Why Marathon? Of all the Florida Keys
destinations a visitor can choose from, what makes this location special?
Variety in attractions, activities, and local events makes Marathon one of those
special “Do It All” destinations. Rather than being touted as a raucous, party
town, Marathon is more of a family-oriented destination. Ecotourism plays a
large role in shaping the activities a visitor will enjoy in Marathon.
The Dolphin Research Center, Crane Point Hammock Natural History Museum, and the
Turtle Hospital, are but a few of the activities enjoyed by visitors. There are
guided tours of beautiful Pigeon Key and Flagler’s Railroad Museum located
there. Even a leisurely stroll along the historic Seven Mile Bridge out to
Pigeon Key during the cooler part of the day is a winner, both for the scenic
beauty as well as for the exercise.
Snorkeling and diving on Marathon’s beautiful reefs is quite popular, and there
are numerous dive shops in town to get you geared up and on the water. Sombrero
Reef is one of the most gorgeous reefs and popular snorkel/ dive sites in the
Even the sunsets are special in Marathon. Take it from one who has lived here in
the Keys since 1974, there is not a more beautiful sunset location than at the
east end of the Seven Mile Bridge.
Lodging ranges from a host of simple, no frills “mom and pop” motels to
exclusive destination resorts that provide every imaginable amenity. And
Marathon also offers great dining from a large array of restaurants and
delicatessens. Two very popular seafood spots among the locals are The Castaways
and Keys Fisheries.
Being geographically located in the center of the Keys, it’s not unusual for
visitors stay in Marathon, not only to enjoy what the town has to offer, but
also to use it as a jumping off point to make day trips to other areas
throughout the Keys.
Let’s Go Fishing!
Variety is also Marathon’s strong suit when it comes to fishing. And most agree
that the red-hot tarpon run in the spring is what makes Marathon such a great
angling destination. You will marvel at the spectacular leaps of a hooked
tarpon. Powerful runs and incredible endurance are also trademarks of this great
game fish, earning him the title, the “Silver King.” Tarpon fishing is
undoubtedly the best way for a novice angler to catch a large sport fish.
Much of the spring time fishing activity of local Marathon tarpon guides takes
place at well known bridges such as the Long Key Viaduct, the Seven Mile Bridge
and the Bahia Honda Bridge. Many visitors enjoy walking out on the bridges late
in the day, not only to enjoy a beautiful sunset, but also to watch the wild
tarpon fishing activity below them.
Another very popular type of fishing done in Marathon is what’s called family
fun fishing. And Florida Bay on the north side of Marathon is absolutely the
perfect destination for this.
Marathon is quite different from it’s neighbors, in that Florida Bay is deeper
and more open. Literally hundreds of natural ledges, wrecks, and artificial
reefs are scattered throughout the bay anywhere from 5 to 10 miles north of
Marathon. These spots provide fast-action, shallow water fishing for snapper,
grouper, sea trout, bluefish, mackerel, etc. But it’s not just the action that
makes this so much fun for the family, but the fact that the shallow waters of
Florida Bay stay relatively calm, even in a 15-20 knot wind. Whereas tarpon
fishing is done mainly in March through June, family fun trips are a year ‘round
activity. It’s perfect for kids, inexperienced anglers, and those who may be
prone to motion sickness.
Shark fishing is also quite popular in Florida Bay; it can be done as a stand
alone trip, or more typically is incorporated into a family fun trip. These
sharks are in the 4 to 6 foot range, and are a lot of fun on 20 pound spinning
or conventional tackle. What makes shark fishing so enjoyable out in the bay is
the fact that it’s shallow, and you often get to see the shark approach and eat
Beyond Florida Bay is the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf wreck fishing is very popular in
Marathon, with the main target species being cobia, gag grouper, permit, and the
giant goliath grouper. Twin engine boats in the 25-30 foot size are best for
this type of fishing; they are better suited for the long runs and choppy seas.
Offshore or blue water fishing is also excellent for sailfish, mahi, and wahoo.
Twenty two miles off Marathon is the West Hump. Rising from depths of 1100 feet
to a peak of 480 feet, this deep-sea dinner table is an excellent spot for
anglers targeting blue and white marlin, mako shark, blackfin tuna, large
amberjack, and a host of other fish. In recent years, Marathon offshore captains
have had much success putting their anglers on the greatest offshore gladiator
of all, the broadbill swordfish.
Reef fishing in Marathon provides anglers with a great variety of snapper,
grouper, mackerel, and jacks. Not only do the reefs produce fish, but also
excellent fishing can be had on Marathon’s numerous artificial reefs ranging
from depths of 20 feet to over 200 feet. These provide a wide variety of angling
opportunities for both surface, mid depth, and bottom dwelling species.
Another exciting type of fishing, flats fishing , involves light tackle, sight
casting to gamesters such as bonefish, permit, and even tarpon. Light spinning
or fly casting gear is used to target these wary game fish. This is challenging
fishing as it requires a quiet approach and a delicate cast. It’s as much
hunting as it is fishing, and once you’re hooked on this style of fishing,
nothing else will do.
For those who like to get off the beaten path and enjoy a fishing/ sightseeing
adventure, there is backcountry fishing. Just northwest of Marathon lies Great
White Heron Wildlife Refuge (bonefish, permit, and tarpon), and to Marathon’s
northeast lies the huge expanse of Everglades National Park (snook, redfish,
tarpon, sea trout). In the backcountry, you’ll be treated to beautiful scenery,
plentiful bird and marine life, and some darn good fishing. Freshwater bass
fishermen especially love fishing up in Everglades National Park; working heavy
cover with artificials or live bait (while using their own bass rods) for snook
and redfish is right up their alley.
Strongly consider hiring the services of a local, licensed fishing captain who
knows the area and understands the movements and feeding habits of your quarry.
There are many charter boats in Marathon ranging from 16 foot flats skiffs, up
to 50 foot offshore sport fishing vessels. Mid range boats in the 25 foot range
are quite popular in this area. Marathon is also home to several large party
boats. Party boat fishing offers an angler a more economical means of enjoying a
day of fishing.
Fisherman or not, you owe it to yourself to check out all Marathon has to offer.
Make Marathon your “Do It All” destination.