Things to do in Marathon FL

If you’re seeking Marathon Key, Florida things to do during your tropical vacation, this guide is for you. There is so much to do in this area, from swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling to wake boarding, kayaking or jet skiing.

Among the most popular places to go in Marathon FL are Bahia Honda National Park, Pigeon Key, Sombrero Beach and Crane Point Hammock. You can also learn how to kiteboard, paddle through the mangroves or even take a scenic helicopter flight over land and sea. 

We love to explore, snorkel and hike in the area, and these are the attractions we recommend including on your Marathon Key to do list. From scuba diving a shipwreck to visiting the dolphin center, aquarium or turtle hospital, there’s something here for everyone.

Read on to discover all the best things to do in Marathon Key. Whether you prefer wildlife or beach life, there is so much to see and do in this lovely area. 

In this post:

MAP

Map of things to do in Marathon, FL

15 OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN MARATHON FL

Take a Snorkeling Trip

High on the list of Marathon, Florida things to do is to take a snorkeling trip out onto a nearby reef or key. 

Top snorkel spots that are easily accessible from Marathon include Sombrero Reef and Looe Key. You can reach the latter from Bahia Honda State Park, and we’ve also covered this as a destination in its own right below this section on snorkeling.

Sombrero Reef

Sombrero Reef Lighthouse

If you love to explore underwater life, snorkeling at Sombrero Reef is one of the best things to do in Marathon, Florida. Don’t get it mixed up with Sombrero Beach, though, as the reef cannot be accessed from the shore. You’ll need to take a boat trip to get to the reef. 

The area around Sombrero Key Lighthouse is a good place to start, and at this reef you can expect to see healthy coral, shoals of tropical fish and colorful fans. Water clarity and therefore visibility is usually very good here.

Other species sometimes spotted at Sombrero Reef include nurse sharks, parrotfish, hogfish, angelfish, barracuda, damselfish, grouper, scorpionfish, grunts, butterflyfish, snapper, blue tang, sergeant majors and even sea turtles.  

Looe Key Reef

Looe Key Reef Shark

Another snorkeling location with good water clarity is Looe Key Reef. In fact the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys is often found here, making it one of the top things to do in Marathon Key. Due to ocean currents and swells, however, it’s not ideal for absolute beginners. 

You can reach Looe Key Reef from Bahia Honda State Park, as we did during a recent visit. During the day we saw a number of reef sharks and lots of other fish, including the Goliath grouper. The captain said that other larger forms of ocean life such as eagle rays, colossal grouper, giant parrotfish and hammerhead sharks are also seen at the reef.

It’s a big reef with lots to explore. Smaller species tend to be seen in the shallower waters, while larger fish are normally found in the deeper areas. Shark Alley is the number one spot for those who want to see larger fish, reef sharks and bigger corals.

Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park is one of the most popular places to visit in the Middle Keys. There are lots of things to see in Marathon, Florida at the site, both on land and beneath the ocean surface. 

The park is located by mile marker 37 on Big Pine Key, and you can also access shore snorkeling from here. It’s a great place for beginners to set out on their first underwater adventures.

Amenities available at the park include kayak, sunshade and snorkel hire, a gift shop, a snack bar and walking and cycling trails. Other popular activities at Bahia Honda include fishing, camping and swimming. 

You don’t have to do too much at Bahia Honda, yet it’s still easy to spend a whole day here. There are beautiful beaches to relax on, and you can also see the historic and now unused Bahia Honda Rail Bridge during your visit. 

Bahia Honda is also a place that wildlife lovers flock to, as you can see all sorts of flora and fauna here. Whether you’re into botany, birdwatching or simply looking out for unusual shells, it’s fun to run, wander or cycle around the area to see what you can spot.

Walk Old 7 Mile Bridge

7 Mile Bridge
Photo credit: Wilsilver77, Getty Images

The Old 7 Mile Bridge has been restored in recent times, and reopened to visitors in January 2022. This bridge is hugely important in the history of the Florida Keys, and as such is one of the top Marathon FL attractions to see. 

You can walk, cycle or even rollerblade your way along the old 7 mile bridge. If you do, make sure you look out for sharks and other kinds of sea life en route, swimming around in the shady area created by the bridge. 

