Marathon & the Middle Keys

marathon florida
Boot Key Harbor

The Middle Keys have the three longest bridges in all of the Florida Keys. The journey by car through this area is one that traverses water on second generation bridges, alongside the older, original spans that first carried visitors, workers, and residents alike.

The bridges define Marathon and the Middle Keys, and create a world where to travel means that one always seems to be gliding over water. The vistas are different here than in the rest of the Keys, with architectural remains of older bridges alongside the newer versions. Sunsets and pictures always include an fading perspective of a bridge reaching into the horizon towards Key West.

Middle Keys

The Middle Keys have an ambiance all their own, thanks to these bridges. Making Marathon and the Middle Keys drivable was a Herculean undertaking, and rumor has it that the workmen named Marathon for the gigantic effort given by all the workers to building the bridges and roads through this area.

Marathon, Florida never really had many citizens until around World War II, when it became a popular sport fishing destination. With sport fishing tourists came development, restaurants, motels, and bait shops. Today, Marathon is a heavily developed strip with congestion, especially in the winter months. Once you get off the main strip, otherwise known as the Overseas Highway, there are nicer residential areas, a golf course, and other nooks and crannies to explore.

Marathon’s History

Marathon really came into existence because of the railroad, serving as a base camp for thousands of workers who toiled under the sun to make the great railroad developer Flagler‘s project come to fruition. At first, there were only railroads on the bridges, and the trains never went more than around 20 miles an hour, possibly 30 or 40 on the really uninhabited islands.

The men that built these railroads lived in workcamps made of wood and came from the Caymans, from northern cities of the US, and even from as far away as Europe. After the turn of the twentieth century, when the Overseas Railroad still hadn’t reached Key west, ships used to come in at Knight’s Key and meet the trains there. Ships came from Cuba and exchanged fruit and sugar for tourists bound for Havana. Folks in the shipping industry in Key West feared competition from this port at the southern end of Key Vaca, since this was where the railroad ended at that time. They looked at the great expanse of water west of Marathon and saw what would have to be the longest bridge yet. They breathed a sigh of relief in 1911, when the first Seven Mile Bridge was completed.

Workers were no longer camped in Marathon after this, and the town’s population shrank. It existed as a train stop and sleepy outpost for a few tourists until the 1940s, when more tourists arrived as well as an airstrip. The airstrip was built by the government as a training base for B-17s.

In the 1950s the city of Key Colony Beach was developed on Key Vaca. Key Colony Beach was full of canals and houses that looked alike. Today, it’s a coveted neighborhood with strict quality of life rules and gorgeous streets. Today, Marathon offers numerous places to stay, places to dine, one of the nicest beaches in the Keys (Sombrero Beach), charter fishing, and a host of attractions and activities. And of course the reef is out there too, as well as a picturesque lighthouse, called Sombrero light.

Marathon, Popular with Fisherman

marathon florida keys
7 mile bridge, Marathon End

For anglers, Marathon is where Florida Bay really opens up. Although technically you aren’t into the Gulf of Mexico yet, it certainly feels a little more like it. Fishing is awesome here, and the plethora of bridges makes for fantastic Tarpon fishing as well as other fishing pursuits. The “Best Beach in America” is here in the Middle Keys, at Bahia Honda State Park. Marathon is also home to Dolphin attractions, a fishing resort, and Sombrero Beach.

Getting to Marathon is Easy

By Car: Either traveling on busier Route 1 with “crocodile crossing” signs or Card Sound Road, a longer but more beautiful and scenic route to the Florida Keys, Marathon is centrally located only 60 minutes from either Key Largo or Key West.

By Air: With several domestic and international airports to choose from, Marathon, Florida can be easily reached by travelers around the globe.

Airport Name Airport Code Distance from
Airport Type
Florida Keys Marathon Airport
Monroe County Florida
9400 Overseas Hwy
Marathon, FL 33050
Located in Marathon Located in Marathon Domestic
Key West International Airport
3491 S. Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, FL
46 miles west 46 miles west International
Miami International Airport
4200 N.W. 21 Street
Miami, FL
110 miles northeast 110 miles northeast International
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
320 Terminal Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL
133 miles northeast 133 miles northeast International

Sombrero Beach, Marathon

Enjoy Marathon’s Yearly Climate

Of the entire state of Florida, the Keys receive the lowest amount of average yearly rainfall. When it does rain, it comes in brief periods, often returning the skies to a beautiful, clear day for continued outdoor activities. As for brutal, humid, summer heat, you won’t find it in Marathon. And hurricanes like to skirt around the Keys, leaving its beauty untarnished. With the ocean breeze to keep cool, visitors love the reliable, balmy climate of the Florida Keys.

Average Ocean Temperature
Average Rainfall
Average High Temperature
Average Low Temperature
Jan – Mar
2 inches
Jan – Mar
4 inches
Jul – Sep
5 inches
Oct – Dec
3 inches