Day Trips Along The Florida Keys From Marathon, FL


Looking for the ultimate Florida Keys experience? Finding your home base on Marathon Key is a great start to maximizing your getaway, especially if you want to spread the love around a little bit from key to key!

The Overseas Highway joins the South Florida mainland near Miami to Key West - a 113-mile span. The Florida Keys technically cover a 100-mile stretch from Key Largo to Key West, or roughly a 2.5 hour drive straight through. A series of bridges connects the hundreds of islands that form the archipelago of the Florida Keys between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, The longest of these bridges - the Seven Mile Bridge- is located along the Middle Keys area, which is home to Marathon Key. Marathon Key is nearly equidistant from Key Largo and Key West, allowing for some exciting exploratory day trips to discover the very best the Keys have to offer from end-to-end.

"Island hop" and do a little bit of everything from your prime location in Marathon Key. Each island community has its own culture and popular attractions. From watersports like snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving, to close encounters with alligators, sea turtles, and manatees; and of course, waterfront dining with everything from the fresh catch of the day to genuine Key Lime Pie - key-to-key mini road trips are the best way to experience Keys culture from every angle. Let's take a little island-hopping trip with a few tips on where to visit!

Upper Keys

Key Largo

Distance from Marathon to Key Largo - 47 Miles

Key Largo is the northernmost of the keys and the self-proclaimed "Diving Capital of the World". Located between Everglades National Park and the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef (as well as home to the world's largest artificial reef), It is a popular site for sport fishing, eco-tours, dolphin encounters, bird watching, and nature hikes.

Highlights:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park


Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Flickr CC2.0

102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037 • http://pennekamppark.com

The first undersea park in the nation, encompassing approximately 70 nautical square miles, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is best known for its mangrove swamps and coral reefs, making it a popular location to explore by kayak, dive, snorkel, or the popular glass-bottom boat tour. Guests can also enjoy walking trails, picnic areas, fishing, a beach, concessions, dive shop, and a 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium with theater. Boat rentals and various guided tours are available on-site. One of the most famous locations within the park is the Christ of the Abyss - an 8.5-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ submerged in nearly 25 feet of water near North Dry Rocks, a popular diving and snorkeling site.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

Photo Credit: ladyepona via Instagram

County Rd 905 & Mile Marker 106, Key Largo, FL 33037 • https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/dagny-johnson-key-largo-hammock-botanical-state-park

At approximately 2,500 acres. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is a world of natural wonder, and home to one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks in the United States (also the northernmost stand of tropical hammocks in the Florida Keys). Explore more than six miles of nature trails through forested wetlands with a butterfly garden and discover 84 protected species of plants and wildlife. Much of the park is off-limits to the public, but backcountry trails open up to those who apply for a backcountry permit at the Ranger Station. Many park trailways are paved and accessible to both bicycles and wheelchairs.

African Queen Canal Cruise

Photo Credit: The African Queen Boat via Facebook

99701 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037 • http://www.africanqueenflkeys.com

Visitors can revel in the romantic nostalgia of Hollywood's golden age just like Bogie and Bacall aboard the real-life African Queen, from the 1951 Oscar-winning film of the same name. Cruise along the Port Largo Canals from the Marina Del Mar marina, to the ocean and back aboard the restored steamboat for an enviable, intimate experience, allowing only six passengers at a time. Choose from 90-minute cruises by day, or two-hour dinner cruises on Friday and Saturday nights. You can also catch sight of the iconic vessel from the shore while sipping or dining at one of the local waterfront tiki bars or cafes.

Between Key Largo & Islamorada - Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center and Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, Overseas Hwy, Tavernier, FL - Bird nursing and rehabilitation center, open to the public daily for visitor education, nature walks, pelican feedings, and epic sunsets.

Islamorada

Photo Credit: Isaac Wedin via Flickr CC2.0

Distance from Marathon to Islamorada - 30 Miles

Islamorada is a "Village of Islands" including Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key. There are approximately 24 miles of canals within the village network of Islamorada. The area is a favorite of those seeking marine life experiences or world-class sport fishing opportunities, and a popular stop for history buffs and divers, too!

Highlights:

Theater of the Sea

Photo Credit: cielmaadventures via Instagram 

84721 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036 • https://theaterofthesea.com/

Get up close and personal with some of the Florida Keys most popular residents - the marine wildlife! This 17-acre facility is family-owned and operated since 1946 and one of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world, offering family-friendly dolphin, sea lion, and bird shows, as well as unique interactions with the animals themselves. Paint with a dolphin or sea lion, swim with rays or sharks, and meet sea turtles, parrots, or alligators! Enjoy guided tours, a lagoon-side beach, and the bottomless boat ride through lush, tropical gardens.

Keys History and Discovery Center

Photo Credit: mandie_cooper_ via Instagram

82100 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036 • https://www.keysdiscovery.com

The extensive history of the Upper Keys and the unique ecology of the region is preserved and displayed in this 7,500 square foot oceanfront museum. The first floor focuses houses a series of permanent exhibits and three aquariums, while the second floor features rotating exhibit space with a research library and state-of-the-art theater. The Keys History and Discovery Center is affiliated with Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory.

Robbie’s Marina of Islamorada

Photo Credit: robbiesofislamorada via Instagram 

77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036 • https://www.robbies.com

A genuine Keys tradition on Lower Matecumbe Key, Robbie's offers boat, kayak, paddleboard, and jet ski rentals, guided snorkel trips. sunset cruises, parasailing, fishing charters, waterfront dining, and an open-air market with local, handcrafted goods. The marina also provides boat tours of two remote islands: Indian Key Historic State Park and Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. Do a little bit of everything at Robbie's for the ultimate island experience, and make sure to take part in the world-famous tarpon feeding sessions!