The old bridge is sometimes referred to as the ‘8th wonder of the world’, and the long stretch of concrete and steel is a breathtaking sight. Its construction dates from the early 1900s, when Henry Flagler oversaw the development of the Overseas Railroad in the Keys. 

Originally the bridge was called the Knights Key – Pigeon Key – Moser Channel – Pacet Channel Bridge, which describes the route it traces. Now there are 2 bridges at the site, including the road traffic bridge which forms part of US route 1. As the older bridge is open only to cyclists and walkers, it makes a pleasant vehicle free place to stroll along. 

Another sight to look out for here is Fred the Tree. This Australian pine – or Casuarina – tree somehow managed to establish itself on the bridge, even though there is no soil to speak of. Despite constant exposure to strong winds, sunshine and saltwater, ‘Fred’ manages to survive, and has grown to a considerable size. 

The tree is seen as a symbol of survival despite adverse conditions, and a children’s book has even been written about it. Seeds contained in bird droppings are one possible explanation for how Fred came to grow on the bridge. 

Visit the Blue Hole

Blue Hole

If you’re looking to explore a bit of the local wildlife, a visit to the Blue Hole on Big Pine Key is a must. This small wildlife refuge is a great place to spot alligators and key deer among other small animals and birds.

The Blue Hole itself is a large fresh water pond from an abandoned rock quarry. There are several foot paths around the pond and viewing areas to try to catch a glimpse of the wildlife in the water. You most likely will see alligators up close- at least what I consider close. Walk cautiously and do not disturb the wildlife.

Key Deer, Big Pine Key
Photo credit: Virginia Blount, Shutterstock
Alligator at Blue Hole

You may also spot a Key Deer at the Blue Hole or the nearby Jack C. Watson Wildlife Trail. These tiny deer are about the size of a larger dog and can be seen in many locations throughout Big Pine Key.

Be sure to watch out for them along the road as they are endangered and you will be looking at a hefty fine if you accidentally hit one.

Sombrero Beach

Marathon FL Beaches
Photo credit: John Gallant, Shutterstock

If you’re visiting during the peak tourist season between November and March, spending the day at Sombrero Beach is highly recommended. For us, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Marathon, FL.

Sombrero Beach is pretty good for shore snorkeling, and also has a beautiful, sun-drenched white sandy beach to relax on, lapped by warm, clear waters. If you do have a snorkel, mask and flippers, don’t forget to pack them too so you can swim around by the rock shelf, looking for small corals, colorful fish or sea urchins. 

There are plenty of amenities at Sombrero Beach, including volleyball courts, picnic pavilions, a kids’ play park, showers and restrooms. The beach can be found by leaving route 1 at mile marker 50 and heading along Sombrero Beach Road. You can park nearby for free, and there is also disabled access via a broad, flat path. 

As loggerhead turtles nest at Sombrero Beach between April and October, you cannot access the beach for their protection during these months. If you’re in the Middle Keys during the last or first few months of the year, though, the beach is one of those Marathon Key attractions not everyone from out-of-town knows about. 

Paddle board or Kayak the Mangroves and Bays

People Kayaking in the Mangroves Florida Keys

Renting a paddle board or kayak to tour the mangroves is one of the best Marathon Keys things to do for active types or nature lovers alike. Lots of native flora and fauna can be seen in the area, and private or group guided tours are also available. 

As well as the mangroves, you may also see manatees and crabs, and the mangroves make a spectacular place to watch the sunset or sunrise. The tunnels between the mangroves are narrow, but can normally accommodate a paddle board or kayak. As there are no larger vessels in the area, it feels like a secret and secluded location.

Typical organized tours are ideal for beginners or experienced kayakers or paddle boarders, and most soon get the hang of sweeping themselves and their craft along. If you haven’t brought equipment of your own to the Keys, taking part in a tour means being provided with everything you need, including paddles, kayaks or boards and life jackets.

Visit the Turtle Hospital

Turtle Hospital Marathon

One of the top things to do in Marathon Key, Florida is to visit the Turtle Hospital. This applies to families in particular, as kids love seeing the cute sea creatures up close. The not-for-profit organization is deeply involved in turtle rescue and rehabilitation, and is open to the public.

