12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Islamorada, FL
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There are few places in the United States that are more spectacular than the Florida Keys. With a small-town island vibe, this strip of atolls is just a few hours away from the mainland.
In reality, it feels like another world. This is especially true in Islamorada, one of the villages in the Keys. Encompassing five islands: Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key, and Plantation Key, Islamorada is the halfway point from the mainland to Key West. Less than a two-hour drive down the Intracoastal Highway, one of the most scenic drives tourists will find in the country, Islamorada has something for every traveler, especially those that love the water.
Islamorada is known as the sport fishing capital of the world, hosting the largest fishing fleet per square mile from around the globe. Even if fishing isn't your cup of tea, there are still plenty of activities and attractions centered around the deep blue sea. Take note that most directions are given by mile markers, which can be found along the side of the highway.
From water sports to history, Islamorada is filled with attractions that highlight the area's unique culture and history. Plan your sightseeing with our list of the top attractions and things to do in and around Islamorada.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Theater of The Sea
Theater of the Sea is a must-stop on your Islamorada vacation. This attraction is filled with interactive exhibits, from swimming with dolphins to meeting sea turtles.
The Sea Turtle Experience allows visitors to interact with these magnificent creatures in a responsible way. Although the dolphin and sea turtle experiences may seem a bit pricey, they come with admission to the Theater of the Sea's other programs like the Dolphin, Sea Lion, and Parrot Shows; Fish and Reptile Tours; Bottomless Boat Rides; and the Nature Tour and Lagoon-side Beach. It's well worth the cost.
For even more adventure, you can book one of their four-hour experiences.
The best part of the Theater of the Sea is that proceeds go towards their animal enrichment program.
Official site: https://theaterofthesea.com/
2. Florida Keys History and Discovery Center
The Florida Keys History and Discovery Center is a world-class museum where you can learn about the history of the Florida Keys and their native sea life.
The Discovery Center appeals to adults and kids alike with exhibits, a movie theater, and research library all found within the 7,500-square-foot facility. You can learn about everything related to the Keys, from past to present, including pineapple farming and the over-sea railroad.
The center, which has been open for six years, is located on the property of the Islander Resort and is accessible from Wednesday through Sunday.
Official site: https://www.keysdiscovery.com/
3. History of Diving Museum
For those who love the sport of diving, the History of Diving Museum is a must-see. This museum, which has been in existence since 2005, tells the story of undersea adventures throughout the century, as well as diving as it relates to the Florida Keys.
It took over 40 years to put together this expansive collection, one of the world's largest, which includes everything from diving helmets to armored suits, as well as photographs, books, and other memorabilia. If you are lucky enough to be here on the third Wednesday, you can enjoy Immerse Yourself!, a free presentation given by experts from all aspects of the diving culture.
The museum is open daily, with the exception of Christmas, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving.
Official site: https://www.divingmuseum.org/
4. Discover a Hidden Sandbar
Islamorada and the adjacent area of White Harbor Channel are among the few places where you can get your Robinson Caruso on. Your own private island awaits for you to discover at low tide.
Sandbars poke their heads above water and rise just enough to allow visitors to come ashore and explore until the tide returns. Check the tide schedule, pack a picnic and beach umbrella, rent a boat or kayak, and explore the Atlantic.
Just be mindful of the shifting sands and timing of your escape. This is one place from which you don't want to send an S.O.S.
5. Morada Way Arts and Cultural District
In a place known for its beautiful, rugged beaches, finding "Main Street America" might come as a bit of a surprise. The islands in the Keys make up many different communities, but each lack the city centers like many towns on the mainland. The Morada Way Arts and Cultural District is the exception.
This six block corridor is the only "main street" from Miami to Key West. The charming area is filled with galleries, restaurants, shops, and art studios. It is also home to many festivals and community events, like the Seafood Fest.
