2013 … after spending three more weeks in Marathon, Florida Keys, we’ve found more fun things to do and sadly have to cross one of our favorites off last year’s list. If you’ve never seen last year’s list, click here. And if you’re wondering which favorite we have to bid adiu to, it’s the Dockside Bar & Grill – the best blackened mahi mahi sandwich I’ve ever enjoyed … but they’re closed temporarily (we hope) and the rumormill says Eric & Kim Hess Stone (of Bob Bitchin/Lats & Atts/Cruising Outpost fame) would like to buy it & reopen for fall 2013, their own place for his music. That would be GREAT!
We didn’t set out to spend three weeks, we thought we’d be there a week at the most after our Raritan PHII head pump gave it up during our weeks in the 10,000 Islands, specifically Panther Key. But after it was fixed, a vicious norther was forecast for the following Weds, so we stayed … and yet another norther with nasty thunderstorms … remember all those wicked winter storms that marched across the Midwest? The Keys did not escape their fury, the difference was it was warm when the wind was blowing and the thunderstorms and tornados (known as water spouts here) were raging.
But Boot Key Harbor, Marathon is the most protected harbor we’ve ever encountered and the hurricane force rated moorings inspire confidence, so we stayed. We did duck out the middle of the last week and spend three days at Bahia Honda State Park, but you’ll need to click here for that post! 🙂 Then returned for the big storms.
But on with our favorite things from 2013:
1. Hands down, our fellow cruisers win the top spot all over again. Every year, we meet some really fun people.
2. Pigeon Key. The famous Pigeon Key workcamp for Henry Flagler’s overseas railroad (if you want to read more about it, the best book I’ve seen is “Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean” by Les Standiford). At one time in the early 1900’s the island housed over 400 railroad workers. The five acres is a living history museum. There’s also a cool old house you can rent for vacation and summer camp for kids. Find the Pigeon Key visitor center on Knight Key (west end of Marathon) in a bright red railroad car.
3. The Flagler Bridge Walk – back from Pigeon Key. We enjoyed the 2 1/2 mile walk back across the old railroad bridge/original overseas highway. During the first mile & a half, the water was so shallow & clear, we could see tarpon, eagle rays, sharks, turtles and lots of fish. Almost as good as snorkeling.
4. Snorkeling at the Delta Barge (not to be confused with the Delta Shoal, 2 different sites), sometimes called the Flagler Barge, is an unmarked snorkeling site about 1.5 miles northeast of Sombrero Key Light off Marathon. We found it by dinghying out Sister Creek and heading almost due south, maybe 1/2 mile beyond the Washerwoman Shoal light – also a good snorkeling site, btw. We actually cruised the area & could not find it until another diver with gps coordinates – which we still don’t have – showed us. It shows up as a dark rectangle in shallow clear blue water and averages maybe 10-15′ of water over the barge itself. The barge, a 100 foot long, 30 feet wide barge, was owned by the Flagler’s East Coast Railroad. During the 1920’s the barge transported building equipment and supplies (blocks mainly) for building the overseas rail road. On Labor Day 1935, one of the most intense hurricanes ever to make landfall in U.S. hit the area, and destroyed the rail road bridge and the barge. Much of the steel barge has rusted away, leaving a frame covered in coral, fans as well as an amazing array of tropical reef fish. When we first arrived, there were also several large barracuda guarding the site, but they wandered off and we had a nice snorkel. It’s not world class, but to two snorkeling deprived cruisers, we were ecstatic.
5. The Southernmost Air Show at NAS Boca Chica. Ride the Key West bus for $1.50/senior & $4 adult to the gate at the Naval Air Station, Boca Chica (Key West) for the Southernmost Air Show. You’ll have to check for the dates, but the airshow is free and has LOTS of air events, not just the Blue Angels. We met several new cruising friends at the bus stop and ended up having pizza afterward even though we all split up during the show.
7. Hurricane 25 cent wings night with friends and the NCAA bball tournament. The Hurricane is a dive bar along US 1 – turn right at the City Marina entrance and walk toward Home Depot/Publix, but before you get there, you’ll see the Hurricane on the other side of the road. The traffic is intense, but by watching carefully, you can cross to the mid-turn lane, wait and get across the other two lanes safely — BE SAFE!!! The Hurricane has 25 cent wings night and also $1 taco night, plus other specials. Cruisers usually get together and go about 5 to 5:30 PM to take advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour drinks before 6. Then at 6 starts the 25 cents wings night. Is this TOO stereotypical cruiser or what!!! 🙂 🙂
8. Stone Crab Clawsat the Keys Fisheries bar, Pinchers. Doesn’t replace the loss from that mahi mahi sandwich at Dockside, but they sure are yummy! 1 PM – 9 PM daily overlooking the water and gorgeous sunsets! Keys Fisheries is directly across from the City Marina – look for the Stuffed Pig (great for breakfast, or so I’m told) and walk down that little road until you run into the water – look up for the bar – Pinchers & ENJOY! Not cheap, like the Hurricane specials, but stone crab claws are only found in South Florida waters between October and May, nowhere else in the world. ENJOY!
9. Crane Point Nature Center. Directly across US 1 from Publix is the Crane Point Nature Center. We’ve always wondered what was there, but never visited due to the nominal entrance fee, but this year after all that good food, we needed some hiking! Crane Point has some of the last Florida Thatch Palm hammocks – the thatch palm is endangered and extremely rare. It was fun taking a walk among the hammocks and also seeing the Bahamian settlement – only one house is left and the Crane house on the point which is being restored. The wild bird rescue center was interesting, but not as good as the Peace River Bird Rescue Center in Punta Gorda.
All in all, we had a great almost three weeks, although we would have hoped those darn cold fronts would have stalled out farther north – the day that I can control the weather, I’ll be a jillionaire! 🙂
Anyone with other fun stuff to do in Marathon? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan & David