Marathon Islands Guide: Explore a City on 13 Islands

Located in the Florida Keys, the city of Marathon spreads out over 13 islands and 10 miles. The city is considered the “heart of the Florida Keys,” as it sits in middle of Key Largo and Key West. In addition, main islands in the chain include Vaca Key, Fat Deer Key and Grassy Key. To learn more about the area, read this quick Marathon Islands guide and find important information, activities and vacation tips.

Marathon Islands Guide: Travel Tips, Fun and Food

marathon florida guide vacation

Photo: iTrip Key West

Getting to Marathon, Florida

The easiest way to get to Marathon is by booking a flight to Florida Keys Marathon Airport or Key West International Airport. From there, rent a vehicle and drive to Route US 1, which takes travelers through the Florida Keys chain.

Other options include flying into Miami International Airport and taking a bus to Marathon. Those who have large vessels such as sailboats and yachts can sail into a Marathon marina and dock their boat. The city has 1,200 wet and dry slips each, with other amenities including mooring balls and dockage. Road-trippers from Miami can drive to Marathon in about three hours.

marathon islands vacation rentals itrip

Photo: iTrip Key West

Marathon Accommodations

Travelers will find small hotels, beachfront inns, resorts and waterfront vacation homes in Marathon. While traditional hotels have been popular in the past, the rise in short-term rentals provides the opportunity to book a private home with luxury amenities.

For example, many of these vacation homes in Marathon have private patios, pools, dockage, canal access, oceanfront views and easy proximity to the area’s top attractions. In addition, many are pet-friendly, so guests can bring their pets and boats.

Things to Do in Marathon

Marathon has a stellar reputation as a family-friendly destination and boater’s paradise. It’s all about the water here. Stunning coastline provides the perfect spot for riding jet skis, kayaking, scuba diving, paddleboarding and cruising. Fishing is also popular, with local guides hosting deep-sea, reef and flats fishing options.

When guests need a break from the sun, they can explore attractions in Marathon. Families with children love Dolphin Research Center, Aquarium Encounters, and Turtle Hospital where they see marine life. Nature lovers can hike and learn about the area at Crane Point Hammock and Nature Trail and Curry Hammock State Park.

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Other Outdoor Activities

While water recreation remains the top thing to do, the area has places for sightseeing tours, bike riding, golf, tennis and even rainy-day options. Marathon also welcomes guests every year to enjoy Florida Keys Brew BBQ and Craft Beer Festival and the Original Marathon Seafood Festival.

Pet-friendly Beaches and Parks

All parks in Marathon are dog-friendly for leashed pets. However, they are not allowed at community soccer and baseball fields.

Planning a beach day? Enjoy free beach access at Sombrero Beach and Coco Plum Beach. Those who don’t mind paying a fee will find several beaches at Bahia Honda State Park. A couple of favorites include Caloosa Beach and Loggerhead Beach.

Local Restaurants

Those visiting Marathon love fresh local seafood and Southern food paired with waterfront views. Guests will find casual spots, tiki bars, upscale dining and international cuisine.

For seafood, head to Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Burdines Waterfront, and Island Fish Company. Those who want burgers enjoy Marathon Grill and Ale House and S.S. Wreck and Galley Grill. Other must-trys include Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House, Butterfly Café, and Lighthouse Grill.

Want to see marine life? Read about snorkeling in the Florida Keys.