The charitable veterinary hospital cares for injured or sick sea turtles, and where possible the creatures are rehabilitated after rescue, ready to be released back into the waters of the Florida Keys. 

As well as caring for the creatures, the hospital wants to educate the public regarding sea turtle welfare, and also undertakes research to help understand these animals better. They also strive to create safe habitats for the turtles, namely beaches and oceans that are clean.

The gift shop and education center at the Turtle Hospital are open daily from 9am. Educational Programs take place every half hour throughout the day until 4pm. A guided tour takes around 90 minutes and includes a visit to the sea turtle rehabilitation area. Guests are also offered the opportunity of feeding the turtles at the end of the tour. 

Booking in advance is advised and the center can be found on the Overseas Highway in Marathon. Kids under 4 go free, while those aged between 4 and 12 pay half the adult price (currently $30). 

Scuba Dive a Shipwreck

Eagle Shipwreck
Photo credit: Off Axis Production, Shutterstock

With several shipwrecks nearby to explore, diving one or more of these is one of the essential Marathon, Florida activities for keen scuba divers. Thunderbolt is among the most popular. 

Thunderbolt

This wreck was deliberately sunk during the mid 1980s to create a man-made reef. Since then it has accumulated plenty of growth, and sea life such as migrating tarpon plus amberjack, black grouper and Goliath grouper. Some black grouper can reach five feet in length, while a single Goliath may weigh up to 700 pounds.

Delta Shoals

The Delta Shoals are also one of the most dived sites in the Keys. This area near Sombrero Reef is accessible via boat and includes The Barge and the Ivory Wreck. Both are covered in sea life and you can spy lots of fish around them. 

If you’re not sure where to go, booking an organized scuba diving trip as part of a group or privately can be the best way to go. 

Take the Ferry to Pigeon Key

Aerial View Pigeon Key
Photo credit: Felix Mizioznikov, Shutterstock

As well as accessing Pigeon Key via the old 7 mile pedestrian bridge, you can also travel there across the water. 

Pigeon Key takes just 10 minutes to get to by ferry and several services run throughout the day. It’s a good place for people of all ages to visit, and guided tours will also teach you about the history of the area, including its connection to Henry Flagler and the development of the Florida Keys. 

Whether you take a guided tour or explore independently, visiting Pigeon Key is one of the best things to do Marathon, FL. The short ferry ride is pleasant and once you arrive a typical guided tour takes around an hour. You can book a tour even if you’re making your own way there via the 7 mile bridge.

There are picnic tables with umbrellas at Pigeon Key and you can also visit the small museum. Tours run 3 times per day, 7 days a week, and leave from Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon. You can either book in advance or take pot luck by turning up on the day. Ferries depart at 10am, midday and 2pm and return at 12.20. 2.20pm and 4.20pm. 

Keys Cable Park

Keys Cable Park was designed for visitors and locals who want to take part in wind, board and paddle sports in the lagoon. Located on Grassy Key, spending time at the park is one of the top things to do between Marathon and Key West.

The park specializes in wakeboarding, kiteboarding and foil boarding. Riders normally pay for a 1 or 2 hour session, or can buy a golden ticket frequent flyer pass if they can use 5 passes lasting 1 hour each.

Courses are also popular. You can learn kiteboarding in 90 minutes, with an hour in the water following 30 minutes of study time. For thrill seekers, the riskier sport of foilboarding may appeal, although you will already need at least intermediate board skills to qualify for this class. 

Grassy Key’s lagoon is also home to the Grassy Flats Resort and Beach Club, Bongo’s Botanical Beer Garden and the Lagoon Saloon surf shop. 

Rent a Jet Ski

If you love to get out on the ocean, you can hire a jet ski in the area: it’s among the top things to do in Marathon, FL for adventurous and seafaring types.

There are various jet ski rental places around town, and rates are generally advertised per jet ski for a set time, such as an hour. For small groups or families, up to 3 people can ride on one jet ski.

Models like the Yamaha WaveRunner can traverse the waves at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. Riding through the saltwater spray is also a great way to cool down when the Florida heat is getting a bit much.  

