The Middle Keys’ Marathon is known as an easygoing, laid-back area for family and couples’ vacations — vacations that include sun, fun, nature exploration, renewal and relaxation. The area has waterfront resorts perfect for gatherings of family or friends, plus small boutique properties for romantic getaways. And when it comes to activities, the Middle Keys and Marathon offer plenty of options that encourage relaxation and revitalization.

Florida Keys lionfish sushi

The Castaway in Marathon is known for its innovative lionfish dishes — including delicious sushi. And dining on lionfish helps sustain local fish populations. (Photo courtesy of the Castaway)

Escape to Serenity: The pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly Old Seven Mile Bridge provides an only-in-the-Keys path to fitness and wellness. A restored two-mile span of the old bridge is a four-mile roundtrip “course” with a view of crystal-clear waters below. During a walking or biking workout, stop often to peer into the water for an illuminating look at sea life swimming by — you might catch sight of sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and other marine creatures. The span also provides spectacular views of both the sunrise and sunset. And if time allows, don’t miss exploring the tiny island of Pigeon Key at the far end of the restored bridge section.

Escape on the Water: Find a clear window on the undersea world while snorkeling on Sombrero Reef, a quick 3.5-mile boat trip from Marathon. Depths on the reef range from two to 30 feet with bordering seagrass beds and sand flats. If you’re snorkeling, you can expect to see a wide range of sea life including turtles, rays and many species of colorful fish. Marathon dive and snorkel providers Captain Hooks and Dive Isla Bella are certified by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary as Blue Star operators, committed to coral conservation and environmentally sound on-the-water practices.

Escape into Renewal: You can support the Florida Keys’ marine ecosystem in Marathon while embarking on a new culinary adventure. How? Tempt your taste buds with lionfish, a specialty at Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar, located on the waterfront at 1406 Ocean View Ave. Restaurant owner John Mirabella led the charge to feature invasive lionfish on restaurant menus to help remove them from the delicate reef ecosystem, where they’re aggressive predators of native Keys fish species. Luckily lionfish are also delicious table fare — so savoring a lionfish entrée not only satisfies culinary curiosity, but it also helps sustain local fish populations.

Sombrero Beach Marathon

Marathon’s Sombrero Beach is an off-the-beaten-path gem with blue water, palms and shady picnic areas.

Escape into Nature: Curry Hammock State Park is home to Florida Keys Hawkwatch, whose volunteer members monitor the migration of avian species — especially birds of prey. Each fall it’s possible to view or count thousands of falcons, raptors and eagles that fly through the Keys on their annual migratory path. In fact, the park is known as the peregrine falcon migration capital of the world! Located at mile marker 56.2 on Little Crawl Key, Curry Hammock is a great locale to immerse yourself in the rhythms of the natural world … and it’s also a favorite spot for kayakers, paddleboarders and kiteboarders to launch from shore. You’ll find intriguing paddling routes through mangrove tunnels, with sandbars and open ocean within easy reach.

Escape to a Hidden Haven: Tucked away at the end of Sombrero Beach Boulevard is Sombrero Beach, a lovely sandy beach framing a shady public park with picnic pavilions, volleyball courts, restrooms and showers. Open from sunrise to dusk, the park is an ideal place to watch sunrises and sunsets in waterfront tranquility. FYI, Marathon’s Turtle Hospital sometimes schedules public turtle releases at the beach — and it’s an extraordinarily inspiring and revitalizing experience to watch a  rehabilitated sea turtle swim back to its ocean home.

If you’re ready for a break from everyday pressures, consider an escape to Marathon. For more details, click here … and then start planning your getaway.