Between Islamorada & Marathon - Long Key State Park in Layton, FL is a 965-acre park with a vast network of mangroves supporting an array of wildlife. A popular, tranquil spot for birding, swimming, kayaking, or hiking.

Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Flickr CC2.0

Lower Keys

Big Pine Key

Photo Credit: Cayobo via Flickr CC2.0

Distance from Marathon to Big Pine Key - 21 Miles

An ideal choice for a natural, laid-back Florida Keys experience, Big Pine Key is a popular site for everything on the water, including fishing, boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The unspoiled environments create the perfect habitat for the island's most famous residents - the endangered key deer.

Highlights:

National Key Deer Refuge

Photo Credit: 
laurelzeee via Instagram

30587 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, FL 33043 • https://www.fws.gov/refuge/National_Key_Deer_Refuge

For a sight you literally can only experience in the Lower Keys, visit the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key - home of the endangered Florida Key deer, the smallest of all white-tailed deer. Key deer are about the size of a big dog, measuring around two feet tall and weighing between 45-75 pounds (depending on gender) at maturity. The refuge occupies approximately 9,200 acres of land, covered in pine forests, tropical hardwoods, wetlands, and mangroves which serve as home to numerous plant and animal species, including more than 40 diverse reptiles and 250 resident and migratory bird species.

Bahia Honda State Park

Photo Credit: bahiahondastatepark via Instagram

36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, FL 33043 • https://www.floridastateparks.org/BahiaHonda

Spanning more than 500 acres plus an offshore island, Bahia Honda State Park offers exceptional snorkeling and shelling opportunities, and some of the best tarpon fishing in The Sunshine State. Anglers can cast their lines from shore, or launch boats at either of the two boat ramps. Explore the park's 3.5+ mile hard surface road by foot or bike, bask along the award-winning beaches, or swim in the ocean or the bay to take advantage of some of the most serene, clear waters around. Among the best of the Keys birding habitats, Bahia Honda is a noted stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail and home to over 150 species of flora. The park offers a gift shop, snack bar, kayak rentals and daily snorkeling tours to the iconic Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.

Between Big Pine Key & Key West - The Looe Key Reef and Looe Key Marine Sanctuary at Ramrod Key feature varied-depth reefs that host more than 50 species of coral and more than 150 species of fish. It's a stellar dive or snorkel site for all ages and skill levels!

Photo Credit: Daniel Piraino via Instagram

Key West

Photo Credit: Pom' via Flickr CC2.0

Distance from Marathon to Key West - 50 Miles

The southernmost point in the Continental U.S., Key West is known for its legendary nightlife, extensive history, remarkable architecture, and generally vibrant coastal culture. Duval Street is the center hub of shops, bars, live music, restaurants, and hangouts in general. The "Old Town" section (which includes Duval Street) is home to the Key West Historic District and the city's earliest established neighborhoods, with many structures dating back to the 19th century. The City and Port of Key West have always played an important role as a United States military post and training center.

Highlights:

Dry Tortugas National Park

Photo Credit: Evangelio Gonzalez via Flickr CC2.0

https://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm

Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles offshore of Key West, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Take advantage of epic snorkeling and paddlesports in shallow, crystal blue waters, and explore Fort Jefferson - one of the nation’s largest 19th century forts. This 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands that more than 300 different species of birds call home. The park was named "one of the 10 great places to explore nooks and crevasses" by USA Today.

Key West Aquarium

Photo Credit: Roger W via Flickr CC2.0

1 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040 • https://www.keywestaquarium.com

Located in Key West’s famous Mallory Square, the Key West Aquarium is one of the island’s most popular attractions for all ages. Home to alligators, jellyfish, sharks and many other marine animals, guests can enjoy wildlife interactions and original education opportunities via daily feedings, classes, and the "touch tank" exhibit. The Key West Aquarium was the first to use an open-air concept, allowing natural sunlight to illuminate the concrete exhibits. Time your visit just right to catch the nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, and join visitors and locals alike to watch the sun disappear into a burst of color beyond the horizon before enjoying the nightlife throughout the square.

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Flickr CC2.0

907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040 • https://www.hemingwayhome.com

Today, the residents are the approximately 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) "Hemingway" cats, but this breathtaking 1851 classic Keys home nestled in the heart of Old Town Key West once served as the home of their namesake, and noted author, Ernest Hemingway. The beloved cats are mostly the descendants of Hemingway's original cat, and they are only part of the story of the legendary wordsmith's time on the island. Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote here for more than ten years in the 1930s, and in 1968, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. The property is arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Key West.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

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1316 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040 •  https://www.keywestbutterfly.com

This 5,000-square-foot, glass dome aviary features up to 60 types of free-roaming butterflies, 20 exotic bird species, and 3,500 plants. Learn about the life cycle, anatomy, and migration of butterflies and caterpillars through rare, up-close views. On-site gift shop and art gallery also available!

Conch Tour Train

Photo Credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr CC2.0

303 Front St, Key West, FL 33040 • https://www.conchtourtrain.com

Most anyone will agree that the best way to get the lay of the island in Key West is the 75-minute Conch Tour! This fully-narrated sightseeing tour focuses primarily on the historic Old Town area, including the Hemingway House, Key West Aquarium, Lighthouse, Mallory Square, Duval Street and more. The loop tour begins at the Front Street Depot and ends nearby in Mallory Square, with three stops - at Station Depot for a 10 minute rest break, at Truval Village, and at the Sails and Rails Museum, where tour guests enjoy complimentary admission.