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.
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.
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.
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.