Flying in southern Florida, especially along the Florida Keys, is a unique experience. Leaving south from the Miami airspace, the view following U.S. 1 is breathtaking. From the air, the Keys are a wash of emerald green set against the turquoise blue water. The picturesque reefs, beautiful beaches, opulent resorts, unique homes and private islands are mesmerizing.
There are plenty of reasons to stop at Marathon, Florida and the Florida Keys Marathon Airport (KMTH). It’s strategically located approximately 75 nm southwest of the city of Miami and 40 nm east of Key West. If traveling during the first week of March, the family friendly Original Marathon Seafood Festival, begun in 1976, is a must. Naturalists can enjoy the Marathon Wild Bird Center, swim with the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center, visit the unique Marathon Turtle Hospital or learn about being green at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
If coming from the north, Duck Key is the 10 nm visual check point for the airport while the impressive Seven Mile Bridge is a good check point if coming from the south. Make the appropriate position call over the CTAF and plan on over-flying the airport to check on the cantankerous ocean breezes and the ever present jet traffic. After greasing the landing, tie-down at one of the FBOs and get ready for an only in the Keys type of experience.
Marathon General Aviation is located just off of the approach end of runway 25. This friendly, customer service oriented FBO offers all the basic services, facilities and amenities. What sets Marathon GA apart is their extremely knowledgeable staff that rivals the concierge service at any 5-star hotel. Additionally, the Marathon airport houses the Marathon Jet Center, another full service FBO, specializing in corporate airplanes and jets.
There are over two dozen restaurants in Marathon with ocean views and that friendly, laid back “island style”. If there is only time for one, take the short 2.2 mile hop east of MTH on U.S. 1 North to the Island Fish Company, Tiki Bar & Restaurant. Situated right on the water, the restaurant is a $5 cab ride from the airport. Better yet, borrow the courtesy car available at the Marathon Jet Center or take the free weekend courtesy shuttle service provided by Marathon GA.
Located at Mile Marker 54, the Island Fish Company exemplifies the everything-to-everyone mentality. They have spectacular views from the expansive outside deck. They have the longest air conditioned tiki bar in the Keys and an open and airy full-service three-meal a day restaurant. For those traveling via the water, the on-site marina allows boaters to pull up, dock, and come in and eat. And for those rotary inclined, there’s even an FAA approved heliport located at northern tip of the property.
The menu is extensive, protein heavy and divided up into more than a dozen categories. Seafood is king in the Keys. Steer clear of steaks and poultry and stick with what comes from the near by waters. Start with an offering from the Raw Bar. It’s easy to make a meal out of items such as the Key West Pink Gold Peel & Eat Shrimp (½ pound - $10.95), Gulf Oysters on the Half Shell (½ dozen - $5.70) or the sharable Seafood Tower ($49.95). This humongous, multilayered plate consists of a pound of Key West Pink Shrimp, half dozen Gulf oysters and Indian River clams on the half shell and a pound of Florida Keys Stone Crab claws. The shellfish is fresh, refreshing, briny and tastes like the ocean.
The Island’s kitchen staff has mastered the art of deep frying. The fritters, fried fish and shellfish sandwiches and the fried Island platters ($8.95-$14.95) are light and crispy without being greasy and flabby. The sauté cooks also know what they’re doing. They shine when producing rich, gooey and cheesy quesadillas ($6.95-$12.95). They’re also deft at pastas. The choices range from the very Italian flavored tomato and olive oil based Pasta Basilico ($13.95) to several pastas with various incarnations of Key West Pink shrimp ($17.95-$22.95).