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CRANE POINT: The Secret in Marathon's Heart

Crane Point touch tank
Children enjoy the sea life at the Crane Point touch tank.

Tucked away amid the heart of the Marathon shopping district lies a 63-acre tropical oasis of hardwood trees, nature trails and educational displays for adults and children.

This is Crane Point, a slightly elevated patch of land called a hammock where a Bahamian immigrant and his family set up homestead in the early 20th century. Today, the entire area is owned and managed by the Florida Keys Land and Sea Trust, a private organization working to protect the Keys.

Immigrant George Adderley and his family lived a simple life among exotic tropical trees such as the lignumvitae, whose incredibly hard wood was once used to make bowling balls. The Adderleys survived by making charcoal and gathering and selling sponges from the crystal clear waters of the Keys.

The Adderleys no longer live here, but their home and its beautiful surroundings remain. The Adderley home has been restored and is a popular stop along the 2.5 miles of trails and wooden walkways crisscrossing the hammock. Trolley tours of the botanic gardens and historic sites can also be arranged.

Another popular stop along the trail is a small footbridge overlooking Florida Bay. Here, you can get a sense of the vast waters where the Adderleys drew their living.

Yet Crane Point offers more than a relaxing walk through history and nature.

One trail takes you by the Marathon Wild Bird Center, a hospital of sorts for injured pelicans, cormorants, egrets and other Keys birds. The staff care for their flock in hopes of returning them to their native habitats.

Near the entrance to the hammock is the Museum of Natural History. Here, parents and children can learn about everything from the life cycle of sea turtles to how Native Americans forged a living from the sea. One display boasts the actual carapaces, or shells, of sea turtles, including one from the giant leatherback.

Outside is a children's activities area that includes a wooden pirate ship feature for playing, and a touch tank for getting up close and personal with some of the creatures of the Keys.

You'll enjoy a visit to Crane Point Museum, Nature Center and Historic Site. It is a destination of its own.

Crane Point Museum, Nature Center & Historic Site
5550 Overseas Highway
Mile Marker 50.5, Bayside
Marathon, FL 33050
Information: (305) 743-9100
Business Office: (305) 743-3900
Email: info@cranepoint.net
Website: cranepoint.net