The Marathon Seafood Festival calls itself the Original Marathon Seafood Festival to emphasize it’s the real deal – indigenous and authentic.
The oldest seafood festival in the Keys, the Marathon event 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 annually raises $75,000 that goes back into the community in charitable donations and scholarships for local Middle Keys students.
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. 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 Keys are also prime harvest grounds for the stone crab, which you’ll find in ample supply at the festival.
Wine and beer, including local craft beers, will be served, as well as soft drinks, along with the usual seafood fest sides hush puppies, cole slaw and French fries, and, of course, Key Lime pie.
Entertainment 2023 (2024 info will be updated when available)
John Bartus & Adrienne Z
Saturday 11 a.m.
Led by singer/songwriters John Bartus and Adrienne Z, Jade Storm brings quite a variety of classic rock as well as John and Adrienne’s original songs from their CDs. Expect anything from quiet acoustic numbers to all-out rockers!
visit their website
The Lady “A” Blues Band
Saturday 1 p.m.
Lady A with her earthy blues vocal style and harmonica playing been heard all over Florida in the 80’s 90’s. She has now has returned to her beloved Florida Keys.
Saturday 3 p.m.
There are many bands in S Florida that claim to be Reggae bands, because of the popularity of the Jamaican music form, but the members of I-Land Vibe prefers to think of the group as a Caribbean band since reggae is not the only music from in the islands.
The Marshall Morlock Band
Saturday 5 p.m.
One of Key West’s talented young performers, Marshall Morlock, performs with his three-piece band playing many past music hits and favorites. They will get you dancing!
Igor & The Red Elvises
Saturday 7 p.m. to close.
Evolving over the years, Igor’s music has been labeled “Siberian Surf Rock” which contains humorous lyrics and grooves that forces his audience to dance.
Sunday 11 a.m.
Brian performs over 300 gigs each year from Key West to Key Largo. Brian continues to write original songs, such as Semi-Tropical Reasons, Barefoot Balladeer, and All Of This Way, his music embodies a unique island-rock genre.
Rolando Rojas & Caribe
Sunday 1 p.m.
Get your salsa, merengue and hot movin’ music here! Rolando Rojas of Caribe is a local legend within the hispanic music industry.
AJ & Southern Stampede
Sunday 3 p.m. to close
Homestead’s young AJ Gaytan & Southern Stampede, a Texas Blues and soulful band, features originals plus covers.
Official web site: Marathon Seafood Festival.
Marathon Seafood Festival: Just the facts
Admission: $5 donation, 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. If you get to the Seven Miles Bridge, then you’ve missed it.
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. One site specifically listed by the festival is Stanley Switlik Elementary School, 3400 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050; bayside.
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
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The information in this article was accurate when published, but changes may occur.
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.