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    Islamorada: sun, beaches and relaxation in the Florida Keys

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    We are in Monroe county. On our journey along the Overseas Highway through the jewels that make up the archipelago of Florida Keys (or more simply Keys), we reach Islamorada whose name dates back to the first Spanish explorers of the area who baptized it "purple island" probably due to a jellyfish with a purple luminescence present in these waters. We believe it but they tell us that over time it is increasingly rare to see this effect.

    Nature, outdoor life, white sand, sports but also lots of tranquility and good food. All this can be found in Islamorada, a stop not to be missed, a place where we feel the love of the inhabitants for their sea and it is not just a matter of business. Here nature is life but sometimes an enemy if we think of hurricanes, most recently Irma in October 2017, and for what we have seen we like to praise the great willpower and energy of the islanders who always know how to recover.


    • The islands of Islamorada
    • What to see in Islamorada
      • Founders Park
      • Anne’s Beach
      • Activities on the sea
      • Museums and natural attractions
    • Indian Key
    • Lignumvitae Key
    • The events of Islamorada
    • Where to eat
    • Where sleeping in Islamorada

    The islands of Islamorada

    The second appellation of our destination is "Village of islands" because in reality Islamorada is a set of islets along which we will pass along the bridge in a southerly direction. The five main ones are: Planting key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Tea Table Key e Lower Matecumbe Key.

    It can be said that Upper Matacumbe Key is the citizen "heart" of Islamorada but this does not detract from the other islands that compose it. It is almost obvious to say that here you live a lot in the open air among nature, Relax and sports activities such as swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle boarding and windsurfing. Sun, heat, palm trees, white sand, clear waters, blue sky and luxuriant vegetation; what else do you want?

    Actually Islamorada reserves another surprise: for those who love the competitive fishing this is the right place because the area is considered the sport fishing capital of the world and the recurring thing is that more records are made here than anywhere else in the world for the size of the catch. A gossip note: from 1943, for 45 years, Ted Williams was the most famous inhabitant of the island: baseball player of the Boston Red Sox, he was also a skilled fisherman and his house in Islamorada was frequented by numerous celebrities .

    What to see in Islamorada

    Our exploration begins with a smile when Big Betsy, the Giant Lobster (86700 Overseas Hwy) welcomes us to the Rain Barrel Village. It is impossible to miss a huge fiberglass lobster 9 meters high and 12 meters long, the tallest in the world. It is the symbol of a village within tropical gardens, open every day from 9 to 17 in which American crafts and contemporary art workshops are located.


    In addition to the Rain Barrel Village, for those who love to do Shopping we recommend the World Wide Sportsman Bayside Marina because there is a large shop inside Bass Pro Shop (81576 Overseas Hwy) where you can find sporting goods, clothing and home furnishings. This store, which belongs to a large chain, also has a restaurant. Worth a visit.

    Founders Park

    We have started well and continue to the great neighbor Founders Park (87000 Overseas Hwy), a sixteen-hectare park, actually a beautiful sports center in a green area that ends with a palm-fringed white sand beach and warm, crystal clear waters. Water sports enthusiasts enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling. Basketball, tennis, baseball, volleyball, soccer and aerobics exercises are also practiced. At certain times of the year it is possible to attend yoga classes on the waterfront and there is also a path along which to walk or cycle.


    During the year, the atmosphere comes alive with concerts and festivals that take place at the amphitheater. This recreational-sports complex boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool that hosts many swimming and diving events, as well as a marina from which ecological, fishing and diving tours depart. The park has public bathrooms with showers and barbecue corners with picnic tables. Admission costs $ 3 but some hotels have an agreement and in that case access is included in the rate. Definitely worth a visit.

    Anne’s Beach

    We also report Anne’s Beach (About 400 meters from US-1 - mile marker 73), a small coastline dedicated to local environmentalist Anne Eaton. It is located at the southern terminus of Islamorada, practically the opposite of where we began our exploration. It is the other famous beach of the island where you can swim in shallow, clear and warm waters, walk along a walkway, watch birds and have a picnic using the provided covered area.

    It is equipped with services and the parking is about four hundred meters away. It is also the ideal place for kayaking and windsurfing. This coastline, open from sunrise to sunset, is perfect for children and four-legged friends.

    Activities on the sea

    Then on the subject of water activities, the main reason why we are here, we evaluate the proposals of various agencies operating in this sector; there is plenty of choice. We report A family Fun Boat Tour Company (85500 Overseas Hwy) which organizes boat tours for up to 6 people not only to Islamorada but also to Key Largo and Marathon. The choice ranges from eco tours, guided tours, snorkeling and sunset cruises.

    As for diving, Ocean Quest Dive Center (84801 Overseas Hwy) organizes boat trips for diving and snorkeling twice a day, all accompanied by the possibility of taking lessons. Since our attention falls on all the signs that offer tours and sporting activities, when we pass in front of Spray Watersports (84001 Overseas Hwy) we notice the jet ski and jet boat rental sign. We are tempted and, given our inexperience, in the end common sense prevails with a compromise; we experience the thrill of the jet ski leaving someone else the pleasure of driving it and bringing us back to shore whole.

