Its Waters are Waiting

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A diver explores the deck of the Thunderbolt – a 188-foot ship sunk in 1986 to create this dive spot 120 feet beneath the surface. photos by Viuf Photography.
A diver explores the deck of the Thunderbolt – a 188-foot ship sunk in 1986 to create this dive spot 120 feet beneath the surface. Photos by Viuf Photography.

We’ve all heard of the wild parties and boisterous beaches of Key West. Its seductive summer sun, crowded bars and streets and well-known festivals make it a top destination for getaways, pre-wedding festivities, birthday bashes and all-around good fun. But next time a vacation takes route to the Florida Keys, stop short of the Seven Mile Bridge and explore a quieter island, whose waters are teeming with adventure and restaurants are hidden treasures. Marathon, Fla., welcomes its visitors with an open sea of possibility.

Sailboats find refuge in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor and exploration on its calm, open waters.
Sailboats find refuge in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor and exploration on its calm, open waters.

Steering the Waters

Start your motor, and tour Marathon’s waters and coastlines by boat. Toss the anchor overboard at any number of these locations, where excitement awaits just below the surface.

Gas Up

Gassing up is critical to enjoying a full day out on the water. A fun way to fill the tank is at one of Marathon’s marinas. While the pump does all the work, hop off the boat and onto the deck, and gather any essentials needed for sea survival: Snacks, drinks, ice, sunscreen, hats and other attire, snorkeling, diving and fishing gear.

Captain Hook’s Marina & Dive Center

24.730° N, 81.030° W

Burdines Waterfront

24.703° N, 81.109° W

Snorkeling and Diving

Dive in and explore Marathon’s flourishing underwater habitats. Reefs, coral canyons, lighthouses and shipwrecks in this area give way to amazing swims for divers and snorkelers.

Sombrero Lighthouse

24.628° N, 81.111° W

Travel roughly five miles off the coast of Marathon, and tie the boat to a buoy surrounding the 140-foot Sombrero Lighthouse, the marking of a mostly submerged reef in five- to 30-foot waters. Swim from the boat to the base of the lighthouse and uncover the abundant underwater community of grunt, snapper and barracuda along the way.

The Thunderbolt

24.658° N, 80.965° W

Finding and tying off at this dive spot includes spotting the two white buoys about 10 feet underneath the water. Next, descend 100 feet down the steel cables connecting the buoys to the bow and stern of a 188-foot ship, intentionally sunk in 1986 to create this dive spot. Nearly 30 years of stagnation has created a colorful habitat to brighten these dark depths. Don’t be surprised if you spot a 600-pound grouper lurking around. Many divers claim to have seen this Volkswagen Beetle-sized beast, nicknamed Bubba.

The Sombrero Lighthouse marks the spot of a mostly submerged reef about five miles off Marathon’s coast.
The Sombrero Lighthouse marks the spot of a mostly submerged reef about five miles off Marathon’s coast.

Fishing

Cast a line and reel in some fun.

The Seven Mile Bridge

24.702° N, 81.155° W

Steer the boat between the bridge’s columns and throw the anchor overboard, along with some live-wire fishing line, and reel in good times and fun catches. Be cautious jumping into these waters; many times it’s sharks that get hooked here.

The Hump

24-25.528° N, 80-45.328° W

If you’re an avid or adventurous deep-sea fisher, plug these coordinates into your GPS and travel more than 20 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Specifically called the Marathon Hump or West Hump, this area, among three off the coast of the Florida Keys, is located on the edge of the continental shelf. Look out for flocks of birds feeding – a good sign of underwater activity. Trolling these waters will almost always guarantee good cooking and full stomachs. Tuna and dolphin fish are most sought-after here.

Dockside Dining

Tie up the boat at one of these waterside destinations for some of Marathon’s top tastes.

The Seven Mile bridge connects Marathon’s Knight’s Key to Little Duck Key in the lower keys. It runs parallel to its idle predecessor, which was part of the Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension. Fishing underneath and between these structures brings excitement to the surface.
The Seven Mile bridge connects Marathon’s Knight’s Key to Little Duck Key in the lower keys. It runs parallel to its idle predecessor, which was part of the Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension. Fishing underneath and between these structures brings excitement to the surface.

Dockside Tropical Café

24.708° N, 81.084° W

Here, the view is just as gratifying as the grub. While dining, enjoy the view of Boot Key Harbor, a blanket of sailboats that call these waters home, at least for the season. Dockside’s Street Tacos are unforgettable.

Sunset Grille & Raw Bar

24.706° N, 81.124° W

This favorite is located at the start of the Seven Mile Bridge. Relax inside its tiki-style dining area or outdoors by its pool. Either way, enjoy great tastes – the Conch Fritters and Ceviche are delectable – and enjoy a serene sunset reflect its beauty on the water.


Pack A Bag

  • 70 SPF sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat
  • A cover-up or T-shirt
  • Sandals
  • A hoodie (shifting temperatures aren’t uncommon on the water)
  • Towels
  • Sandwiches
  • Drinks
  • Lots of ice

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A Taste of Dry Land

Fish Tales
11711 Overseas Highway, Marathon, Fla. Don’t leave Marathon without trying Fish Tales’ blackened fish sandwiches. This family-owned and run eatery knows seafood.


Visit Online

www.floridakeysmarathon.com


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