Welcome to family-friendly Marathon Keys which is noted for its old Keys lifestyle and seafaring heritage. Marathon is known for its eco-attractions, which include The Turtle Hospital that rescues, rehabs and releases turtles back into Florida waters and The Dolphin Research Center that houses bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions for research and education.
Marathon, on Vaca Key, is the most developed city between Key West and Key Largo and is the gateway to the Seven Mile Bridge on the Overseas Highway. Marathon is also a boating center with a number of standout marinas. Residents, snowbirds and visitors especially enjoy Marathon for its world class fishing, waterfront restaurants and seafood festivals.
Since it opened in the 1950s, the Faro Blanco Lighthouse has been an iconic landmark for boaters traveling to Marathon in the Florida Keys. In January 2015, the site was relaunched as Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, complete with a state-of-the-art marina, onsite Hyatt Place hotel, exceptional restaurant, and many other amenities for the visiting boater. When you build a new marina from scratch, it's just new, says Alain Giudice, the General Manager. Faro Blanco is different because it already had a history and a personality that we are thrilled to carry on.
The Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club offers 74-slips at its two marina basins, east and west. The west basin has slips for vessels from 50 to 120 feet, while the east basin accommodates vessels from 35 to 60 feet. The marina also features pump-out from the dock, Valvtect fuel, shower and restroom facilities, a private captains lounge, 24-hour security, concierge services, WiFi, a fitness center and a marina swimming pool.
Marina guests have access to Wakezone Watersports, which is stocked with jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards and boat rentals. Fishing charters can easily be arranged for inshore, offshore, reef and wreck, backcountry and tarpon fishing excursions. The ships store even carries games like Jenga, cornhole and croquet. And if you happen to be staying on the last Wednesday of a month, don't miss the marina's Yappy Hour, a monthly fundraising event that benefits Safe Harbor Animal Rescue of the Keys (SHARK).
Lighthouse Grill, the onsite restaurant, serves a delicious array of seafood dishes for both lunch and dinner. Dine indoors or outside, where the Veranda Bar has picturesque views over the gulf. And if you don't feel like leaving your boat, the resort offers a dockside service of 'docktails.'
While in Marathon, don't forget to swing by Keys Fisheries to sample their famous Lobster Reuben. Other adventures include renting a bicycle to cycle to Pigeon Key, and visiting the Dolphin Research Center or the Turtle Hospital. Another fun place to visit is the just-opened, interactive Aquarium Encounters facility, which puts you up close and personal with local marine life.
Within the next two years, Faro Blanco plans to add a second marina on the ocean side of the property, adding 90 deep-water slips. And any day now, the facility is scheduled to get its official Green Marina designation. Clearly this is the place to tie up to get the most out of the beautiful Florida Keys.
Marinalife Member Discounts:
10% Off dockage$0.10 Off per gallon of fuel.
Our journey started as we pulled out of Waterford Harbor Marina in Kemah, Texas, in May aboard our sailing vessel Fidelity, a 42-foot Valiant. My husband, Kevin, Windy, our Boston terrier, and I were excited to cross the Gulf of Mexico and explore the many towns that dot the shores of Florida with hopes of finding our future homeport. Oh, the places you'll go with a 6-foot draft and 60-foot mast!
After crossing the Gulf of Mexico, our landfall was Clearwater Harbor Marina, which provides easy entry from the Gulf and plenty of deep water for a 6-foot draft (as long as you stay in the channel). The marina's floating docks are key, especially when the swift current catches. The facility is conveniently located near Cleveland Street, Clearwater's entertainment district. It's an easy trek to the beach by water taxi or a stroll over the bridge. Frenchy's Original Café is a must-do for the famous Florida grouper sandwich.
After a lovely day cruising about 40 miles offshore, we made our way to the Harborage Marina at Bayboro in St. Petersburg. We arrived after closing and were greeted by Leon, the night guard, who provided us with the ever important "keys to the gate." Windy thoroughly enjoyed her time at the marina, given the surplus of dog treats provided by the staff, which made it one of the most pet-friendly marinas we visited. It's number one on our list of possible homeports after our adventures on Fidelity wind down.