    Easy Adventures Boat Tours (81576 Overseas Hwy) takes care of activities suitable for the whole family and four-legged friends: fishing (including lobster), snorkeling, sunset cruises and ecological tours. We are on an island and coves that welcome a marina cannot be missing. Bud 'n Mary's (79851 Overseas Hwy) is home to the oldest and largest fishing fleet in the Florida Keys. They tell us this is a great area to fish in and, given the number of boats, we believe it. But not only boats are rented here to go fishing, boats also leave for tours and diving and there is an office that deals with renting rooms, beachfront houses and houseboats.

    And then, almost at the end of Islamorada, the Robbie's Marina (77522 Overseas Hwy) is another favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. Here we feed huge snappers and then rent equipment to indulge in a water sport. You go shopping and stroll in the marina area among various shops. In general, it should be borne in mind that the rental of what is not motorized has a very affordable cost, for example for a half day we are in the order of $ 45-70; the cost of a half hour of jet ski can range from 50 to 60 $ but we still felt it was honest.

    Find a business in Islamorada

    Museums and natural attractions

    Following the development of Islamorada from north to south through the islands that compose it, we encounter other points of interest. Theater of the Sea (84721 Oversess Hwy) is a marine park open every day from 9.30 am to 15.30 pm where you can swim with bottle-nosed dolphins, sea lions and watch the shows where they are protagonists. Admission costs $ 35.95 for ages 11 and up and $ 22.95 for ages 3-10. Parking is free.

    Four-legged friends are welcome on a leash. With self-guided tours through paths that allow you to appreciate nature, the Fossil Reef Geological State Park (84900 Overseas Hwy) allows those who do not dive into the water to admire the fossilized coral. In a former quarry, walls two and a half meters high are flanked, you can see the cross sections of ancient coral, you know what the work was like inside the quarry and you can look at examples of old machinery. In this park the nature of the island can be enjoyed along five short self-guided paths and for a pleasant stop, picnic tables are available.

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    Another place of interest is theHistory of Diving Musem (82990 Overseas Hwy), a concentrate of information on diving, one of the main activities of the island and the entire area. Admission costs $ 12 for adults, $ 11 for seniors, $ 9 for college students and $ 6 for ages 6 to 11. The museum is open from 10am to 17pm.

    Since 2013, local history and ecology, art exhibitions and ancient artifacts are the themes of the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center (82100 Overseas Hwy), a cultural corner managed by the foundation of the same name as a non-profit organization. There is also a model showing the island as it probably was around 1840. The museum operates Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 17pm. Admission is $ 12 for adults, $ 10 for seniors and l admission is free for children under 13.

    Il Florida National High Adventure Sea Base (73800 Overseas Hwy) organizes experiences and adventures run by Boy Scouts with weekly programs such as reef boat tours, sailing trips, diving, snorkeling and fishing. In the nearby, tiny islet of Tea Table Key (Overseas Hwy. Mile marker 75) we reach a small public beach surrounded by crystal clear waters, an oasis of peace.

    Indian Key

    We decide to visit two islands not far from Islamorada accessible only by private boats or tours. Indian Key is a lush, uninhabited islet just over a kilometer off the north coast of Lower Matecumbe Key. Since prehistoric times the Indians lived here. When the Spanish ships began their voyages to and from the old continent, they often sank due to the coral reef and then the natives, especially the Calusa tribe, took advantage of the situation.

    Subsequently, this became a business for pirates. But now visitors can swim, snorkel and enjoy the sun. The islet is home to the Historic State Park of the same name where there are ruins of a city dating back to the early 1800s. The park is open from 8am until sunset and admission costs $ 2.50.

    Lignumvitae Key

    On the opposite side of the highway and a little further offshore, the island of Lignumvitae Key it can be reached in about 30 minutes by boat from Robbie's Marina. It is home to the Botanical State Park of the same name, once owned by a wealthy Miami chemist who in 1919 bought the whole island on which he then built a small house and a mill. The restored building contains the park's visitor center. Hammocks grow here, hardy tropical trees with imposing branches and white-crowned pigeons.

    On Fridays and Saturdays it is possible to take a one-hour walking tour led by a ranger. It is not possible to fish and swim. The park is open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, admission costs $ 2.50 for non-tour visitors and $ 2 for tour visitors. In our opinion it is worth doing it because you visit the house and understand better how the Keys used to be.

    The events of Islamorada

    When planning a visit to these parts, you can consider making it coincide with an event. In January at Founders Park (87000 Overseas Hwy) takes place the Baygrass Bluegrass Festival featuring the best of country and bluegrass music. Paid admission also includes a tasting of local craft beer, a village where you learn to live a sustainable life, and stalls from local and neighboring vendors.

    In March, from Thursday to Sunday, members of the Art Guild of the Purple Island present The Member’s Judged Art Show at the Keys History & Discovery Center (82100 Overseas Hwy) with the intent to promote art as a prominent community activity. During the event, the competing works are voted on and the winner takes home an original piece of art. The event is open to all.

