Where do Floridian's go for a vacation in the Sunshine State? Islamorada in the Florida Keys, the "Fishing Capital of the World."
L O C A L E
Islamorada, translated to “Purple Islands,” is a string of islands that compose one of the five districts in the Florida Keys. Unlike the sandy beaches of Clearwater Beach that we discussed in the last Floridian Tourist story, the islands of Islamorada are surrounded by a tight knit boundary of mangroves and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west.
While many people often think of the Florida Keys as one destination, each of the Keys’ five locales are distinct and unique. Islamorada, the second district from the Florida mainland, is known for outdoor water-based recreation like paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing. Apart from the water, Islamorada offers visitors a great selection of restaurants, shops, hotels and even their own art district, Morada Way.
Of all of the activities in Islamorada, fishing is by far the most popular among tourists and residents. Nicknamed the “Sport-Fishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada’s surrounding waters have produced several of record-setting game fish catches. Boasting many marinas, guests can either rent a boat and set out on the waters themselves or go fishing on a private charter or head boat. Whether one wants to stick to the shallow flats in the mangroves or venture out into the deep sea, there’s potential for catching plenty of fish, whether for the sport or for the dining table.
Aside from fishing, the outdoors are a big attraction. The Atlantic waters have beautiful reefs for snorkeling and diving, and the calmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico make for easy and scenic kayaking and paddleboarding trips. One of Islamorada’s most popular attractions is Robbie’s of Islamorada where visitors can buy buckets of bait fish and feed them to huge tarpon that jump out of the water alongside the docks.
E A T
Brunch: Sinful Sunday Brunch at Oltremare, MM 80
As previously mentioned, Islamorada has recently been a “hot spot” for a number of new and modern hotel and restaurant openings in the Florida Keys, and Oltremare is one of them. Open for a little more than a year, Oltremare is a delicious eatery with a menu that combines Italian flavors with local cuisine. Located at the new trendy hotel, Amara Cay, Oltremare’s Sinful Sunday Brunch is one of the few brunch options in Islamorada and is a favorite of hotel guests and local residents.
Like a Local: Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar, MM 82
Lorelei has been an Islamorada staple for years. As a full-service restaurant offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and daily happy hour, Lorelei is an awesome choice for any time of the day. Complete with a marina and a small beach area, boaters, paddleboarders and kayakers, Lorelei can be accessed by land or bywater. Though Key West is known for their nightly Sunset Celebration, Lorelei is Islamorada’s main spot for celebrating the Florida Keys’ beautiful views of the the sun setting below the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Must-Do: Ziggie and Mad Dog's, MM 83
Ziggie and Mad Dogs is a favorite of everyone who has had the pleasure of dining there. With a history dating back to the 1960s, Ziggie’s was officially transformed to Ziggie and Mad Dogs in 2006. Not only is the restaurant known for a delicious menu of local seafood, steaks and burgers, the restaurant’s reputation for quality service and a cozy pub-like atmosphere is also a big allure to locals and vacationers.
S T A Y
Islamorada is a mix of visitors with different agendas. While some are concentrated on catching one of Islamorada’s “record catches,” others are dedicated to spending their vacation unwinding. Two excellent places for visitors of any purpose is Amara Cay Resort or the Islander Resort, A Guy Harvey Outpost.
Amara Cay Resort, located at MM 80, opened in 2015 and is a chic property offering its guests excellent amenities and easy access to its two bars and restaurants, including Oltremare’s Sinful Sunday Brunch as mentioned above.
The Islander Resort, A Guy Harvey Outpost, located at MM 82, is a spacious waterfront property boasting a large beach and outdoor spaces for grilling and lounging. Inspired by the marine-life works by famed artist, Guy Harvey, the Islander has an ambiance that’s perfect for relaxing and enjoying the views.
Fishing, Feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina, paddleboarding or kayaking in the mangroves, History of Diving Museum
B R I N G
Going fishing? Check out Hook & Tackle Outfitters for some of the “on the water” essentials like protective sunglasses, shirts, and hats. Not only are their products durable and high-quality, but they’ll help you blend in with the laid-back style of the locals.
D R I V E
A convertible. The Florida Keys are ideal for cruising around with the top down. The sun is almost always shining and there are stunning views of the turquoise waters from the Overseas Highway and its bridges.
L I S T E N
List of local FM radio stations by genre.
Country: Conch Country 98.7 or Thunder Country 100.3
Classic Hits: The Sun 103.1
60s, 70s & 80s: The Mix on 96.9 OR 94.3
NPR: WLRN 91.5