When you think of the Florida Keys, the tried-and-true destinations of Key West, Key Largo, and maybe even Islamorada if you’ve been there before come to mind immediately.
Marathon, on the other hand, is emerging as the new hotspot in the “Middle Keys” region in between all of that.
“Long distance race used to be this sluggish little town with not a ton to do, so individuals impacted by it on their way down to Key West,” said Kelly McKinnon, chief head of the Pigeon Key Establishment and a Long distance race occupant. ” However, it is now a fantastic location with plenty of activities to choose from.
Marathon, which is spread out over more than a dozen small islands and was once a local fishing community, has seen its stock rise rapidly in recent years as a result of a flurry of openings and investments, including brand-new full-service resorts, resurrected recreational opportunities, and redesigned historical sites.
New resorts welcoming a new era
An RV park occupied a significant portion of Marathon’s prized westernmost land for a considerable amount of time. However, after Hurricane Irma destroyed it in 2017, it was rebuilt as a luxury waterfront resort.
Isla Bella Beach Resort, which opened in 2019, is not the resort that started the change in Marathon. Hawks Cay Resort and Tranquility Bay Resort, two other lovely beach resorts in the area, preceded it and deserve that distinction.
However, Isla Bella and Valhalla Island Resort, a 66-acre complex being constructed by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, are the two that point to the destination’s future.
In Marathon, cottages, inns, and small hotels still offer plenty of affordable lodging options for under $200 per night. However, the aforementioned resorts, all of which offer peak-season winter room rates of $500 or more, indicate that Marathon, a destination that in the past would have laughed at such prices, is prepared to welcome a new type of traveler.
The 199 guest rooms at the AAA four-diamond Isla Bella span 24 acres of waterfront and include a private beach, five pools with views of the ocean, a spa, and an on-site marina where fishing charters, sunset tours, jet ski rentals, scuba diving lessons, and kayak rentals can all be arranged just steps from the room.
However, Isla Bella’s best feature is its location. Not exclusively its southwest-confronting nightfall sees, however the capacity to stroll to the Old Seven Mile Scaffold, a must-visit diversion region saturated with Keys history.
Saving ‘Old Seven’
Private investments have not been the only source of Marathon’s changes. There is also the role of public spaces, and one of its most impressive achievements was the result of intense community collaboration.
The old Seven Mile Bridge on the west end of Marathon reopened last year, looking better than ever, after being condemned and remaining lifeless for more than five years.
“Old Seven,” built by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s, was a part of the railroad that connected Miami and Key West. The overseas highway that we use today was built next to the old bridge and replaced it in the early 1980s after it was converted for automobiles in the 1930s.
Old Seven became a place where people could walk, bike, and fish once cars stopped coming in and out. However, it closed in 2016 due to extensive maintenance. It required the coordination of three levels of government, assistance from numerous nonprofits, and more than five years to restore.
Last year, Old Seven finally reopened with a brand-new, 2.2-mile recreational path that starts at Marathon and takes visitors on a journey out over the crystal-clear water, giving them unrestricted views of the ocean and offshore islands. The bridge is a haven for scenic walking, exercise, watching the sunset, and wildlife viewing (fish, manta rays, birds, etc.).
The New York City Highline Project’s creators provided the cause’s local team of nonprofit organizations with guidance and inspiration. In point of fact, a presentation was given by the Highline team at Marathon to assist supporters of Seven Mile Bridge in organizing and raising funds.
There are still memorials for Flagler, who was himself from New York. Where the path begins, historical signage provides context, and another reminder of its history can be found on the bridge: The old railway tracks are used to construct the guardrails.
If you go to the new Old Seven today, you might see locals running to the end and turning around on it as a walking or exercise path. But don’t fall for it. The bridge does indeed end at a destination, and it’s a very historical one.
A walk (or bike ride) back in time
A ramp that leads down to a small, five-acre island with small shacks and palm trees that looks like a haven for castaways can be found when you walk or bike to the end of Old Seven.