    In December in various city locations theHoliday Festival which consists of a Christmas parade, a snow mountain to play on and an entertainment stage at Founders Park. At various times of the day, “magical” snow falls from the branches of the Christmas tree (just over ten and a half meters high). Anyone on vacation with a four-legged friend can let him participate in the Santa Paws Competition, an event where dogs perform and are judged for the best costume. Local artists create original ornaments especially for them.

    Where to eat

    Also on this trip, as always, we do not fail to taste the local cuisine. In Islamorada, fishing is a sector of excellence that must be appreciated and the interesting thing is that customers can bring their fish catches to the restaurants that will be cooked to perfection (mahi-mahi, tuna, snapper). Since 1967 Marker 88 (88000 Overseas Hwy) serves beachside dining with beautiful sunsets in a casual-chic location on Florida Bay. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and then Sunday brunch. The menu features macaroni and cheese, filet mignon, crab pie, coconut shrimp, burger, cesar salad, ice cream, the famous (unmissable) Key Lime Pie and there is also a good wine list.

    At breakfast, lunch and dinner, from Lorelai Restaurant & Cabana Bar (96 Madera Rd) you can enjoy omelettes, coconut or fried shrimp, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, burger with bacon and cheddar cheese, New York Strip steak, Cesar salad and the exquisite Key Lime Pie. The venue is located on the waterfront, has a casual style and has been voted the best place to watch the sunset; for this reason we recommend dining outdoors. The restaurant is popular for its happy hours from 16-18pm and for its evening entertainment with local bands.

    Da Pierre's (81600 Overseas Hwy) you can enjoy cocktails in the lounge and in a refined atmosphere you can enjoy French cuisine, even on the veranda. The colonial-style property is spread over two floors on a palm-lined beach overlooking Florida Bay near walkways with tropical plants, also in a great location for enjoying beautiful sunsets. The menu offers yellow tuna tartare, filet mignon carpaccio, grilled filet mignon, mixed fish curry, cream of polenta and onion soup au gratin. Reservations are recommended. Casual-elegant clothing is recommended without the need to wear a jacket or tie.

    The restaurant that we have reported inside the Bass Pro Shop is the Zane Grey Lounge (81576 Overseas Hwy) where you can enjoy the dishes on a veranda overlooking the Bayside marina and watch the sunset over the bay. Among the various dishes we point out coconut shrimp, crab pie and Cesar salad; also you can decide how to create your own burger.

    Where sleeping in Islamorada

    La Siesta Resort & Marina

    As with all the most popular places, stay overnight in Islamorada it is not always cheap but you can find interesting compromises in terms of value for money. Sands of Islamorada (80051 Overseas Hwy), is a particularly tempting solution near points of interest, with an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub as well as a dock with access ramp. Wi-fi, microwave and mini fridge are some of the amenities present in all rooms; other rooms have a balcony, kitchenette and sofa bed.

    La Siesta Resort & Marina (80241 Overseas Hwy) is an oceanfront property with a marina, outdoor pool, hot tub, and wi-fi. We organize boat trips, fishing trips, water skiing, snorkeling; it is possible to rent bicycles and equipment for water sports. Please note that there may be an extra charge for some services.

    Thorn house (114 Palm Ln) is a B&B that has five rooms in a quiet and lush area. Each room has its own uniqueness, it is furnished differently from the others. The complimentary breakfast is served on the private patio. The structure, equipped with swimming pool, wi-fi, parking and barbeque grills, welcomes guests aged eight and over and four-legged friends. In a lush tropical forest it is located Islander Bayside Townhomes and Boat Slips (81450 Overseas Hwy). Clients have access to charming contemporary cottages equipped with kitchen, lounge and private balcony overlooking the gulf. The hotel has a swimming pool and mooring for boats.

    Al Pelican Cove Resort & Marina (84457 Overseas Hwy) rooms and suites have balconies with ocean views. The rooms are furnished in light wood, the accessories have classic tropical colors and there is no shortage of works of art. The palm-fringed garden overlooks the sea. The hotel offers entertainment opportunities for its customers; in addition to the swimming pool there are tennis courts, a salt water lagoon, a marina and the possibility of sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling and diving. The hotel also offers boats operated by experienced captains that depart from the hotel's dock.

    Among the solutions we suggest the boutique hotel Purple house (136 Madeira Rd) is the most expensive but for special occasions it may be the right choice. It has sea-view suites located directly on the waterfront. The private terrace is an added value. The style of the structure is informal, with a Caribbean character and a peaceful atmosphere. At guests' disposal there are kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles and snorkeling equipment. It is possible to attend yoga classes. A private island accessible via a pedestrian bridge belongs to the property. The hotel, which hosts guests aged 16 and over and four-legged friends, can also be reached by water.

    Search all Islamorada hotels

    To reach Islamorada we recommend stopping atairport di Miami (2100 NW 42nd Ave) which operates direct flights from Europe. Then in about 1 hour and 40 minutes you reach the goal.

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