While here, visitors can make a stop at the Green Turtle Inn, an iconic B&B with a good restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Hurricane Monument is also close by and a powerful reminder of the strength of Mother Nature and the toll she has taken on this area over the years.
If you visit on the third Thursday, be sure to take part in the monthly Art Walk. This event pays homage to emerging artists, musicians, chefs, and local retailers that make up the fabric of this vibrant community.
6. Eco Tours and Kayaking
Kayaking is one of those activities that allow visitors a totally different perspective of the surrounding landscape. There are several eco-tour companies in the area that provide an experience while keeping the health of the environment first and foremost.
Tourists will find some of the most interesting parts of the habitat in among the mangroves, where birds and other wildlife make their homes. The natural beauty and complexity of the delicate ecosystem can be reached easily by paddling through these scenic tidal channels.
Another option is an organized Eco-Adventure and Snorkeling Cruise. This half-day boat trip allows you to see some of the sites and snorkel along a reef. You can choose morning or afternoon trips.
Driving along busy Highway 1, most could never imagine the treasures awaiting just beyond during one of these activities.
7. Feeding the Tarpon at Robbie's Marina
No trip to Islamorada is complete without a stop at Robbie's to feed the tarpon. It's famous for letting tourists hand-feed these massive fish. To see this breed of fish jump out of the water is thrilling for both fisherfolk and observers alike. They are fighters on the rod and can weigh up to 250 pounds.
If feeding the tarpon isn't for you, there is no shortage of other things to do while you are here. Depending on your mood, there are water sports, shopping, or dining to fit any itinerary. You can fish, snorkel, or parasail if you are feeling adventurous.
Visitors can overlook the tarpon feeding and the water while dining at a nearby restaurant. Don't forget to stop and check out the unique artwork and souvenirs, especially some of the lobster trap art. Robbie's is open early and closes late.
8. Anne's Beach
Dedicated to local environmentalist Anne Eaton, Anne's beach is one of the few public sandy beaches on Islamorada. Often described as a stretch of paradise, visitors will be hard-pressed to disagree.
Choose from one of two parking lots, located at mile marker 73.4, load up on supplies, and pick your spot by the ocean-warm, tropical waters of the Atlantic await.
The water here is clear and shallow, making a great spot for young kids or anyone wanting to try paddleboarding or snorkeling in a calm area. You won't find much shade, so make sure to pack plenty of reef-safe sunscreen along with your picnic and have a day of fun in the sun.
9. Long Key State Park
Throughout history, Long Key has been known to cater to the rich and famous. With beautiful beaches that lay the backdrop for a perfect sunset, it's easy to see why it's a prized location. The park is open from 8am to sunset every day.
Long Key State Park is perfect for bird-watching, swimming, or sunbathing. Long Key State Park is also home to the longest nature trail in the Keys, the Golden ORB nature trail.
If you are feeling more adventurous, try kayaking or maybe fishing. Long Key has a rich history for anglers, who have been flocking to the region for centuries, even before the overseas highway was built.
Keep in mind this area was ravaged by Hurricane Irma, and the beachfront camping area is still recovering.
If you do have the chance and it's available, a stay overnight overlooking the sparkling blue water under the stars is an experience you won't soon forget.
10. Indian Key Historic State Park
Indian Key was once a bustling town and the county seat for Dade County, built on the wealth from salvaging cargo from shipwrecks. Now all that remains is a ghost town, which is a draw to tourists and archeologists alike who are curious to get a peek into the past and uncover the historic building foundations.
Isolated from the mainland, you can only access Indian Key by boat, so plan accordingly. While you are here, you can swim, sunbathe, take a hike, snorkel, or kayak. Rent a kayak from Robbie's Marina or Kayak Indian Key, or set up a snorkeling adventure with Snorkel Indian Key.
11. Alligator Reef Lighthouse
Lighthouse fans will love adding a visit to this unique structure to their itinerary. Alligator Reef Lighthouse is a famed Keys landmark, standing guard over the wreck of the USS Alligator. This pirate-hunting vessel ran aground in 1822 and was abandoned and stripped of value by the Navy to keep it out of the hands of vagabonds.