Just a short walk from Harborage is historic downtown St. Petersburg. Among other don't-miss spots, The Chattaway has great burgers and cold beers. No car is needed -- unless you want to make the trip to Mazzaro's, the best Italian market ever. Nearby, Island Nautical does great service work and repairs. We installed new dingy davits from MarTek and bought a new dinghy to hang off them.
After our stay in St. Pete, it was time to get Fidelity a little farther south. We made a quick stop at Longboat Key then continued on to the Venice Inlet to Crow's Nest Marina and finally arriving at Boca Grande Marina on Gasparilla Island. The approach into Charlotte Harbor was easy, the narrow channel and turn into the marina well marked, and the marina staff talked us into the harbor to avoid the shallows. The marina's docks were pristine, and the on-site restaurant, Miller's Dockside Bar & Grill, was the perfect place to settle into upon arrival.
Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation in these parts Windy loved riding around and eating at the Loose Caboose, where she ordered from the doggie menu. The landscape's many banyan trees are remarkable, and the pastel-colored "old Florida"-style homes are atmospheric and beautiful. It was a great spot to slow down and enjoy the quieter side of things.
Before we got too settled in this lovely place, we decided to move on. We awoke to a thick layer of fog that lifted by mid-morning, when we were already well underway to our next stop, Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina in Fort Myers Beach. On approach, the busy port was full of commercial and recreational boats but provided a good depth for Fidelity and was extremely easy to navigate.
Dave, the marina's harbormaster, was incredibly hospitable, but unfortunately we were forced to leave early due to an approaching storm front. We set sail for Marco Island Marina, which would be our home for the next couple of months. As we approached Capri Pass, we were thrilled by the sight of boats sailing in the waters of Marco Island.
Marco Island is a great port with easy access to Gulf sailing, deep water and plenty of dining and entertainment options. The channel into the marina is well marked and the fairways are wide enough for an easy docking experience. Some of our favorite spots for a bite to eat during our time there were the Island Gypsy Cafe´ (a dinghy ride away from the marina), the Italian Deli (excellent New York-style pizza) and the Esplanade.
After several months on Marco Island, Fidelity was ready to head to Key West. By now, Chris Parker, the weather guy, had become Fidelity's most important satellite crew member. There was a small window between storm fronts so we took it and sailed to Stock Island Marina Village in Key West. We had a fun stay, and the marina shuttle was more than sufficient for exploring downtown Key West.
Marathon Marina and RV Resort was our next stop. The marina has new, concrete floating docks, and the on-site Lazy Days South was the perfect spot for happy hour and dinner.
Then it was on to Miami. We cruised past Key Biscayne and downtown Miami to Miami Beach Marina. Giovanni, the dockhand, was a pro with the lines, which came in handy because a strong current surges through the marina but the prime location makes the effort worth it. We enjoyed South Beach's Art Deco architecture, not to mention the bars, restaurants and beach, and then decided it was time for our next destination, Fort Lauderdale.
Bucking the current through Government Cut, Fidelity had her first sail in the Atlantic. Our timing was near perfect with the 17th Street Bridge opening, and a quick turn put us into the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Marina. The on-site restaurants, Grille 66 and Pelican Landing, were both great dinner spots. A little bit farther aheld, Louie Bossi's Ristorante Bar Pizzeria, 15th Street Fisheries, and South Port Raw Bar rounded out our top picks for food, atmosphere and price in Fort Lauderdale.
Soon enough, it was time to get underway to Jacksonville and up the coast before hurricane season. A few quick stops we made during this leg of the trip deserve mention. Lake Park Harbor Marina, just north of Riviera Beach, is a great stopover, with floating docks and a low-key atmosphere. Fort Pierce City Marina in Fort Pierce is another wonderful destination the floating docks were in excellent condition and the staff knowledgeable. At Cocoa Village Marina in Cocoa Beach, the dockmaster and crew greeted us personally and made us feel right at home. And Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast was a true luxury with swimming pools, restaurants, and doggie treats for Windy.
