Part native, part cultivated, Crane Point Hammock is 63 acres of tropical hardwood hammock in the heart of Marathon. Purchased by Francis and Mary Crane in 1949, they added flowering tropical plants and orchids to the hammock. Preserved from development in 1989 by the Florida Keys Land Trust, it is the largest tropical hammock in the Middle Keys.
Fees: $14.95 adults, $12.95 seniors and military, $9.95 ages 5-13
Open: Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 12-5
Ironically, this was the first site to be developed in the Keys. At the time, Marathon was known as Vaca Key, and Bahamian immigrants started a subsistence farming village here in the 1830s. Hidden deep in the tropical hammock is the oldest remaining building on the island. On the National Register of Historic Places, the home was built of tabby in Bahamian style and completed in 1906. George Adderly’s home became the focal point of a small African-American settlement called Adderly Town, which persisted on Vaca Key through the completion of the Overseas Railroad in the 1930s.
There are two museums at Crane Point Hammock. In the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys, walk through a replica reef, see a 600-year-old dugout canoe, and learn the gamut of Keys history, from its indigenous peoples through wreckers and “Flagler’s Folly.” In the Children’s Museum, the kids will love the engaging outdoor exhibits that put them on the deck of a pirate ship or in a Native American village or railroad station, with touch tanks and an iguana house, too. But the beauty of this park is how it immerses you in the outdoors.
Numerous interpretive trails wind through dense tropical hammock. The Palm Trail showcases a Florida thatch palm hammock with solution holes and unusual plants like the autograph tree, also known as pitch-apple, and joewood, an endemic slow-growing plant.
The Mangrove Trail leads you into a tunnel of mangroves along a boardwalk. Cultivated queen palms grow near the butterfly meadow, and tropical hammock surrounds you en route to the history Adderly House.
You can explore the park by tram or walk the forest roads out to the Sunset Boardwalk along Florida Bay, where you’ll find the Marathon Wild Bird Center, a wildlife rescue and rehab center.