Islamorada vs. Marathon

The best destinations between Key West and Key Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon may be small but they are top-notch. These small cities are packed with high-caliber draws and a few coveted titles on their belt. Islamorada and Marathon are worth the stop in your great Florida Keys adventure.
Islamorada vs. Marathon

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Islamorada and all its wealth in marine life is the best place for the adventurous types. And Marathon is the Florida Keys’ beach capital and family vacation center. These gems are often the second-best options when you don’t feel like cramming into the bustle of Key West and Key Largo.


Islamorada is a classic Florida Keys gem that may feel small but has garnered a lot of following. Thanks to its natural gifts and wonders, the famous village has garnered two titles, making it a US pride.

Whenever you’re in the village, expect to be met with an overwhelming sense of natural beauty. Islamorada is teeming with all the right draws perfectly combined, making it an easy favorite thanks to Mother Nature herself. Whether you’re coming from Key West or Key Largo, Islamorada is accessible.

What Makes Islamorada Unique?

The Sportfishing of the World

Having the right conditions, along with rich aquatic features, fishing in Islamorada is the best in the world. The waters off Islamorada are gifted thanks to its proximity to the Everglades, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Florida Key Reef Tract. With these three expanses filled with life and beauty, possibilities are endless.

You can expect to have an overwhelming array of potential catches in this vast gifted expanse. The fun challenge when fishing around the famed Sportfishing Capital of the World is the wide variety of catches you might find. Islamorada will definitely present you with endless opportunities. Here are some of the most popular catches:


Tarpons are some of the most legendary catches in Islamorada. With their size, and numbers you can expect to find a good catch all year round. Tarpons are known to be powerful and easily lured, so you’ll surely have to put up a fight against these fishes.


Snappers are easily found on reefs and wrecks across the Keys, most especially in Islamorada. The most common catch has to be the Yellowtail Snapper, considered to be the Keys’ signature catch. Other snappers you’ll encounter around the village are Mangrove Snappers and Cubera Snappers.


A famous entry, the Mahi-Mahi is an ideal Islamorada catch. This fish typically looks intimidating because of its size and appearance. Mahi-Mahi season is around late spring and summer, making the catch a bit challenging because of the heat. It is best to ask around which spot is the best to catch this peculiar fish.

Natural Resources Galore

Islamorada is surrounded by a rich diversity of ecosystems and biomes all over. This makes the village one of the most naturally abundant in the entire Florida Keys. Not to mention, its rich natural portfolio has given it immense beauty.

These biomes provide ideal habitats for a whole slew of natural life. You can see a diverse range of animals, including crustaceans, marine animals, reptiles, and many more. Being made up of mostly water, you can expect to find an even richer marine life as well.

The Florida Keys have noticeable calm and gentle seas, making it easier to swim and dive in. This condition is mostly thanks to the nearby barrier reef. It shelters the eastern shores of the Keys, especially Islamorada. The Florida Keys Reef Tract also shelters many marine and coastal ecosystems in Islamorada, allowing them to thrive.

If you want to learn more about the marine life and resources around Islamorada, visit the Theater of the Sea. The state-of-the-art park won’t only give you education and awareness, but it’s also filled with fun and excitement. The Theater of the Sea is famous for its interactive entertainment. It even allows encounters with several marine animals.

Water Activities Aplenty

Being a small community, consisting of a few islands, most of Islamorada is made up of water. You put endless sunny days together with a wide aquatic expanse, and expect to find more than just a couple of water activities.

The islands are surrounded by the trademark turquoise blue of the Florida Keys and white sandy beaches, you’ll also find a lot of downtimes here.

Despite its size, you can easily find many ways to enjoy the beauty of the village. Whether you prefer having fun across the blue surface or exploring underwater, there is so much you can do. Here are some of the most go-to activities you can do in Islamorada:


There is no better place to sportfish in the Florida Keys, or even the entire world, than in Islamorada. Dubbed as the Sportfishing Capital of the World, Islamorada is teeming with a variety of fish species perfect for that fabled catch. Just off the waters of Islamorada, you’ll be sure to find one-too-many spots to fish. It’s overwhelming.

Snorkeling and Diving

The village of Islamorada sits near the many underwater wonders of the Florida Keys such that it is abundant with premier diving spots. You can see waters brimming with marine life with a rich variety. Considered to be one of the best places to dive or snorkel, you can expect to find world-class underwater scenes here.


Kayaking is one of the quirkiest ways to experience Islamorada. You can see how beautiful and well-preserved Islamorada’s natural charms are. Especially with all the mangrove expanses.

You can even see different bird species, as well as kayak along with swimming marine animals around. Plus, you don’t have to worry about safety as there will be guided tours and the water conditions are conducive for water excursions.


