The Marathon Seafood Festival calls itself the Original Marathon Seafood Festival to emphasize it’s the real deal – indigenous and authentic.
Our Florida Seafood Festival calendar lists more than 70 seafood festivals; the Keys have at least two others.
But the Marathon Seafood Festival is the oldest seafood festival in the Keys. It was founded in 1976 by commercial fishermen, and it’s the fishermen who catch and cook all of the seafood.
Their wives bake the Key Lime pies and desserts, according to event coordinator Leah Luckin.
The event, now the second most popular festival in the Keys after Key West Fantasy Fest, has grown to include live music, a fine art show, boat show, rides and games and booths selling products ranging seagrass hats to sculptures made from old lobster traps.
More than 200 vendors are expected.
Seafood, fresh off the boat, however, is the real reason to attend the two-day festival.
Traffic Note: Festival weekends in the Keys can be a test of patience. There is only one highway through the Keys, and traffic jams are common even on “quiet” weekends. One recent weekend, we spent several hours crawling past a nautical flea market in Plantation Key.
The most popular item is a Florida lobster dinner. At the festival, more than 2,000 pounds of local spiny lobster is served. And it may be your last chance at the tasty crustaceans… lobster season ends on March 31.
The lines are also long for stone crab, shrimp, fish, conch fritters and chowder. The Keys are also prime harvest grounds for the stone crab, also nearing the end of its season in May.
More than 50 gallons of conch chowder will be served cup by cup that weekend, according to event statistics from past years. Conch is illegal to harvest in Florida, so it is imported from the Bahamas and other areas of the Caribbean.
The festival will serve kegs and kegs of beer and many gallons of wine along with all the sides including hush puppies, cole slaw and French fries, and, of course, Key Lime pie.
Entertainment (schedule for 2022)
Live music from a variety of genres is featured throughout the festival.
11 a.m. — John Bartus & Adrienne Z — Acoustic classic rock
1 p.m. — Rolando Rojas & Caribe — Hispanic music, salsa, merengue
3 p.m. — I-Land Vibe, Caribbean dance band
5 p.m. — Igor & The Red Elvises, Rock humor
7 p.m. until Closing — The Rock Show! — Rock tributes to the 60s, 70s and 80s.
11 a.m. — Brian Roberts, Island music & trop rock
1 p.m. — The Lady “A” Blues Band, blues
3 p.m. until Close — The Southern Blood Band, Southern rock
Official web site: Marathon Seafood Festival.
Marathon Seafood Festival: Just the facts
Admission: $5, children under 12 free. No pets.
Directions: Head south on the Overseas Highway to Mile Marker 49, the Marathon Community Park, 200 36th St., which is the ocean side of the road. There is some free parking around town, but your best bet may be schools and churches that charge for parking as a fund-raiser. Many offer shuttles.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. It gets crowded. The earlier you get there the better, say the event organizers.
Your complete guide to the Florida Keys: Overseas Highway Mile Marker Guide
Where to stay
The Marathon Seafood Festival occurs in peak season, so rooms will go for their highest rates of the year.
The most reasonably priced accommodations will be in 1950s-era mom-and-pop motels, which dot the Keys. While not luxurious, many retain a lot of Keys character.
Vacation home rentals in Marathon have become extremely popular — and more available — in recent years.
Book a hotel room at hotels.com
Book a vacation home at VRBO.com
Book a vacation home at VACASA
Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor is popular with boaters mooring for the night while transiting the Keys.
RV camping in the Keys is more expensive than ever during winter and spring months. A spot check of rates at both small and large RV parks showed RVers will pay stiff rates for a basic site. It’s much cheaper in state parks, but those sites have been booked solid for a year.
Private RV Parks
These are peak season rates and do NOT include boat dockage fees and 12.5% sales and tourism taxes.
Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge, 33000 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key. 114 sites. Hookups: $140 and up.
Coconut Cay RV Park and Marina, 7200 Aviation Blvd., Marathon. (Behind the airport) Phone: 305-289-1870. Rates: $176 and up per night.
Fiesta Key RV Resort and Marina, 70001 Overseas Hwy, Layton. 300 sites. Rates: $200+ per night.
Jolly Roger RV Resort, 59275 Overseas Highway, Marathon. Phone: 305-289-0404. 130 sites. Rates: $104+ per night.
Sun Outdoors RV Resort (formerly Pelican RV Resort), 59151 Overseas Highway, Marathon. Phone: 305-289-0011. 95 sites. Rates: $180+ per night.
State Parks with Camping
- Curry Hammock State Park: New campground, nice kayak trail, good beach.
- Bahia Honda State Park: Good beaches & a great bridge
Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation
- Florida Keys wildlife: Places to see animals
- Tiki bars: Soak up the Keys atmosphere
- 12 great kayak outings in the Keys
- Top 10 pit stops on Overseas Highway
- Free beaches in the Florida Keys
Special places near Marathon Seafood Festival
- The Old Seven Mile Bridge and Pigeon Key
- Indian Key: Kayak into history
- Feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina
- Sea Turtle Hospital in Marathon
Read More: 2022-23 Florida Seafood Festival Calendar
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning a trip, especially to areas hard hit by hurricanes.
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Veteran journalists who worked together at Fort Lauderdale’s SunSentinel newspaper, Bonnie and Bob founded FloridaRambler.com in 2010 to explore the natural, authentic Florida, writing about their natural interests in hiking, biking, paddling, RV and tent camping, wildlife, unique lodging, dining and historic places.