It’s best to cook through an operator who will at least show you the ropes properly before letting you jet off. Life jackets should be supplied, and you should receive clear instruction before being let loose with this powerful piece of equipment. 

Florida law states that anyone born on or after 1st January 1988 must hold a boater’s safety course card as well as regular photo ID. It’s possible to get this via free online training supplied by the Boat US Foundation. 

Explore the Aquarium

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is one of the best family things to do in Marathon, FL. Here you can discover sea life close up without as much as setting foot in the water, making it a great day out for young and older visitors.

Resident marine life includes seahorses, rays, moray eels, urchins, grouper, starfish, tortoises, turtles and hermit or horseshoe crabs. Some fish can also be hand fed during your visit, and you can even feed the likes of eels and sharks via specially designed holes.

Tickets to various ‘encounters’ are also sold. These experiences include diving in a coral reef tank and feeding sharks, immersing yourself in the stingray tank along with other visitors or interacting with fully-grown nurse sharks.

All visitors can examine the exhibits, take a guided tour and attend question and answer sessions with qualified marine biologists, as well as accessing the tide pool touch tank. Kids aged under 12 also benefit from reduced entry fees.  

Crane Point Hammock

Crane Point Hammock is a museum, historic site and nature trail in the center of the Keys. As it’s located in the city, it’s one of the most popular things to do around Marathon, Florida.

There are various parts of Crane Point Hammock to spend time in. Following the boardwalks and trails beneath the tree canopies gives you the chance to try and spot native animals, or you can discover history via the artefacts and exhibits of the museum. 

At the lagoon you can see a 600-year-old canoe or see the tropical fish in the pond while the kids play on the pirate ship. Touring Adderly House, which dates back to 1904, is also popular with adults and older children. Y

You can also see brightly colored butterflies flitting among the 4 butterfly gardens at Crane Point Hammock, or go birdwatching at Rachael Key, Rachael Creek or the Marathon Wild Bird Center. 

Visiting Crane Point Hammock also allows you to take part in one of the more unusual things to do near Marathon, FL – having a fish pedicure. This is included with your entry ticket, and involves sitting in a tidal pool while gambusia fish nibble away at the hard skin around your soles. The result is silky soft feet – just like after a professional pedicure.

Discover the Dolphin Research Center

Dolphin Research Center, Marathon FL

Taking a trip to the Dolphin Research Center could also make it onto your Marathon, Florida to do list. Like the turtle hospital, the center is non-profit and as such the main focus is on caring for and finding out about these appealing sea creatures.

Visitors may in fact witness the DRC working on their latest research project into the behavior or cognitive abilities of these fascinating mammals. The center positively encourages questions as part of their efforts to educate the public. 

You can book various programs at the center as well as general admission tickets. These include the ‘family dolphin splash’; meeting, playing or even painting with dolphins; and experiences that involve becoming a trainer or researcher for the day. 

The center is open daily – apart from major public holidays – between 9am and 4.30pm, and is located on Grassy Key.  

Take a Helicopter Tour

7 mile bridge view from Helicoptor
Photo credit: John Gallant, Shutterstock

Last but by no means least, various operators in the area offer the breathtaking opportunity of seeing the Keys from the sky. It’s the ultimate birds-eye view and taking one of these Marathon, FL helicopter tours thus one of the best things to do.

As well as the incredible views, you’ll experience the thrill of whirring through the blue skies by helicopter. Seeing the aerial panoramas over Marathon and the surrounding Keys   really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You may get to spot sea life from the air, and will also see major sights like Sombrero Beach, Bahia Honda National Park and the 7 mile bridges. As an introduction to the keys it’s unsurpassable, and if you have a few hours to spare a tour can be custom made just for you. 

WHICH OF THESE MAKES YOUR LIST OF THINGS TO DO IN MARATHON FL?

We hope this guide has helped you create your ideal Marathon, FL to do list. The area has so much to offer visitors, whether you travel as a family, couple, group or solo. 

With so many Marathon Florida points of interest like the old bridge to interesting places to visit in Marathon, Florida for those who love wildlife, it’s a wonderful place for a short break or longer vacation.

Looking for more Florida Keys info to plan your trip? Check out all of our Florida Keys Guides HERE.

About the author
Kristin Young