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The Islands of Marathon, the Heart of the Florida Keys

October 18, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Called the boating and family destination of the Keys, Marathon includes Boot, Knights, Hog, Vaca, Stirrup, Crawl and Little Crawl keys, East and West Sister’s Island, Deer and Fat Deer keys, Long Pine and Grassy keys. It incorporated as the City of Marathon in 1999.

Settlements on the islands of Marathon can be traced back to the early 1800s, when Bahamians established tropical fruit farms and New England fishermen inhabited the region. 414884_num1003520_600x600

Centered on Vaca Key, Marathon got its name from workers constructing the monumental Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad from mainland Florida throughout the Keys in the early 1900s. Working night and day to meet the grueling construction schedule, crews reputedly said, “This is getting to be a real Marathon.”

Crossing the shimmering waters south of Vaca Key is the Seven Mile Bridge, one of the longest segmental bridges in the world. The Old Seven Mile Bridge running parallel to the modern span was the jewel of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad and a turn-of-the-century technological marvel that took four years to construct.

The spirit of this trestle’s past can be found on Pigeon Key, the original construction headquarters and staging area for construction of the bridge. The island’s museum contains artifacts from the Florida Keys railroad era, along with models, a video about the railroad, and antique postcards and photos depicting early life on Pigeon Key.

Throughout the region, environmental attractions provide visitors opportunities to swim with dolphins, explore hardwood hammock and rainforest areas, stroll white sand beaches and enjoy an abundance of water sports.

World-class sport fishing can be found offshore on the reef and flats, along the bridges and in nearby Everglades National Park. Challenging the mighty tarpon or “Silver King of the Keys” near the bridges of Marathon is a test of strength, endurance and boating skill.

Snorkel and scuba dive excursions fulfill most divers’ appetites. The beautiful underwater world at Sombrero Reef and the ghostly Thunderbolt shipwreck — named for its seagoing duty as a lightning target — are two of Marathon’s world-class dive attractions.

Kayakers can paddle through the solitude of local backcountry waters or fish from a kayak. The fast-growing sports of standup paddling and kiteboarding find many devotees in the Marathon area.

Visitors can charter a fishing boat or sailboat, play golf and tennis, take in the theater and eat at fine restaurants ranging from upscale cafés to funky waterfront seafood spots.

Marathon boasts homey resorts, luxury accommodations, marinas and the conveniences of a modern community, including a 58-bed hospital and plenty of shopping opportunities, while retaining the charm of its roots as a 19th-century fishing village.

Florida Keys Marathon Airport, located at mile marker (MM) 52 bayside, is home to two full-service fixed-base operators who offer private and charter aircraft accessibility, jet and aviation fuels, maintenance, tie-down, pilot and passenger facilities. For information about airport services, call 305-289-6060.

The Marathon region is approximately a 2.5-hour drive from Miami International Airport and a one-hour drive from Key West International Airport.

For more information, visit the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce website at www.floridakeysmarathon.com or call 800-262-7284.

For more Florida Keys & Key West travel information, including electronic brochures and videos, visit the Keys website at www.fla-keys.com.

For personal service, call toll-free, in the U.S. and Canada, 1-800-FLA-KEYS (800-352-5397).

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