Our day’s drive takes us to the center of the Florida Keys island chain — Marathon. Often called “the heart of the Florida Keys,” its boundaries reach from the west end of the 7 Mile Bridge to about Layton. Often bypassed by those in a rush to get to Miami or Key West, there’s plenty of hidden gems.
Do: Glass blowing class
To our knowledge, there’s no other place to learn the fine and delicate art of glass blowing except for The Art Studio in Marathon. Except that it’s not all that delicate — it’s actually kind of manly — what with the high heat and welding glasses and Pyrex-like ingredients. Classes start at about $15 and go up to $100 or more. The “borosilicate lampworking” class teaches the art of alchemy, shaping and blowing. Make a pendant or marble or ornament. Reservations are required for lampworking, but not the glass fusion studio on the first floor. The Art Studio is located at 12535 Overseas Hwy., open Monday to Saturday.
Eat: Key Lime Pie
Without getting into a never-ending argument about who has the best Key Lime pie in the Keys, we’ll just say that Burdines Waterfront Bar & Grill’s is dang fine. It’s very creamy, and fluffy with just the right blend of subtle sweet and tart. The eatery is located at the end of 15th Street, Oceanside, and it’s a real, rustic gem. (It’s earned 4.5 stars on more than 2,00 reviews, rated The other favorites on the menu are the green chile cheeseburgers, the fries with special seasoning, and the light breezes overlooking Boot Key Harbor. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and a couple of weeks in September.
Buy: Summer Decor
Summer’s here and that can only mean one thing — hordes of visiting family and friends are set to descend upon the fulltime residents of the Keys for a summer vacation, mini lobster season, or a back-to-school getaway. Now is the time to update the linens — definitely in the master suite, but maybe the guest room too. Company C sheets is the premier design studio and leading manufacturer of exceptional home furnishings, backed by more than 1,400 dealers and designers nationwide, including Casa Casa Interiors in Marathon. The shop stocks other updates as well ranging from accessories to small pieces of furniture to wallpaper. Casa Casa is located at 5190 Overseas Highway. It’s open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. most days.
Nearby: Sombrero Key Light.
It’s not enough to just stay on land when visiting the Middle Keys. Find a charter or a friend to take you to the light, constructed in 1858. It’s 142 feet tall. To put that in perspective, it was two years before the Eiffel Tower would begin construction, and the same year the six-shooter revolver was patented.