Florida Day Five: Off To Marathon And A Visit To Long Key State Park

Florida Day Five: Off To Marathon And A Visit To Long Key State Park

Florida Day Five Drive to Marathon Lng Key State park (41 of 42)
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After leaving my  lodging in Key Largo on my recent visit to South Florida,  I headed south on the Overseas Highway to my next destination,  Marathon .  There are between 800 to 1200 Florida keys, depending on your definition of “key”   (the word key comes from the Spanish word ” cayo” which means small island, but only  43 are inhabited.  Marathon  is a city located on 13 of these keys  It is about half way to Key West.   There are  a couple of State Parks nearby. I  planned to visit the parks and  observe some migrating birds. 

I first made a stop on Islamorada Key. I met up with some friends at the Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar famous for it’s mermaid sign. It is a nice place with great views of the Florida Bay. After some nice conversation about “coal country”  and a game of  Old Maids I enjoyed a scenic drive  on the Overseas Highway to my next stop Long Key State Park . 

The entrance to Long Key State Park is located at mm 67.5. It  was once a  luxury fishing resort along the Flagler railroad but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.  The 965 acre park provides  camping, hiking and kayaking opportunities. I visited the park for the first time when I was in South Florida in January. It was sunny and hot when I arrived in mid afternoon.  I first headed to the beach  on the boardwalk, 

that crossed a mangrove swamp.

Here I saw a tri-colored heron , 

braving the heat and feeding on small fish in some of the pools of water below the boardwalk. After crossing the mangrove swamp the  boardwalk took me to the small camping area near the beach on the Atlantic , There were not as many campers here as on my visit in January but there were still a few folks braving the heat and humidity . A larger campground was destroyed by Hurricane Ian last year. 

I  stopped and  took in  views of  the ocean, 

and this great egret flying over the deep blue waters. 

I next started my hike on the  Golden Orb trail, named after the golden orb spiders that were  one common here. I understand not many  have not been seen since a hurricane in 2017. 

The trail continued near the shore where I saw some golden chain tree and

sea oxeye flowers and 

this common native Julia butterfly. 

The trail left the shore area and proceed through some mangrove groves where I saw my first, and only migratory bird  on my hike, a black and white warbler. 

The trail then passed through a hardwood hammock with some of my favorite gumbo-limbo trees  and a few of my not so favorite poison wood trees. 

Here I saw a couple of critters  that didn’t mind the heat, a brown anole lizard, and ,

a northern curly tailed lizard. 


The Golden Orb Trail ended at the parking lot where I saw a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers.  I saw one here on my hike in January too. 

One was drinking from a bowl of water I am guessing provided by the park rangers 

The trail was only around two mile so I decided to hike back to the beach, where, in addition to the scenic views.I saw some shore birds including this little egret

and little blue heron.

Flying above the waves were a few royal terns,

and a harrier hawk. 

There was also a flock of brown pelicans ,

diving for fish a short distance off shore.

It was hot and I decided to end my three mile hike and drive to the Fairfield Inn  in Marathon where I was staying for the night. It was late afternoon when I arrived and after settling in to my room I crossed the busy Overseas Highway for dinner  at The Island Fish Company. I had another South Florida meal starting with a bowl of conch chowder, 

and then a fried shrimp po boy sandwich.  Once again I was frustrated on my mission to find migrating birds but it was another great day exploring. I love South Florida and the Keys. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos  from my drive to Marathon  and my visit to Long Key State Park. Florida Day Five. Marathon  April 1 2023 

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.” – Emma Chase

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