Stretched across multiple small keys, Marathon is younger than most travelers: The city was only incorporated in 1999. Even though it was long viewed as a stopover on the drive to Key West, it holds its own, with tons of dining options (lots of seafood, of course), museums, beaches galore and a bevy of options for the active traveler set. Low-key travelers may even prefer Marathon's less rambunctious vibe over Key West's crowded streets.
Marathon is a major sports fishing destination on both the gulf and Atlantic sides, especially during the annual tarpon tournaments in April and May. Impressive reefs make it very popular for diving and snorkeling, and swimming with dolphins can be arranged at the Dolphin Research Center. Those looking to stick to dry land can make use of golf courses and decent biking options.
Make sure to check weather forecasts before you book: Like the rest of the Keys, Marathon is susceptible to hurricanes during the season from August to November and has been hit with many major storms in the past.
Just like on the rest of the Keys, hotels range from old-style motels to luxury digs. It's basically impossible for anything in the keys to be far from the water. Boot Key is a popular location for golfers, and has easy access to great shopping and restaurants. Surfers may prefer Key Colony's Atlantic-facing beaches, which have rougher waves than gulf-side beaches.
Some inns don't allow any children under 16, so make sure you check before you book if you're traveling with family.
120 V, 60 Hz
15-20% at restaurants
Dec. - April