Aptly named by early Spanish explorers, Islamorada is frequently translated to mean “purple isles.” The tropical village of islands has become world-famous for its quality sportfishing, nature excursions and spectacular sunsets. While it may not receive the attention or have the name recognition of its southern neighbor Key West, Islamorada is a worthwhile vacation destination, especially for adventure-seekers. If you’re planning a trip to Islamorada, here are the 8 things you shouldn’t miss.
1. Tarpon Feeding at Robbie’s Marina
In a subtle nod to Florida roadside attractions of yore, tarpon feeding at Robbie’s Marina is a fun and inexpensive stop the whole family will enjoy. A school of more than 100 tarpon come to the shallow waters of the dock daily looking to be fed. Visitors can pay $3 for a bucket of baitfish to hand-feed the silver kings, many of which will leap out of the water to claim their share before the pelicans intervene. The whole thing is a spectacle you have to see.
2. History of Diving Museum
No place in Florida tells the story of man’s attempts to explore, understand and venture under the sea better than the History of Diving Museum. This unique facility is home to one of the world’s largest collections of diving helmets and artifacts. The informative displays with their primitive gear help put the evolution of diving in perspective.
Tour the shoreline of Islamorada in real limo style with Captain Joe Fox. Fox is the designer and chauffeur for the NautiLimo, a boat that looks like a Cadillac stretch limousine. Powered by a 100 horsepower Yamaha engine, the NautiLimo can carry up to six passengers and turns heads everywhere it goes.
4. Mangrove Mike’s
Serving everything from hot cakes and Belgian waffles to omelettes, flat breads and wraps, Mangrove Mike’s serves up a stellar breakfast guaranteed to get your day started off right. The place is always packed with locals who consistently vote Mangrove Mike’s as the best breakfast in Islamorada. If you want to try something out of the ordinary, order a tater tot tower. The heftiest option is the Kitchen Sink with ham, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, peppers, onions, potatoes, cheddar cheese and topped with two eggs cooked any way you like.
5. Florida Keys Brewing Company
Established in 2012, the Florida Keys Brewing Company is a family-owned microbrewery that’s gained a huge local following and is a popular place for tourists to unwind. All brews are made in-house with the finest ingredients. Put Smugglers Moon, Beach Bum Smoked Brown, Honey Bottomed Blonde, and Queen of the South on your list of must-tries.
6. Hurricane Monument
Tucked between old State Road 4A and US 1 at mile marker 81.5, the Hurricane Monument pays tribute to the World War I veterans and civilians who perished in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. The storm is recorded as the strongest and most intense hurricane to make landfall in the United States and the Atlantic Basin. The 18-foot-high rock-covered obelisk was constructed by the Works Progress Administration and continues to be a somber reminder of nature’s wrath.
7. Rain Barrel Artisan Village
While not an “artisan” village in the truest sense of the word, the lush environment of the Rain Barrel is a good way to kill 30 minutes to an hour nonetheless. Several artists have small galleries inside the village, and the front gift shop has trinkets galore. Most stop here for a photo-op with Betsy, the giant 30-foot-tall lobster at the entrance.
8. Anything On Water
This probably goes without saying. But if you’re going to spend time in Islamorada, you have to go out on the water. There are a number of charter boat companies that operate out of Islamorada which specialize in fishing, sightseeing, and adventure excursions. Do not leave this slice of paradise without experiencing its greatest asset – the endless turquoise waters.