Islamorada is known as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. Heralded for its angling diversity, it features the Florida Keys’ largest fleet of offshore charter and shallow-water “backcountry” boats.
The waters around Islamorada are renowned as a paradise for anglers seeking sizeable tarpon and scores of other species. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)
Scuba divers and snorkelers also flock to the region to explore the extraordinary reef line and patch reefs brimming with tropical fish, sponges, soft and hard corals and crustaceans.
The Islamorada area also features eco-tours, watersports such as stand-up paddling and kiteboarding, tennis facilities, bicycle trails, historic hikes and beautiful vistas of both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay.
Local restaurants range from very upscale continental to casual to downright funky. Many specialize in fresh-from-the-dock seafood, while others offer steaks, gourmet or ethnic dishes, and even pizza and hamburgers.
What are some “don’t miss” stops when you’re visiting Islamorada?
Rain Barrel Artisan Village/Betsy the Lobster. The Rain Barrel 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, it’s 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.
Two visitors to the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada listen to narration showcasing dozens of historic dive helmets from 24 countries. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)
Windley Key State Fossil Reef Geological Site. Stop at this 320-acre park at mile marker 85.5 to learn about the fossilized coral reef that underlies the Keys. Land at the park was formed by fossilized coral known as Key Largo limestone; until the 1960s, the park’s quarry was used to produce decorative Keystone used in walls, patios and fixtures. Visitors can walk along 8-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of ancient coral.
Whale Harbor Marina and Restaurants. Whale Harbor Marina is home to some of Islamorada’s leading fishing charters. Located at mile marker 83.5, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean at the southern end of famous Whale Harbor Channel and Bridge, the marina features a unique atmosphere and quick access for top-level fishing and fun-in-the-sun entertainment. Following a day on the water, anglers can enjoy eateries including Wahoo’s Bar & Grill, Whale Harbor Restaurant and Shuck N Dive Islamorada.
History of Diving Museum. Dive in to see amazing displays that tell the story of humans’ quest to explore, understand and venture under the sea. Visitors to the museum, located at mile marker 83, will learn how South Florida’s open-bottom helmets have contributed to sport diving, marine biology, underwater photography and treasure hunting. Enjoy a fun scavenger hunt, see a limited-time featured exhibit, join special events and shop in the museum store.
Florida Keys History & Discovery Center. The center occupies a two-story, 7,500-square-foot facility at mile marker 82.1 on property at the Islander Resort. The ground floor explores the Florida Keys’ incredible history — especially the history of the Upper Keys and their unique ecological features. The second floor hosts rotating exhibitions on the nature, art or history of the Keys.
Feeding wild tarpon at Robbie’s in Islamorada is a Keys tradition enjoyed by kids and adults from around the world. (Photo courtesy of Robbie’s)
Morada Way Arts & Cultural District. This Islamorada neighborhood spotlights the art galleries and restaurants at Morada Way between mile markers 81 and 82. As well as welcoming visitors throughout the year, the popular nonprofit arts district hosts the monthly Third Thursday Art Walk with fine art, live music and yummy culinary offerings. Local galleries include Jessica Ann Art, Limelight Studio + Gallery, Pasta Pantaleo Signature Gallery, Redbone Gallery and Elena Madden Studio Gallery. Restaurants include Kaiyo, Green Turtle Inn and Chef Michael’s — and be sure to check out the Florida Keys Brewing Co.
Robbie’s Marina. A colorful mix of outdoor shops, food vendors and watersports options makes up Robbie’s Marina. Grab a bucket of fish to feed the resident tarpon or enjoy watching everyone else getting up-close and personal with the huge creatures. Located at mile marker 77, the marina also is home to fishing boat charters, kayak rentals and more. After spending a day out on the water, grab a satisfying meal at the on-site Hungry Tarpon restaurant.
Anne’s Beach: Lying at the southern end of Lower Matecumbe Key at mile marker 73.4, Anne’s Beach is a locals’ favorite — and a famous one as well, since it was featured in the original Netflix series “Bloodline” that was filmed primarily in the Florida Keys. With shallow water and a boardwalk suited for picnics, Anne’s Beach is an appealing and relaxing stop.
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