My husband and I just got back from our trip to Marathon and much as our first time back in Nov 09, we had a lovely time. Be warned, I tend to waffle a bit......
We flew into Miami, and glad to say we didn't have to endure too long in the immigration queue ( I think 30 mins compared to 2 hours last time). Hired car from Dollar, the man told us to take the SunPass which I kicked myself for not knowing about but we declined on the basis they were going to charge us $39 and I was sure we could avoid the non cash toll roads. He was positively unhelpful but I think on balance we made the right choice. Sure we could have saved some time by going on other toll roads that took cash but I was so paranoid, we just got on to US1 asap and muddled our way to Marathon.
Anyway, having got there, we stayed at the Hammocks as my husband is a Bluegreen member. Nothing much has changed there but it seemed a little tackier. They have the music blaring from 9am at the pool even though the bar area doesn't open until noon and nobody is there. I get it in the evenings, but first thing?? It made it feel like a club 18-30 and frankly most folk aren't in that age range anyway, plus the music is mostly 80s. Last time around it was just subtle background music. Anyway, we were fortunate enough to have ocean/pool facing rooms and eating your brekkie in the morning and being able to hear the lyrics does somewhat ruin the peaceful setting of the place. So, untypically for us, we called reception and the music got turned down. Ah, bliss, and so we had to repeat this I don't know how many times...... Bluegreen take note, the setting is gorgeous as it is without having to have music blaring out of the sound system! They had also introduced a sunset cannon. Hmm, not for me but there you go. Other than that, the place was fine for us and loved the location.
We did very little, having seen some of the core sights last time around, so indulged and spent the first week soaking up the sun and walking the bridge. Saw a lot less sealife this time around, the sea was a lot choppier which made it less visible so that was a real shame. And lots of brownish seaweed/grass which we kept getting excited about, thinking there was a turtle bobbing about. But we did have the luck of walking past an osprey perched on the bridge, just 3 feet from us and watched the same or different osprey later on flying by with a fish. Wow! We also saw quite a few turtles, but not so many rays and no sharks this time around. We were later told turtles were laying eggs at Sombrero Beach, we were leaving then next day, but I wonder if we would have been able to go and see them lay their eggs and the turtles hatching? Is this possible does anyone know? And were we just unlucky with the sealife spotting?
We also did the bi-plane ride with Paul, on so many folk's recommendations. Having decided we would stick with the 18 minute ride, we ended up going for the 35 minute one and boy was it beautiful. It cost us a small fortune for us but what a view! Paul was a great guy and I wish our camera photos could do it some justice. it was such a smooth ride too, great fun!
We went snorkelling with Spirit Snorkelling again, just so convenient to the resort, and had a lovely time. The best bit was at the end when a huge shoal of little fish were pushed up to the surface by some much bigger yellow fish so they were all flapping about on the surface. Next thing we knew, a flock of tern had descended and were trying to get in to feed too. This went on for 5 minutes or more, a real sight to see. Felt like I was in a David Attenborough programme.
What else? We had one cloudy day so headed to see the little deer, went by the Blue Hole so stopped by there. Last time was disappointing, this time we were rewarded by seeing a blue heron on a nest near the stand with 2 little chicks squawking for food and 2 little green eggs. That was fantastic too.
Eating wise, we were in luck and got there 2 days before the stone crab season ended so we indulged in them at the Keys FIsheries bar. We had brekkie twice at the Stuffed Pig, yum! Ate at the Sunset Grill, it was okay, food tasted quite nice but presentation wise was awful, it reminded me of my food being slopped on a plate when I was at school! Sparky's - had burger there for lunch one day, excellent. Treated ourselves to a steak there later in the week and not so nice, very gristley which was a shame but I do love the setting there. Otherwise we ate in a lot, last time around we had a lot of cooked prawns from publix but this time they were not so good and same with the steak. Oh well, live and learn, we didn't come for the food but the weather and the wildlife and we were certainly spoilt there.
Other than that, we hired bicycles from Overseas Outfitters and cycled the bridge a few times ( husband got a huge splinter in foot - trip to Fishermen's Hospital later but too dull to go into - and so couldn't walk without pain so this was handy for doing the bridge) and also along to KCB. Never did our intended trip to Bahia Honda beach but will be something to look forward to next time. But for me the achievement was that I got myself out of bed and ran the bridge most mornings ( for run, read shuffled) so determined was I not to slob for whole holiday. It really is the most fantastic route, although hard to stop from tripping while trying to spot what is bobbing about in the sea below. Glad not too many folk out at 7am though, I looked a right state when I got back. There was me thinking it would be much cooler in the mornings but it certainly didn't feel that way 1 mile in. And the end result apart from a sore knee? Only 1kg heavier by the end of the holiday, yeah!
So all in all, another fab trip to Marathon and one I think we will do again soon. We had 2 nights in Miami at the end and have to say it did little for me. Walking around South Beach was interesting, but give me the old 7 mile bridge any day. We were both very sad to leave.
A few questions for any future trips though - when is the best time to come to see manatees? Was it normal for the water visibility to be as it was, and was it that the rays etc weren't there or they were and we just couldn't see them? When is the best time to come weather wise? I loved the fact that it was light until 8, but boy was it hot! Is April or October just as good a time to come?
Thanks to everyone who helped me with questions over the last few months, I'm hugely jealous of what you have on your doorstep. Tomorrow I get to go for a run in traffic, oh well......I will be dreaming of what I might have seen from the bridge!