This is Pigeon Key, where approximately 400 men lived from 1908 to 1912 while constructing the overseas railroad between Miami and Key West. Previously only accessible by boat while the Old Seven was being restored, it is now accessible “via land.”
McKinnon said it’s a gift to have the island open by means of the extension once more (interestingly beginning around 2016), which ought to be a help to appearance, conservation and bringing issues to light.
According to McKinnon, “Pigeon Island is one of the most historically significant places anywhere in the Keys.” The Keys would not be where they are today if those men hadn’t done what they did back then. They gave the area its Old Florida charm, and you won’t find Flagler-era buildings anywhere else.
Pigeon Key as of late finished an honor winning rebuilding task, and presently offers three verifiable visits a day of the old camp and going with gallery (book on the web). After the visit, you can hang out on the island, unwinding at its sea shores or swimming its coral reefs. Those requiring additional openness can take the new Pigeon Key Express cable car, which follows a similar entertainment way on Old Seven and withdraws two times day to day.
The reclamation of Seven Mile Extension and protection of Pigeon Key are maybe the best instances of local area achievement in Long distance race. But once you start hanging out at the local drinking establishments, you’ll realize that there’s a lot more to the story.
King of the jungle
The bigger headlines tend to focus on local treasures that have been there for a long time, as is the case with “newly discovered” destinations.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar is a favorite spot on the island for drinks and the best views of the sunset to the west. At Keys Fisheries, limited dockside costs on the district’s well known stone crabs are accessible during party time at the higher up bar neglecting the harbor, or attempt the lobster reuben at the outdoor table eatery. The tiki-themed Burdine’s Waterfront has great views of Boot Key and features live music at Dockside Bar & Grill.
Plan a meal at Castaway Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar for a one-of-a-kind and uplifting seafood experience.
Claimed by ex-Naval force man John Mirabella, the eatery highly esteems getting and planning intrusive lionfish. Mirabella, an active waterman, can be seen in videos on the restaurant’s televisions spearfishing for lionfish. At first, all the lionfish were obtained locally, some of it by Mirabella himself; Now, because of demand, Mirabella gets its fish from other places like the Caribbean where lionfish are a problem.
The delicious and picture-commendable lionfish Ruler of the Wilderness sushi roll is given the head and tail of the fish. You could inquire as to whether they have time to prepare a secret item for the menu if the restaurant does not appear overly crowded: the Avocado Stuffed with Spicy Tuna. It used to be a staple on menus, but its meticulous production process now makes it only available to experts.
If you spend enough time in the bar at Castaway, you might learn about the local sand volleyball games at Sombrero Beach, one of the longest public beaches in the Keys where endangered loggerhead turtles lay their eggs from April to October. Sombrero Ocean side was as of late named as one of the main 25 best sea shores in the US for 2023 by Tripadvisor. For a chill outing nightfall, go to the locally-dearest Dusk Park.
Jump into the Turtle Medical clinic to meet nearby jeopardized ocean turtles, or the Dolphin Exploration Center, which adjusts instruction, examination, and guest commitment, such as swimming with dolphins. Families can get up close and personal with tropical fish, sharks, and stingrays in a safe environment by snorkeling in the aquarium’s own coral reef at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.
When instructed about the nearby marine climate, you’re prepared for the genuine article. Curry Hammock State Park offers snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, camping, and relaxing opportunities. You can also take a kayaking tour to Boot Key, a small island that was once connected to Marathon until a hurricane destroyed the bridge (the old bridge can be seen from Burdine’s).
More to come
All indications point to Marathon maintaining its momentum well into the future.
The Valhalla Island Resort is anticipated to open in 2024, and Marathon Airport, which hasn’t had commercial flights in about 15 years, may be on the way to doing so.
Mirabella stated that Marathon is well-positioned to receive unprecedented numbers of tourists.
“Long distance race has forever been a spot for fishing and plunging and calm family excursions in the Keys,” he said. ” In any case, presently we have such countless new lodgings and such a more extensive scope of exercises that it’s turning into an objective for everybody.”