While most of Florida Keys isn’t blessed with picturesque coasts, fortunately, most of Islamorada is. The village itself is even dubbed the beach capital of the Florida Keys, alluding to the beauty of its beaches. Islamorada is home to continuous, smooth white-sand beaches. It isn’t just gifted underwater, its coasts are worth a marvel as well.

Here are three of the most popular places to visit:

Anne’s Beach

Perhaps Islamorada’s most popular beach, Anne’s Beach has the best and right qualities for a favorite beach. The clear turquoise water here is shallow and smooth, which can be safe and ideal for smaller children. The beach also sports calm and gentle waters like most of the Keys. This allows paddleboarding, swimming, and many other water activities.

Long Key State Park

Long Key State Park isn’t only perfect for that much-needed beach day in the Keys. The famous stretch is also ideal for a plethora of other activities such as bird-watching, catching sunsets, and sunbathing. On top of its many available activities, it also has the longest nature trail in the Key, the Golden Orb Nature Trail.

Indian Key

Indian Key is a different island from the main coasts of Islamorada but it is an Islamorada gem, nonetheless. The Key is a historical gem in the area as it used to be the seat of Miami Dade County in 1836. Now a ghost town and dilapidated, the town is mostly in ruins but can be toured. The roads are still intact, and the streets can still be walked.

Historical value aside, the island is blessed with picturesque and swimmable shores. It even has glorious waters and mangrove forests. After exploring the abandoned town, you can take a quick dip or kayak around the mangrove trees.


Nestled at the heart of the Florida Keys, this 13-island beauty is a phenomenon in itself. While other keys and cities along the Florida Keys’ have their own twists, Marathon is one of boating and family time.

Marathon is famous for families. The city is full of great beaches, and a plethora of family-friendly stays and activities. Wallow in the sheer beauty of this underrated Florida Keys gem, and let your southern Florida experience take full circle.

What Makes Marathon Unique?

Dolphin and Turtle Lives Matter

Even just researching about Marathon you’ll be flooded with recommendations about the many dolphin facts. Just like the rest of the Florida Keys, Marathon takes the welfare of its marine life greatly. But, Marathon happens to have a particular liking for dolphins and turtles.

You can visit the following centers to help this cause, and learn more about these gentle sea creatures.

The Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital tour, which is a short walk from the city marina, is more instructive than entertaining. The Turtle Hospital of the Florida Keys is a tiny nonprofit dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. The goal is to save, cure, and release wounded sea turtles back into the ocean.

The Turtle Hospital also conducts and assists in sea turtle research. It also uses outreach activities to educate the public and to keep the environment safe and clean for sea turtles. The Florida Keys Turtle Hospital offers daily guided educational experiences throughout the week. It also has a range of educational and conservation-based activities and workshops for guests of all ages.

Dolphin Research Center

The Dolphin Research Center is an education and research facility that was founded in 1984 to rescue and protect dolphins for life. The Dolphin Research Center is more about research and education than entertainment. Yet the dolphins themselves enjoy entertaining and being entertained.

Half of the bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions at the center were born there. While the other half came from other facilities or were rescued, rehabilitated, and found unfit to return to the wild.

The center participates in a variety of conservation and educational activities, and workshops. There are even classes to urge the community to promote marine life preservation. Peaceful cohabitation, cooperation, and communication are all discussed here.

Florida Keys Aquarium

Apart from rehabilitating and taking care of turtles and dolphins, Marathon also seeks to educate. The aquarium also talks about other forms of marine life. The Florida Keys Aquarium & Conservation Center has interactive attractions as well. The center allows visitors to get up close and personal with a variety of indigenous fish and other marine animals.

Guided aquarium tours, a tide pool touch tank, a coral reef tank, and a predator reef tank are among the exhibits available. While encounters include snorkel experiences, shark encounters, stingray encounters, and private aquarium tours. For guests of all ages, it also offers a variety of educational programs, summer camps, group and field trips, and more.


Marathon is made up of islands surrounded by water in the right conditions. So you can easily expect that a wide variety of watersports is the city’s favorite pastime. From kiteboarding to paddleboarding, Marathon is an underrated stop in the Florida Keys. Or, it can even be its own destination altogether.

The heart of the Florida Keys will naturally captivate your adventurous side. Whether you enjoy coasting around the surface of the ocean or diving deep.

The many islands of Marathon have clean shallows, excellent winds, and deeper waters. These are perfect for doing challenging activities like wakeboarding or long sailing trips. Locals and tourists alike find limitless reasons to appreciate the natural environment of the Keys.

Board Sports

The island chain is surrounded by beautiful flats and sandbars. All of which are in shallow crystalline water with just the right temperature. When you add in the lovely tropical breeze, you have the perfect recipe for an enjoyable experience. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, there’s something for everyone.


