent and playful creatures.

For more information, see the Dolphin Research Center website.

Valerie in front of sign and dolphin statue Dolphin Research Center Marathon
Jayne Shannon-Rodriguez and Armando “Mandy” Rodriguez started the Dolphin Research Center in 1984 to ensure the dolphins at the center had a permanent safe home for the rest of their lives. Today’s world class education and research facility, open to the public, is the result of that promise.

Keys Cable Park

Try the exciting sport of wakeboarding at The Lagoon on Grassy Key.  Ride the cable system which pulls you around the lagoon through various obstacles and features.  Boarders are not pulled by a boat.  Learn to wakeboard or practice your skills on this unique cable experience.  This setup is great for both beginners and those who want to try some water tricks.  Learn more about the latest cable thrills; kiteboarding and foilboarding at Keys Cable Park.

The Rhum Runner is an obstacle course on the water.  Hit the floating trampolines, climbing stairs and walls and more.  Run, jump and slide thought this massive floating playground.

After exhausting yourself on the water, head to Bongo’s Botanical Beer Garden and Café, located onsite, for a beer and snack.

Marathon Restaurants

These are some of the most popular restaurants in Marathon.

NameKnown for
Lighthouse GrillFresh seafood and waterfront dining
Sunset Grille & Raw BarSeafood, burgers, stunning sunset views
Porky’s Bayside Restaurant Smoked BBQ specialties
Castaway Waterfront RestaurantSeafood, sushi and Caribbean-inspired cuisine

Marathon Accommodations

Looking for accommodations in Marathon?

Make Marathon your home base while exploring the Middle Keys area. Check out these great options.

Florida Keys Road Trip

Marathon Florida is just one great destination in the Florida Keys.  For more things to do near Marathon FL, be sure to check out our article, Florida Keys Road Trip.

Ribbon of highway surrounded by water and small urban areas

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