Islamorada Is a Village of Five Islands in the Sunshine State

Caroline de Braganza

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The gates of Paradise!Jimmy Emerson, DVM/flickr

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Islamorada is an incorporated village in Monroe County, Florida, and sits between Miami and Key West, in the Florida Keys—90 minutes driving time from Miami and around two hours northeast of Key West.

The Sport Fishing Capital of the World, Islamorada hosts the largest fishing fleet per square mile in the world. This cluster of islands is part of the Upper Keys archipelago perched on an ancient coral reef, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Bay.

The islands include Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key and Plantation Key—plus the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key.

The name Islamorada came from Spanish explorers and translates as “purple island”.

Got the pronunciation now? I-La-Mah-Ra-Da.

The Freebee Electric Vehicle Ridesharing Service resumed full activities on May 27—please remember to wear a mask. Freebee picks you up at your lodgings in Islamorada and takes you to your favorite destination.

Or you can traverse Islamorada along the 18-mile bicycle path across the length of the village.

Here are key places (please pardon the pun) to visit and things to do.

Theater of the Sea

Don’t miss this if you’re vacationing in the Keys.

This family-owned business has been operating since 1946 - one of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world. The lush tropical gardens and lagoons are home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, sea turtles, tropical and game fish, sharks, stingrays, alligators, marine invertebrates, and birds.

Staff are super-friendly and knowledgeable!

Your General Admission Ticket includes shows and tours throughout the day, including a Bottomless Boat Ride. Or you can swim and sunbathe at the private lagoon-side beach, where the Snack Shack offers light refreshments.

(Now offering a $3.00 discount on each ticket if you book online.)

If you can afford it (prices from $65.00 including general admission), you can swim or wade with a dolphin, swim or meet with a California sea lion, and swim with sharks or southern stingrays. Or meet with a sea turtle, a parrot, and an alligator or crocodile!

After you’re done, grab a bite at Papa’s Grill or the Starlight Terrace.

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Wait till you see what's inside!Ebyabe/wikimedia commons

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History of Diving Museum

From the outside, the building isn’t very impressive, but you’ll be amazed once you enter—even if you’re not a diver. You need to wear a mask, and dogs are welcome.

The museum covers the history of man’s exploration under the sea, and the evolution of diving. Plenty of information to read and a collection of artifacts to satisfy your curiosity such as diving helmets, and plenty interactive exhibits. They even have a 16th-century treasure chest!

They offer scavenger hunts for kids plus other fun activities; these should keep them amused while the adults browse the exhibits.

Try the Helium Box for a high-pitched giggle!

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Anne's Beach, Lower Matecumbe KeyVed Ivanov/wikimedia commons

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Parks and Beaches

The 45-acre Islamorada Founders Park is the central park of the Village, with sports and recreational facilities, and a shallow water beach for swimming and picnicking.

Other parks include:

  • Library Park Beach
  • Anne’s Beach
  • Plantation Tropical Preserve
  • Green Turtle Hammock Nature Preserve
  • Plantation Hammocks Preserve
  • Southwinds Park
  • Key Tree Cactus Nature Preserve

Florida State Parks in Islamorada

NOTE: Check storm updates for Tropical Cyclone Three here.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park—at this park on Windley Island, you’ll find an old coral rock quarry dug by Henry Flagler’s railroad workers. The park offers birding, hiking trails and wildlife viewing.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park - closed for construction on May 21. For future reference, the park is on the tiny island of the same name and is only accessible by boat or kayak.

Indian Key Historic State Park - on another tiny island you can only access by kayak as the boat ramp is closed due to storm damage. In the 1830s a community of wreckers lived on the island, to salvage ships that ran aground on nearby reefs. You can view the ruins of the old town.

Marinas at The Village of Islands

Islamorada’s website lists 14 marinas, one of which stands out as different:

Bud n’ Mary’s Marina is a world-famous fishing marina, with arguably the best fishing charters for the price. Better still, they offer lodging, including an ocean front house and four houseboats!

I don't understand why Robbies Marina isn't on the list, as it’s very popular with tourists. You can feed the tarpon (for a fee) and enjoy lots more.

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Betsy, the Spiny LobsterIvan Curra/wikimedia commons

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What else can I tell you?

It’s impossible to include every delight this pristine paradise offers the visitor—from art galleries, shopping, dining, fishing, diving, snorkelling, charters, to eco-tours—so I offer you a small sampling.

Meet Betsy, the Spiny Lobster is a 40-ft sculpture that sits in front of The Rain Barrel Artisan Village where artists can display their work.

The Morada Way Arts & Cultural District holds a “walkabout” the third Thursday of each month from 6 to 9 p.m., featuring indoor galleries and outdoor artisans at Morada Way between mile markers (MM) 81 and 82.

Islamorada Community Entertainment (ICE) offers exceptional classical and contemporary musical performances, including live jam sessions, reggae and bluegrass festivals. Details here.

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Hurricane Monument, Islamorada - honors those who died in the"Great Hurricane" of 1935Ebyabe/wikimedia commons

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The Keys History & Discovery Center relates the history of the Florida Keys—the indigenous inhabitants, stories of Spanish sailors and shipping, the wreckers of Indian Key, Flagler’s Over-sea Railroad—and much more.

Celebrate Independence Day at Founders Park this July 4 from 6pm to 10 pm, co-hosted by Upper Keys Rotary Club and the Village of Islamorada. Fireworks will begin after dark. The Carousers will provide live entertainment.

No coolers or outside food allowed as food and drinks available on site. Entry is free and the organisers suggest a donation of $10 for on-site parking. Proceeds will aid the Upper Keys Rotary Foundation. Bring chairs and blankets!

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Islamorada offers you a getaway you’ll never forget - you'll be back for more!

I'll sign off with more music.

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