JOURNEYS

How to Create Lasting Family Memories in Marathon

Family getaway in Marathon

Located right in the middle of the Florida Keys archipelago, Marathon is an ideal destination for a family getaway. Spend your days at some of the best beaches in the Keys or participate in watersports at a family-friendly resort. In addition to all the natural wonders the Keys are known for, you’ll also find kid-friendly attractions like animal encounters and a world-class aquarium.

But it’s a great adult destination, too, with white-sand beaches, cozy restaurants, and romantic resorts. After this five-day expedition highlighting Marathon’s many delights, you’re guaranteed to look back on this vacation fondly for years to come.

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TRIP HIGHLIGHT

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

Hands-on exhibits mean visitors can have up-close experiences with alligators, moray eels, turtles, tropical fish, and more aquatic creatures at this unique aquarium.
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TRIP DESIGNER

The Florida Keys & Key West

With miles of beaches, an abundance of eclectic cultural riches, and communities known for welcoming, laidback attitudes, The Florida Keys & Key West invite you to “come as you are.” Enjoy tranquility and relaxation; fishing, diving, and boating; and top-tier dining, plus museums, artists and history, in island settings of stunning natural beauty.
Marathon, FL

Day 1Welcome to Marathon

Due to Marathon’s central location, it’s accessible by driving along the Overseas Highway, either from one of South Florida’s largest airports (Miami or Fort Lauderdale) or Key West airport.

Get ready to be impressed as you turn off the Overseas Highway and make your way toward Duck Key, the serene island home to Hawks Cay Resort. The buildings of the hotel and marina, surrounded by water, seem to rise out of the sea. Check into your room overlooking the resort grounds or pool, then wander the grounds of this 60-acre resort, which boasts some of the world’s finest snorkeling and fishing sites. And since it has its own marina, guests can book fishing excursions directly through the resort.

This evening, head into town and dine alfresco at the Butterfly Cafe in the Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort. It’ll be your first taste of proper Keys specialties like Florida Keys’ Shrimp Cocktail, Tropical Crab Cakes, or Horseradish Encrusted Florida Grouper.

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

Day 2 Aquarium Encounters

If you think you know aquariums, think again. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, prepare for a visit to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. It’s not your typical aquarium—everything is outdoors. Here, the focus is on hands-on activities like The Coral Reef encounter that lets you dive in and explore a reef without the risks of doing it in the ocean. There are also plenty of interactive exhibits for younger kids.

Afterward, return to the resort to continue exploring the wide range of available activities and amenities. Take advantage of some of the incredible kids’ Pirate Ship Pool or participate in programming that ranges from pop-in arts and crafts to full-day activities. Spending some time at the eucalyptus steam room or dry sauna at Hawks Cay’s Calm Waters Spa, known for the signature Key Lime Mojito body treatment, is also an option.

Everyone should be ready for a bayside dinner at Lighthouse Grill by evening. The restaurant prides itself on its “ocean-to-table” cuisine, serving the highest quality sustainable seafood. Dine on ceviche, smoked fish dip, or the Chef’s daily catch while sitting below a historic lighthouse.

Sombrero Beach

Day 3Hit the Beach

Today you’ll uncover one of the best-kept secrets in the Florida Keys—Sombrero Beach. At mile marker 50 of the Overseas Highway, turn onto Sombrero Beach Road to find this idyllic retreat, complete with white sands, calm waters, and gorgeous views. There’s also easy parking, showers, a picnic pavilion, a playground, a volleyball court, and restrooms. Best of all, it’s completely free.

After several hours of swimming, snorkeling, and sunning, you’ll probably be ready to eat. Back in town, make a point of stopping at Florida Keys Steak & Lobster. The boisterous restaurant is more casual than the name might indicate. But the informal atmosphere doesn’t indicate anything about the top-quality food like island mussels served with chorizo and lemon garlic sauce, Churrasco platters cradling chargrilled steaks with chimichurri sauce, and lobster po-boys,

Your next activity is a piece of area history. Finished in 1982, the Seven Mile Bridge replaced Flagler’s railroad, which transported the first vacationers to the Keys nearly 50 years prior. If your timing aligns, join one of the three daily historical tours to tiny Pigeon Key when a ferry leaves the visitor’s center on the Overseas Highway.

Upon returning to Marathon, dine outdoors with ocean views at Mahina, where American favorites meet Polynesian-inspired flourishes. Some choices include furikake ahi with coconut rice and pickled baby ginger or whole garlic prawns in sake garlic-chili Butter with tobiko caviar.

A boat ride with the whole family in the Florida Keys

Day 4 Turtle Time

The Florida Keys are practically synonymous with sea turtles, so this morning you’ll have a chance to learn more about these magnificent creatures. Here’s the story: more than three decades ago, angling enthusiast Richie Morretti moved to Marathon to run a motel. But he kept finding injured and sick sea turtles on his fishing trips and, ultimately, turned that motel into a turtle rehab center and hospital. Today, he keeps it going by charging a fee for educational tours of the facility.

Around midday, it will be time to grab lunch at the Keys Fisheries & Market. Both locals and visitors frequent this combination restaurant, bar, fresh fish market, and marina just north of the Seven Mile Bridge. You can’t go wrong by ordering lobster Reuben sandwiches, whole fried yellowtail snapper, and raspberry key lime pie.

As you return to the resort for the afternoon, now’s your chance to try any activities that intrigue you. Don’t worry if you’re a complete beginner, as lessons are available for paddleboarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, and more. Or maybe you’d even like to embark on a fishing charter for the whole family.

In the evening, the entire family can reconvene on the docks of the Hawks Cay Marina for a lively dinner at Angler & Ale. Of course, if you did go on that fishing trip, you could request that the kitchen prepare your catch. But don’t worry, the restaurant also offers other fresh catches served in many different ways—blackened in a sandwich, in tacos, or as fillets.
Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, FL

Day 5 Up Close with Dolphins

Get ready for the grand finale. On your final morning in Marathon, your last stop will be the Dolphin Research Center. The facility, which conducts dolphin research, lets visitors interact with the marine mammals during a Dolphin Encounter swim or Family Dolphin Splash. And the so-called Sprayground, a giant, tropical-themed spray pad, is sure to entertain younger kids.

After the morning activity, it’s time to return to the resort to check out and go to the airport for your departure back home. Five days in Marathon gave you and your family an opportunity to create tons of cherished family memories, but there’s still so much more to explore.