After the 20-plus-nautical-mile, winding ride past Matanzas Pass, we pulled into the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, and the masterful docking crew handled everything like a finely tuned machine. St. Augustine was a particularly lovely stop and is number two on our list of top ports of call, offering everything from history to dining to shopping. Windy loved her morning walk through the historic part of town, and almost every restaurant we visited welcomed her with a bowl of ice water.
But hurricane season was approaching. It was time to move Fidelity to her summer home. We sailed offshore and then motored up the St. Johns River to Jacksonville's Marina at Ortega Landing. And then we immediately began to look at locations where we might put her in the winter, and to make plans to explore the East Coast in the spring. With so many great ports to chose from, we have some homework to do.
Stretching from Key Largo to Key West the Florida Keys span nearly 120 miles along U.S. Highway 1. Also known as the Overseas Highway and one of the most scenic waterfront roadways in the United States, it winds its way through the keys, where often the only land mass separating the cobalt blue water of the Atlantic Ocean from the sand and grassy flats of Florida Bay is this famed narrow highway. For the traveling angler the Florida Keys offer world-class fishing, and winter is a great time to visit the keys. Though weather plays a critical role in what's biting where and when, when one door closes on a particular species because of weather, another often opens wide.
On the offshore scene cold fronts, and the northerly breeze accompany them, will send beach fanatics shopping, though anglers looking to tangle with sailfish welcome these cold fronts with open arms. While your clothes will more likely be fitting for a fall football game than a day on the water in Florida, the excitement of battling a tail-walking sailfish will warm you quickly. Typically, from the edge of the reef and beyond, schools of showering bait signal sailfish below, and pitching or slow-trolling live bait is the preferred technique.
Don't overlook the inshore water though, as we've caught sailfish in water depths as shallow as 25 feet. In between sailfish bites look for dolphin (mahi mahi), wahoo, kingfish, blackfin tuna, bonito and Spanish mackerel to provide action. Thanks to an elimination of commercial long-lining along their breeding grounds, swordfish have made a strong comeback, and the keys offer an excellent shot year-round at catching one. However, you'll need to bring your A game and a strong back, as these denizens are found in depths approaching 1,000 feet or more. The best advice here is to leave this to the pros, and charter an experienced captain to put you on the catch of a lifetime, as tackle, bait rigging and locating these gladiators of the deep takes expertise.
Bonefish, tarpon and permit are the Big Three among flats fisherman, and while each can be found year-round in the keys, unless the winter is mild, you'll be hard pressed to locate them, as cool temperatures send them searching for warm water. A better choice is to head into Florida Bay for a chance to tangle with redfish. When conditions are right, snook are also possible, though they are indeed harder to find in the winter.
Barracuda and sharks can save a slow day; as these hard-fighting species are abundant and can provide a thrill when kids are aboard as they check out the teeth and unique colors of each. A variety of birdlife and the chance sighting of an alligator makes a trip to the backcountry special.Near-shore wrecks offer a shot at amberjack, and one of the best spots to tangle with these muscle-aching brutes is The Hump off Islamorada, where AJs in excess of 75 pounds are not uncommon.
Along the lumps and wrecks you'll also find cobia, king mackerel and blackfin tuna while early winter trips yield catches of assorted species of grouper and snapper. Inshore reefs offer an excellent shot at tasty yellowtail and mangrove snappers and provide excellent sport on light spinning tackle while chumming, as schools of hundreds of fish can often be seen right behind the boat, where these fish can literally be hand fed.
Don't let the cold of winter put a damper on your fishing plans. Like warmth from a cozy fireplace, the FloridaKeys offer a red-hot opportunity to enjoy exceptional fishing, beautiful scenery, excellent restaurants and top-notch marinas which are sure to make your stay a memorable one.