Kayaking is an ideal alternative if you’re searching for an outdoor experience when visiting the Florida Keys. The natural beauty of the Keys is unrivaled, especially for those who enjoy the beach and ocean views. And perhaps kayaking is possibly the greatest way to take it all in.

Kayaks can be rented at a number of locations in Marathon. Most places hire them out on a daily basis, but if you’re staying in the area for a longer time, you can get one for three days or even a week.

Snorkeling and Scuba

Just like the rest of the Florida Keys, Marathon has great spots to dive and revel in its natural underwater marvels. The coral reefs of Marathon are well-known among snorkelers and divers all around the world. The shallow depths of some of Marathon’s reefs make swimming possible. You can swim with teeming aquatic life as well as dive deep.

Crane Point Hammock Park

Crane Point Hammock Park is popular among adventurers and those seeking a different scene other than adventures in the water. Crane Point Hammock is an ecological gem, and it should be at the top of your Marathon bucket list.

The park is a hardwood hammock where you can do many things. You can go hiking, kayaking, or even looking for wildlife. It’s easy to spot the key deer, sea birds, and butterflies. Plus, you can also watch the sunset from here. It also showcases Florida’s history from the volunteers who run the tram and lead tours. Several of the park’s volunteers live on boats nearby.

Boat Capital

Marathon Key is the third-most populated point in all of the Florida Keys, but oddly enough a lot of its residents live in boats. Boaters and boat owners can even dock and anchor around the city’s bay.

There are roughly 1,200 wet slips for permanent and transient boats in the marinas along Marathon’s 10-mile (16 km) coastline. Additionally, there are dozens of suitable locations for boats to set anchor for free in the Marathon area.

Boaters who want to hire a dock can do so at the members-only Marathon Yacht Club. If you want a bit of exclusivity, you can head to the more affluent Faro Blanco Resort on the bayside. Other choices are Marathon Marina and Skipjack Marina.

Boot Key’s protected harbor is a great jumping-off point for boaters looking to sail to the Bahamas, Cuba, or the Caribbean. In fact, many do so. They tend to remain in Marathon until the wind conditions are favorable enough to traverse the Florida Straits and Gulf Stream.

Which Is Better – Marathon or Islamorada?

Both Marathon and Islamorada are packed with the same kind of draws so it can be tricky for tourists to decide which is the better option. These gems are the best stops between Key Largo and Key West. However, when it comes to the best short stays or family vacations, Islamorada is the better option.

Islamorada easily has more accommodations, more activities, and more places to explore. Natural beauty and quirky thrills all define your Islamorada experience. Plus, if you want Marathon’s beaches, it’s simply a short drive south.


Marathon or Islamorada for Families

The Florida Keys, and perhaps all of the Sunshine State is a family-friendly destination. Marathon and Islamorada aren’t any different. However, while you’re in the Keys, they’re both often considered to be the superior options for family trips.

However, these destinations can be perfect for different kinds of families seeking a certain set of experiences. Marathon, on one hand, is perfect for families with younger and smaller children. The city is filled with many recreational and educational activities. You can visit the Dolphin Research Center and soft and gentle beaches.

Islamorada, on the other hand, is better suited for bigger kids, like adolescents and young adults. The village of Islamorada is teeming with more adventurous activities. You can try your hand at sportfishing and watersports.

Marathon vs. Islamorada for Fishing

Islamorada will take this win, any day. Known as the Sportfishing Capital of the World, Islamorada is undoubtedly the best place for fishing. Islamorada sits nearby the best fishing spots in the entire Florida Keys Reef Tract. Plus, there is an abundance of fishing charters all over. Perhaps even more than any keys.

Should I Stay in Islamorada or Marathon?

In fact, both Islamorada and Marathon sit close to each other. So whichever you choose, you can still enjoy everything they can offer. Marathon has the best beaches by Florida Keys standards, not to mention it has plenty of attractions as well.

However, when it comes to accommodations, Islamorada offers a whole slew more than Marathon. The village even boasts many of Florida Key’s best restaurants and bars.

How Far Is Islamorada From Marathon?

Islamorada is approximately 32 miles or 52 km from Marathon, directly. The driving distance, however, is around 34 miles or 55 km.

Islamorada to Marathon

With only a single highway connecting them, the 32-mile distance is easily covered by driving. You can get to Islamorada to Marathon in three common modes of transportation: by car, taxi, or bus.

Islamorada to Marathon Distance

The most common way to get between them is by driving, and the road distance is approximately 34 miles or 55 km.

Islamorada to Marathon Drive Time

Braving the Overseas Highway, getting from Islamorada to Marathon will only take around 45 minutes.

Islamorada to Marathon by Boat

There is no transportation system by water between Islamorada and Marathon. However, boat charters or tours can take you around different keys.

How Long Is the Boat From Marathon to Islamorada?

If you’re sailing via charter or tour, traveling around the different keys will typically take you an hour and a half to get to Marathon.