The 144-year-old lighthouse marks the remains of the ship's location and sits four miles off the shore of Islamorada. Measuring in at 136 feet, the beacon has withstood many a hurricane and storm, and was automated in 1963. The reef has claimed quite a number of ships, despite the lighthouse warning.
The area around the lighthouse is about 20 feet deep and teems with over 500 species of marine life. Parrotfish, barracuda, and a thriving reef can be seen from the surface of the water. Snorkeling and diving activities can be arranged in Islamorada.
12. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Windley Key has the unique claim to fame as one of the few places you can see a coral reef above the surface of the water. Of course, being outside the surface of the water means the reef is no longer alive, but interesting all the same.
Henry Flagler, the American industrialist and founder of Standard oil, used the former rock quarry to build the railroad system in the early 1900s. The decorative keystone continued to be quarried until the 1960s.
There are five short, self-guided tours in the park along 1.5 miles of trails. Along the paths, visitors will learn about the ecology of the area and a few cultural tidbits. Guided tours are available during the high season. Other amenities include picnic tables and a visitor center.
This preserved geological gem represents part of Florida's history, both immediate and into the ancient fossilized past.
Where to Stay in Islamorada for Sightseeing
- The 4-star Cheeca Lodge and Spa is the top luxury choice. It features barefoot elegance and Florida Keys-style architecture, including a porte-cochere entrance. Catering to couples and families alike, the rooms and suites are comfortable with a modern design. Some have ocean views.
- Amenities here include direct beach access, as well as a swimming pool, spa, and fitness center. There are three restaurants on-site, each with a different vibe. Atlantic's Edge is the signature restaurant and best for a fine-dining experience. Families will like the Mia Cucina, which has an Italian menu of pizza, pasta, and salads.
- Also relatively luxe is Amara Cay Resort. It sits on a section of private beach and has sun-loungers and umbrellas for guests. The rooms and suites have a laid-back elegance about them, and the hotel has won awards for its interior design. The hotel is pet-friendly. It also has a swimming pool, gift shop, and restaurant on-site. If you want to spend some time in a hammock, these are set up by the beach.
- Also check out Pelican Cove Resort and Marina. The contemporary hotel features 63 rooms and suites with Scandinavian-influenced minimalist decor. There is a beach area for guests with chairs and umbrellas, as well as a saltwater lagoon, a swimming pool, and a cafe on-site. Fishing charters and water sports can be arranged.
- Most of Islamorada's hotels fall into this category. The Islander Resort is one of the most popular hotels on the key. It is a family-friendly property on the beach that offers a playground for kids. Choose from rooms or suites; both feature kitchenettes. Some have ocean views.Away from the rooms, you'll find a swimming pool, hot tub, and restaurant on-site. There are also sun-loungers and umbrellas on the beach for guests. If you need to do laundry, there are self-service facilities.
- Drop Anchor is another good mid-range choice. The 3-star boutique hotel features a mix of rooms and suites with colorful accents that are clean and comfortable and individually decorated. Around for more than 50 years, the hotel is set on lush grounds with a private beach area and a swimming pool. There are also hammocks to nap in, BBQ facilities, and a picnic area on-site. There is no restaurant, but there are plenty of dining options nearby.
- The recently opened Fisher Inn Resort and Marina offers bright rooms with Florida Keys-style decor. These come with kitchenettes. The hotel is pet friendly if you are traveling with a dog. Amenities include a swimming pool, beach chairs, BBQ facilities, and vending machines.
- Sunset Inn - Islamorada is one of the few budget properties on the island, although it is still quite pricy by typical budget standards. The small hotel is kid friendly, and rooms have kitchenettes with refrigerators. Amenities include a swimming pool, free parking, and free Wi-Fi.