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Exploring the Florida Keys from Marathon

Copyright: vilainecrevette / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright: vilainecrevette / 123RF Stock Photo

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Family vacation in the Florida Keys

I long believed the Caribbean was a travel destination for romantic vacations for two.  A week in the Florida Keys with our family proved me wrong.  We had one epic vacation.   

While we love Cape San Blas, our family decided to try a different part of Florida. And thanks to an airfare sale, we scored round-trip, non-stop tickets from Kansas City to Orlando for just $198 a piece! For our family of six, this meant less car-time and more play time!  We still had to rent a van, but the drive was relatively short.  

Here are ideas for what to do with your kids in Marathon, Florida in the Middle Keys.


What are the Keys?

The Keys are a long string of tropical islands beginning 15 miles south of Miami.  The keys split the Gulf of Mexico to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Starting with Key Largo and ending at Key West, many of these islands are connected by the famous Seven-Mile Bridge that begins in Marathon.  These laid-back Keys are known for fishing, boating, snorkeling, and scuba diving. 

Tips for Lodging

We settled in for the week in a sweet three bedroom home found in the Coral Lagoon Resort in Marathon.  The house was nestled with 25 others on a canal with a boat slip.   Much to the kiddos’ delight, we had a resort style pool just steps away from our back porch.  Publix grocery story and Sombrero Beach were both just 3 miles away.


Rent a boat in the Keys

We chose a 12 passenger Starcraft boat from Jason over at Coco Plum Boat Rentals.  Jason and Wendy make the nervous amateur boat driver feel like a pro.  They pointed out several great exploring spots, and they gave fantastic tips for planning around wind and waves.  Renting a boat enabled us to set out on open water adventures at our own pace.  My husband drove the boat while I navigated.    

Top things to do around Marathon


Sombrero Reef

My kids agree that snorkeling near the old lighthouse at Sombrero Reef was one of the top highlights of the week.  Well worth the boat drive out, we spotted all sorts of angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, and much more!  We dipped and dived through steel girders and schools of fish until our flippers wore out. 

Hunt for sea creatures

Grab a sandbar.  Using your boat's navigation system, locate a shallow spot of 3' waters near a sandbar, turn off the engine, and throw in the anchor.  Don your snorkel gear, grab your net and tickle stick as you jump in to hunt for crabs, starfish, sand dollars, and seaglass.  Using your live well, share your findings with everyone on the boat before you throw all of your live creatures back in!  Easily turn this adventure into a scavenger hunt for young and old alike.

Sombrero Beach  

This is Marathon's beautiful public beach.  Here you can play in shallow waters, sunbathe, or take advantage of the picnic shelters and grills.  There are also two well-maintained sand volleyball courts, and a fantastic children's playground.  Sunset views are fantastic, which makes for great family photos.

Catch lobster

We lucked out and happened to be in Marathon during the final week of open lobster season.  Our friends brought their nets and tickle sticks and caught eight lobster near the Seven-Mile Bridge our first full day there.  They made for a scrumptious dinner! 


Florida Keys Aquamarine Encounters

Have a staring competition with a large grouper.  This is also my preferred way to face a shark.  Right in Marathon, we spent a couple of our hours here when we needed a break from the waves, sand, and sun.  Just two years old, this new outdoor, well-shaded aquamarine park boasts a huge predator reef tank filled with nurse sharks, sting rays, moray eels and more.  There is also a tide pool touch tank and a sting ray touch pool (de-barbed)!  Feed the hungry tarpons in the canal area or watch the staff feed giant groupers.  

Eat at Burdines Waterfront

The day we had 4 adults and 8 kids on the boat, we pulled into this marina, docked our boat, and walked upstairs to the ChikiTiki Bar & Grille.  Grilled shrimp, blackened mahi mahi, and the most tasty hush puppies washed down with a Floridian Hefeweisen fueled us up for an afternoon of snorkeling, fishing, and exploring.  It was so good, we had to go back again for lunch on our last day.  Oh, and the key lime pie is everything I hoped for.  Very reasonable prices.  Twelve thumbs up.  

Hammock Time

Our vacations are all about rest AND play.  Hammocks are one of our family's favorite ways to unwind and relax.  We just recently discovered Hobo Hammocks, and wowzers!  You can't beat the hang for the buck!  Unbeatable package for an unbeatable price for a solid hang time.


Bahia Honda State Park  We only spent a couple of hours trying out our snorkeling gear here before we picked up our boat rental on the first day.  Looks like a great place to camp and play!

Coffin's Patch  We had hoped to make it out to snorkel at this spot in the Atlantic, but the wind and waves weren't cooperating.  Next time!

Chartered Fishing Trip  We aren't seasoned fishermen, but this is definitely a new adventure we'd like to try.