Sunny by day, glittering by night, Florida is irresistible. The 1,350-mile coastline is the longest of any state in the mainland United States, and its unique heritage has had countless influences, with Native American, European, Latino, and African-American cultures among them. From the graceful charm of Fernandina Beach to the casual sassiness of Key West, Florida offers miles of diversity and many facilities for large yachts. In 2016, the regional marine impact for Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties was $11.5 billion. There are more than 8,000 vessels in the world that are 80-plus feet, and 40 percent of them call Florida's East Coast their homeport.
This quaint Victorian village is located on enchanting Amelia Island, which over the years has been inhabited by pirates, bootleggers, shrimpers and Gilded Age millionaires. As power continually changed hands, Amelia Island wound up flying the flags of eight different nations, giving today's Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival (May 5-7) its name.
Notable among the 50 blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and galleries are Books Plus, a used and new shop rich in Amelia Island stories, and Trailer Park Collectibles, which houses primitive antiques and secondhand treasures. Grab a bite at Mustard Seed Cafe & Juice Bar, or dine on French cuisine by candlelight at Le Clos, nestled in a 1906 cottage. Ever-lively Alley Cat Seafood is a beer house, wine boutique and piano bar.
Fernandina Harbor Marina, in the heart of downtown, has a 25-foot dock depth and accommodates vessels up to 250 feet.
Cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards and alluring cafes help define this historic district of Saint Augustine -- the oldest continuously occupied town in the U.S.
Jump aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours to explore the major attractions, including a highly rated wildlife reserve. Shoppers head for the markets, both farmers and flea. The Starving Artist consignment boutique is a great place to discover the work of local artists. Foodies can choose from more than 400 eateries, including Crave Food Truck, popular for its healthy, creative offerings, and then head to Stogies Jazz Club for a night cap, some live music and, if the mood strikes, a cigar. As if all this activity weren't enough, the 43 miles of fine, golden sand beaches offer endless shelling, sunning, surfing and swimming.
Dockage is available at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor on the ICW, which has a 7-foot dock depth and accommodates vessels up to 130 feet.
A 47-mile stretch of beach along the coast from Jupiter to Boca Raton encompasses a number of towns called the Palm Beaches. The area, especially Palm Beach, was frequented by foreign aristocracy, prominent socialites and legendary tycoons.
Still a playground for the affluent, the area offers land and water sports for kids of all ages, with one of the largest polo clubs in the world, coral reef and wreck diving on the world's third-largest barrier reef and fabulous shopping. Then there's all the excellent food. For a taste of Old Palm Beach, the chic Ta-boo lends itself to afternoon cocktails and family dinners. Also try Buccan, a high-end bistro located near the famous Breakers Hotel.
Large yachts have three extraordinary marina choices: The Club at Admirals Cove Marina in Jupiter accommodates boats to 130 feet, has an 11-foot dock depth and is considered a natural weather refuge; the resort-style Safe Harbor Old Port Cove, in the heart of North Palm, has a full-service restaurant and dockage for yachts to 200 feet, with a 15-foot dock depth; Palm Harbor Marina, four miles south of Lake Worth Inlet, accepts yachts to 250 feet and has an 11-foot dock depth.
The site of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, this beautiful city has matured from a destination for spring-breakers to a major manufacturing, maintenance and recreation center for yachts. Its hundreds of top restaurants, sophisticated streets such as Las Olas Boulevard, and 165-miles of local waterways and canals have earned it the nickname the Venice of America. The Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk promenade is thought by many to be the most beautiful mile in the state. Auto enthusiasts shouldn't miss the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, which has a Packard from every year they were manufactured.
There are countless options for great food, including Bao Bar & Asian Kitchen and S3 (Sun-Surf-Sand), which has a chic patio overlooking the beach.
The Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center offers 250 slips for vessels up to 300 feet and a 17-foot dock depth; Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina has slips for vessels up to 350 feet and a 14-foot dock depth; Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Marina accommodates vessels up to 460 feet and has a 14-foot dock depth; Marina Bay Marina Resort accommodates vessels up to 130 feet and has a 10-foot dock depth.
A collection of urban districts, charming beach villages, and unique ethnic neighborhoods, Miami Beach has an international flavor all its own.
The Design District sports more than 130 art galleries, antique dealers, high-end restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops. The stand-out Wolfsonian-FIU Museum displays 180,000 objects from the 1850s to the 1950s. The area is showcased during Art Deco weekend in January.
Often called the American Riviera, South Beach's Deco fantasyland is one of the most photographed and filmed areas in the country. Along with the stunning architecture, glamorous nightlife and shopping promenades like Lincoln Road, there actually is a spectacular beach. Nearby Collins Avenue is home to the Miami Salsa Congress, a five-day music and dance event held in July.
No one will go hungry in Miami Beach. Among the myriad amazing options are Taquiza, serving handmade torillas; Lure Fishbar, with oysters and butter-poached lobster; Otentic Fresh Food, for French fare in an intimate setting; and Sunset Harbour's gastropub, Pubbelly.
Three dockage options: Miami Beach Marina has 400 slips for vessels up to 250 feet with a 12-foot dock depth; Sunset Harbour Yacht Club on Biscayne Bay can accommodate vessels up to 210 feet and has an 8-foot dock depth; Island Gardens Deep Harbour, a new marina can accommodate yachts up to 500 feet with an 18- foot dock depth.
Just an hour south of Miami Beach lies Key Largo, the key made famous by Humphrey Bogart. Although most scenes were shot in a Hollywood studio, the background was filmed on location. Key Largo is home to John Pennecamp State Park, which has great diving opportunities. To the west is Everglades National Park and to the east is the only living coral barrier reef in the mainland U.S.
Ocean Reef Club located in Key Largo, is a sophisticated private facility dedicated to boating, birding and golfing. The member-only marina has 175 slips and can accommodate vessels up to 175 feet and up to a 9-foot dock depth.
Family-friendly Marathon Key is noted for its old Keys lifestyle and seafaring heritage, and it has many eco-attractions and education centers. The Turtle Hospital rescues, rehabs and releases turtles back into Florida waters. The Dolphin Research Center houses bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions for research and education. Seafood is obviously very fresh in Marathon. Don't miss the Keys Fisheries for their famous Lobster Reuben and the Butterfly Café at the Tranquility Resort for seafood with a Caribbean flair.
In Marathon there are two dockage options: Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club accommodates vessel up to 130 feet and has a 10-foot dock depth, and Marathon Marina, Boatyard & RV Resort can accommodate vessels up to 130 feet with an 10-foot dock depth.
Last stop is Key West - the footloose exuberance and spirited irreverence that characterize the Keys is amplified in the quirky collection of pastel conch houses and festive atmosphere that define Key West. The blended cultural heritage was inspired by Bahamian wreckers, commercial fishermen, spongers and Cuban cigar makers.
A variety of folks find their own particular paradise here. Begin the day savoring a cafe Cubano or cafe con leche, before visiting the Ernest Hemingway House, the Truman Little White House and the Butterfly Conservatory, or just bicycle around.
Seafood and Latin-inspired cuisine abound at Santiago's Bodega, Garbo's Grill, and El Siboney. After dinner, indulge at the dark and mysterious Better Than Sex for dessert and wine served in a chocolate- dipped glass. From midday until late at night, live music drifts out of the myriad saloons and breezy waterfront bars on Duval Street.
In Key West, Conch Harbor Marina located in the historic bight area, accepts vessels up to 185 feet with a 10-foot dock depth, plus there's a West Marine store on-site. Key West Bight handles boats up to 200-feet with a 12-foot dock depth. The largest deep-water in the keys, Stock Island Marina Village accommodates vessels up to 300 feet and has a 17-foot dock depth and high-speed fuel.