Crafted in the Florida Keys
In the Florida Keys, there’s time and head space for extraordinary creativity to thrive, and scores of freethinking spirits indulge their talent for crafting wares as individualistic as they are. You’ll find artisan-made sandals, jewelry, other wearables as well as foodstuffs, breweries and distilleries — all a feast for the senses.
Wares To Display Or Wear
Two of Marathon's lifelong residents, Joshua Gratton and James McCabe, both passionate divers and spear fishermen, developed the Onboard Band-It spear band repair and replacement kit to include replacement band material, cutting and insertion tools. Everything is packaged in a waterproof box necessary to make repairs while on the water without ending a fishing trip because of broken equipment. The duo also designed their own line of apparel including face buffs and dry-fit shirts for sun protection and snapback hats. They are available online and at Marathon's Formula Freediving store.
Captain Randy Towe’s Signature Series Handmade Rods, developed and built by the Islamorada captain, are well known to dedicated anglers. He makes everything from fly to heavy offshore trolling rods, coordinating all elements with each individual customer. Crafted to last a lifetime, his rods are all about fit, finish and top-quality parts.
Designer Karen Moore quit her corporate job five years ago and has been creating her positive energy ZEN Jewelry line since. Her love for the Keys’ native beauty is evident in her designs, which use only natural elements consisting mostly of semi-precious gemstones and shells — including her signature collection based on the conch shell.
Ask many locals where they got their sandals and the answer is likely to be Kino's , a family-owned sandal factory in downtown Key West. For over 50 years, the Cuban-born Kino has employed traditional techniques to assemble the island's iconic handmade leather shoes, creating more than 20 different styles of sandals.
Cornelia Hoover, seaglass crafter, pieces together different gauges of wire, sea glass and tumbled recycled glass to craft creations that are both whimsical and elegant. Hoover's work can be found at DK's Beach Boutique in Marathon, the Hurricane Grille and Key West's Guild Hall Gallery.
Judi Bradford designs dramatic and sophisticated one-of-a-kind hats and Arashi Shibori silk scarves with a color palette inspired by the local landscape — turquoise and jewel tones that shimmer like the sea itself. Many of her scarves and hats have made their way to "hat heaven" — the Kentucky Derby and the Ascot races in England.
Fused glass artisan Stephanie Martin of Seaside Glassworks creates ocean-inspired glass, jewelry and art in her Islamorada working studio, which is open to visitors for tours. Browse her signature line of handcrafted fused glass pendants of scallop shells, turtles, dolphins and fish in a rainbow spectrum of colors, as well as lamps designed with Florida Keys colors in mind.
Florida Keys lifestyle apparel, Reel Conch was born for the ocean! Founder Kirsten Tangen was hooked on offshore adventure at an early age, as a homegrown island girl born and raised in the heart of the Florida Keys. This blue-water wonderland inspired the creation of Reel Conch, locally designed sportswear that provides both UPF sun protection for epic days on the water, and casual comfort for soaking in the island vibes long after sunset.
A Florida Keys destination for more than 35 years, Shell World, located at 97600 Overseas Highway in Key Largo, is an island-style shopping emporium with everything from shells to home decor, resort wear and local artisan creations. A unique and one of a kind experience, it is a must-stop on your island adventure. Shell World often pairs their efforts with Keys area animal rescues!
The Rain Barrel Artisan Village is an open-air, tropical garden oasis lined with specialty shops, galleries and boutiques offering local art, handmade crafts, custom jewelry and more. Located at mile marker 86.7, the enclave is easily visible from the historic Florida Keys Overseas Highway thanks to “Betsy,” a giant Keys spiny lobster sculpture at the entrance. The anatomically correct lobster, measuring 30 feet tall and 40 feet long, was created by Marathon artist Richard Blaze three decades ago.
Turning a hobby into a passion, Little Torch Candle Company is a small company named after the Key on which the family lives, Little Torch Key. Candles are crafted from natural soy wax. Due to recent family health reasons, candles are not sold at in-person artisan/craft markets, but retailers such as The Trading Post in Islamorada, Keys Chocolates and Ice Cream and Islamorada Coffee Roasters carry them. The online store is stocked with Keys’ favorite fragrances like Coconut Key Lime, Keys Conch, Island Escape, Ocean Breeze, Sea Salt & Bougainvillea and more.
Eat, Drink, Savor & Smell
The Florida Keys’ premier chocolate factory can be found at mile marker (MM) 100.5 bayside, and a second shop in Islamorada at MM 81.9 oceanside. Keys Chocolates & Ice Cream infuses local flavors into handmade chocolate confections such as luscious truffles, fudge, and specialty chocolate bark with Key lime and pistachios. Its second retail store sells specialties such as ice cream, artisan chocolates, Key lime pretzels and pie on a stick.
Enjoy an indigenous taste of the Keys, with raw and unprocessed small-batch honey whose distinct flavors can't be found anywhere else in the world. Grab some of Key Largo's renowned Keez Beez honey, Cudjoe Bee or red mangrove honey from SALT Island Provisions. Find “all things bees” at Tavernier’s Pirate Hat Apiary where an online marketplace features products from the hive — raw Florida Keys wildflower honey, beeswax candles, hand crafted soaps, lotions and scrubs.
Bob's Bunz is a friendly Islamorada "comfort food" restaurant and bakery that features tiny Key limes in sweet temptations including Bundt cakes and yummy bite-size cookies. No trip to the Upper Keys is complete without visiting the emporium, whose name comes from the legendary (and gigantic) cinnamon and sticky buns created by owner Robert “Bob” Spencer.
