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Marathon Offers Blend of Heritage, Culture and Nature

The bustling community of Marathon boasts the modern conveniences of a small island airport for private and public aircraft, a newly constructed hospital, high-tech library, a lively performance theater and a variety of cozy inns, luxury resorts, waterside vacation homes, RV parks, marinas and casual dining spots.  

Marathon is listed on Monarch City USA’s roster — the only Florida Keys city to be listed — one of just 17 designated cities in Florida. Monarch City USA encourages municipalities to help the monarch butterfly population grow through planting nectar plants.

The Middle Keys also feature plentiful creative spaces, natural attractions, scenic parks, trails, sightseeing spots and historic sites that make for an appealing blend of heritage, culture and nature.

Among them are …  

Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trail. Newly listed on the national register of historic places, this 63.5-acre tract at 5550 Overseas Highway (mile marker 50.5) is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Keys, containing evidence of prehistoric Indian artifacts and once the site of a Bahamian village. The attraction’s on-site Adderly House — built in 1904 as a classic Bahamian-style home and the oldest Keys house outside of Key West — is listed on the National Register as well.

Also on-site are a bright-red Florida East Coast Railway train car, located at the site of Marathon’s original train station, and the Crane House that dates back to 1954. Renovated in late 2021, it is the Keys’ first venue outside of Key West to earn the Florida Keys Historic Foundation star designation. Surrounding the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum are a kayak launch, shaded nature trails and natural habitat for birds and butterflies. cranepoint.net

Marathon Community Theatre. Started as a small community group in 1944, the theater has grown to perform many shows each year, all spotlighting a talented group of local residents. Comedies, musicals, dramatic presentations and readings are offered at the popular theater, with the curtain going up on most productions between October and April. The theater is located at 5101 Overseas Highway, mile marker 49.5 oceanside around the corner from the Plaza Grill. marathontheater.org 

Marathon Wild Bird Center. Within Crane Point’s captivating flora is the small facility whose volunteers and local veterinarians have rescued or protected more than 22,000 wild birds such as hawks, ospreys, spoonbills and egrets. Injured birds are nursed back to health and released. Visitors not only help by exploring, but also support efforts through donating medical supplies including bandages and tapes, bird carriers, fresh fish and bird food as well as money. marathonwildbirdcenter.org

Old Seven Mile BridgeVisitors can cycle, walk, run, rollerblade, view marine life and watch sunrises and sunsets along a section of the Middle Keys’ famed Old Seven Mile Bridge that parallels the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Essentially a linear park, it serves as the gateway to historic Pigeon Key. Nicknamed "Old Seven," the oft-photographed 2.2-mile span reopened to pedestrian recreation in January 2022 after a multiyear restoration. 

Pigeon Key. Lying beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at mile marker 44.8, Pigeon Key formerly served as a camp for laborers constructing the iconic bridge. The island now features a museum, offers opportunities to picnic and snorkel, and hosts a robust marine science research program for school-age children from around the world. Daily tours are available. Pigeon Key is accessible by walking or bicycling the Old Seven Mile Bridge or by a recently launched visitor tram styled as a train. pigeonkey.net

Shady Palm Art Gallery & Photography. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely exploration inside this one-stop-shop emporium located at 2888 Overseas Highway. Owners Barry and Lori Gaukel feature only Keys artists, artisans and creative minds in the spacious gallery/gift shop. Each of over 50 local artists creates bold, unique pieces that include paintings, prints, jewelry, pottery, woodcarving, coconut art and much more. Shady Palm is the perfect place to purchase a memento to remember a Middle Keys visit. shadypalmartgallery.com

 Visitors can enjoy a leisurely exploration among over 50 local artists inside this one-stop-shop emporium located at 2888 Overseas Highway.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely exploration among over 50 local artists inside this one-stop-shop emporium located at 2888 Overseas Highway.

 Lying beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at mile marker 44.8, Pigeon Key formerly served as a camp for laborers constructing the iconic bridge.

Lying beneath the Old Seven Mile Bridge at mile marker 44.8, Pigeon Key formerly served as a camp for laborers constructing the iconic bridge.

Surrounding the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum at Crane Point are a kayak launch, shaded nature trails and natural habitat for birds and butterflies.

Surrounding the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum at Crane Point are a kayak launch, shaded nature trails and natural habitat for birds and butterflies.

At Marathon Wild Bird Center,  volunteers and local veterinarians have rescued or protected more than 22,000 wild birds such as hawks, ospreys, spoonbills and egrets. Injured birds are nursed back to health and released.

At Marathon Wild Bird Center, volunteers and local veterinarians have rescued or protected more than 22,000 wild birds such as hawks, ospreys, spoonbills and egrets. Injured birds are nursed back to health and released.

This article was updated on September 5, 2022 at 8:20 AM
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