Camping, kiting, paddle, hike, bike and a surprisingly nice (and active!) beach
~ Curry Hammock State Park is one of those destinations in the Florida Keys that you’ll pass right by unless you know it’s there, and that’s the beauty of it.
Yet, this off-the-path state park on Little Crawl Key near Marathon has much to offer:
Camping on the beach, kayak and hiking trails, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and it’s growing fast as a hot spot for kite-boarders, those high-flying wave riders who are anything but down to earth.
The day-use area has picnic pavilions, canoe and kayak rentals, rest rooms, and access to a sandy beach, a rare find in the Florida Keys.
Camping on the beach
The park’s 28 campsites (for tents and RVs) have water, electric, picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground is far enough from the Overseas Highway that road noise is minimal or non-existent, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
Like the other three state park campgrounds in the Keys (Pennekamp, Long Key and Bahia Honda), reservations should be made well in advance, up to 11 months online at ReserveAmerica.com.
Reservations are not accepted at the ranger station, although same-day walk-ins can sometimes be accommodated.
Kite-boarding, board-sailing and paddle sports
Typical of Keys beaches, the ocean off Curry Hammock is shallow, the surf modest and the currents are weak, ideal for families with small children to play in the water.
Kayaks and canoes can be launched from the day-use area, or from the campground. The day-use area has a concession that rents kayaks: $17.20 for a single for two hours and $21.50 for a tandem. Stand up paddle boards are $21.50 for two hours.
A ranger-led kayak tour is offered Wednesday mornings (call ahead).
Go on your own and paddle out to sea and still find yourself in shallow water, or paddle the mangrove trail and visit nearby islands. A mangrove tunnel takes you through a quiet bay and under the Overseas Highway to Florida Bay.
The park is on a migration route, a featured stop along the Florida Birding Trail and a magnet for eagles, hawks and osprey. Best viewed, of course, in the backwaters from a kayak.
Boating and fishing
There are no facilities for sailboats or power boats in the park, and the nearest boat ramp is three miles west in Marathon, next to the Island Fish Company tiki bar.
Boats must anchor offshore, and campers swim or wade to shore. Ask park rangers where you can anchor. Scout your mooring before you launch, and be aware of tides.
There is a sheltered cove on the east side of the park, away from the campground, outside the park boundary, but I’ve seen boats anchor there. The cove is sheltered and accessible from the kayak launch.
Off-shore fishing is typical for the Keys — head for the reef! — or cast a fly in the shallows near shore. Just a few miles away, board the Marathon Lady for a half-day of party-boat fishing.
Biking and hiking
Ride bikes to the paved bike trail along the Overseas Highway and pedal a short distance to the Dolphin Research Center to swim with the dolphins, or ride into Marathon and explore the island’s back roads, canals and bays.
The park has a 1.5-mile nature trail that winds through a pristine hardwood hammock that takes hikers to the open waters of Florida Bay. The trailhead is on the bay side.
Guided beach walks and ranger-led nature hikes are offered Tuesday mornings. As is the case with the kayak tours, reserve your place in advance by calling the ranger station at (305) 289-2690.
Where to eat
The Island Fish Company Tiki Bar and Restaurant is the longest tiki bar in the Keys with an exceptional view of Florida Bay. Food is tiki-bar typical, and it’s good.
The Stuffed Pig in Marathon is my breakfast stop, and lunch is a treat at Burdine’s Waterfront Cafe, overlooking Boot Key Harbor — a popular haven for transient boaters.
My nephew, Nick Ziegler (kite-boarder in photo at top of page) recommends Grassy Key Outpost, just north of the park entrance, for excellent food and moderate prices. My wife and I love the Key Colony Inn for a finer, dress casual, dining experience (reservations recommended).
Of course, nothing really beats a grilling a steak or fresh mahi-mahi at your campsite.
If You Go
56200 Overseas Highway — MM 56
Marathon, FL 33050
Ranger Station: (305) 289-2690
Campground Reservations: ReserveAmerica.com, or call (800) 326-3521; TDD (888) 433-0287
Day-use admission: $5 per vehicle (2-8 people); $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Camping: $36/night plus reservation fee of $6.70 per stay.
Facilities for disabled: Picnic pavilion and rest rooms (with showers) are ADA-accessible in both the day-use and camping areas. Campsite No. 1 is ADA-accessible.
Pets: Yes, but not on the beach or in swimming areas.
An edited version of this updated article appeared in the South Florida SunSentinel and Orlando Sentinel travel sections on Sunday, December 27, 2015.
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