At Keys Fisheries try the Keys' own stone crab claws, peel-and-eat Key West shrimp or the famed Lobster Reuben that makes even stubborn New Yorkers abandon traditional corned-beef Reubens for their seafood "cousin." The eatery also ships seafood to those craving a taste of the Keys.
Smilin' Bob's smoked fish dip is made with wild caught, local Kingfish and Amberjack, over a three-day process. The result is a honey brown fish with a mild, smoky flavor. Bob's team then adds other carefully chosen ingredients to make a creamy dip that's practically addictive.
Tucked into Islamorada's arts and cultural district, the craft production outfit Florida Keys Brewing Company produces tasty seasonal and barrel-aged beers including light, reds, ambers and browns. Owners Craig and Cheryl McBay, the latter born and raised in Islamorada, infuse local flavors such as Key lime, citrus and local honey into their brews. Among the most popular are FlaKeys, a Belgian-style beer made with Key limes, and Hogfish beer with a note of local citrus flavors.
At Islamorada Brewery & Distillery, beers such as No Wake Zone, Islamorada Ale and Channel Marker IPA exude the Keys’ boating, fishing and island beach lifestyle. An onsite 450-square-foot distillery also features gin, vodka and dark barrel-aged and spiced rums, with daily tastings.
The Waterfront Brewery in Key West's Historic Seaport offers American cuisine, homebrews — including the award-winning Key Lime Witness and Crazy Lady honey blonde ale — and a variety of other drafts from Florida breweries. The highly recognizable nautical-inspired space features a main bar, restaurant, game room and bar in the brewery and tasting room, as well as an upstairs deck.
Largely distributed in South Florida and Key West, restaurants can purchase Key West First Legal Rum Distillery products in wooden barrels (each is cured in the seawater surrounding the island), and visitors to the distillery have the option to buy up to two 750-milliliter bottles at a time. Currently there are at least a dozen different styles and flavors of the Legal Rum brand, including vanilla brûlée and other white rums flavored with coconut or Key lime.
Key West designer James Garvey creates his own essential oils for his Fireside Candle all-natural line of wax container candles. Nearly 20 aromatherapy scents range from Island Hibiscus, Key Lime Coconut, Night Blooming Jasmine and Sea Mist to more rustic Cedar Wood Vanilla, Antique Sandalwood and Blackberry Sage.
The Keys Salt Scrub is available in a variety of island fragrances, including coconut, mango, Key lime and lavender. Salt scrubs exfoliate, rejuvenate, soothe and moisturize skin, as well as disinfect and promote healing. Hand crafted in small batches, the formula contains a blend of salts, coconut oil and essential oils. Several luxury Keys hotel accommodations also provide the scrubs in washrooms for patrons. Scrubs are all-natural, chemical free and cruelty free.
At the ‘Innovation Hub’ inside Papa’s Pilar Distillery in Key West, a Master Blender creates limited edition special releases. Visit for tours and tastings of their artisan-crafted spirit sourced from hand-selected rums and blended to adventurous perfection.
Several Farmers’ and Artisan Markets have popped up in the Florida Keys, with farm-to-table freshness. Seasonal weekdays and weekends, browse among produce, flowers, food stuffs and handcrafted artisan wares from Islamorada to Key West. You’ll find crafts, gifts and the perfect souvenirs to take home. Highlights include Florida Keys Farmers Market at mile marker 81 oceanside; Paradise Produce at 4540 Overseas Highway in Marathon; the Saturday open-air market next to Boondock’s Grille and Draft House; the Key West Artisan Market on select Sundays at Higgs Beach; and Key West Farmers Market, Thursdays at Truman Waterfront.
For fresh, roasted organic and fair trade coffee, stop in to Islamorada Coffee Roasters at 80925 Overseas Highway. The roaster features 100% Arabica organic coffee drinks brewed to your specifications. For each one-pound bag of its custom I.CARE Blend, a mix of small-batch beans from dive destinations Bali, Costa Rica and Honduras, a donation is made to the Keys-based nonprofit I.CARE coral restoration organization in Islamorada. The coffee company's bags and cups are compostable, and environmentally safe inks are water-based. In addition to coffee beans, patrons can find brewing equipment in a retail section, several coffee-related products such as soaps, candles, wood dog bones, and more, from Keys farmers’ market vendors and artisans.
For simply handcrafted flavors, created the old fashioned way, Paradise Flavors at 9601 Overseas Highway in Marathon is the spot for homemade “paletas,” or popsicles, boasting 50 artisanal flavors for fresh batches daily. Choose from soft ice cream, sorbets, frozen yogurts and smoothies in fruit flavors like watermelon, pineapple, passion fruit and many more.
Keys’ Meads located at mile marker 99 in Key Largo is the Florida Keys’ only meadery. The family-owned operation, has a new 2,500-square-foot location offering tours, a tasting sampling room and retail space selling made-in-the-Keys mead. Mead is a fermented alcoholic beverage crafted from honey, water and yeast, and comes in dry, semi-dry or sweet versions. The Upper Keys emporium also offers seasonal flavors such as maple, blueberry, Jamaican cherry, starfruit and habanero. Crafted spirits made from distilled mead at the onsite Lost Viking Distillery, are perfect for cocktails and available for tastings or to be purchased in-store or online with shipments to most states.
For the pups! The Florida Keys is pet friendly, and Waggin Meals provides gourmet, farm-to-table dog food from their Stock Island Marina Village storefront. Each meal is packed with nutritious and healthy ingredients, specially designed to give your pups exactly what they need. No fillers, no sodium, no sugars, no preservatives or byproducts included. Waggin Meals also offer bakery items and care products for dogs.
A “Keys crafted” piece is as different as possible from the mass-produced items that are all too available today — and should be enjoyed, as a tangible reminder of the Florida Keys.