Summer Road Trip to Islamorada

Pack up the car and hit the road to take advantage of a bohemian-glam vibe and endless aquatic adventures, just a three-hour drive from Stuart

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Moorings Village. Photo courtesy of Moorings Village
Moorings Village. Photo courtesy of Moorings Village

Stay

Since opening its doors in 1987, Moorings Village at Mile Marker 81.5 has become a not-so-hidden gem among location scouts in fashion and television production. In the Netflix series Bloodline, the Rayburn family residence is represented by the Moorings’ Blue Charlotte, a breathtaking 6,000-square-foot vacation home outfitted with luxurious guest rooms, a chef’s eat-in kitchen, an expansive veranda, and an 18-meter swimming pool. The pristine oceanfront location spans 18 vibrant acres and is dotted with more than 800 palm trees and orchid-lined pathways leading to a secluded white sand beach, where swaying hammocks lazily beckon. Despite eight private cottages that could each house a large, rambunctious family, the resort always manages to feel intimate, tranquil, and utterly magical.

The Islands of Islamorada. Photo by Nickolas Sargent
The Islands of Islamorada. Photo by Nickolas Sargent

The Islands of Islamorada is another serene enclave where relaxation takes center stage. Designed with couples and multigenerational vacations in mind, the property’s one-bedroom ocean suites and four-bedroom, triple-story villas are packed with upscale features ranging from full kitchens and private elevators to verdant outdoor living spaces inspired by spectacular seascapes. And with so many on-property amenities (a state-of-the-art gym, pool, private beach, pickleball courts, a driving green with biodegradable golf balls) and complimentary watersports like sailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, guests may ponder whether leaving the property is even necessary.

Swim with sea lions at Theater of the Sea. Photo courtesy of Theater by the Sea
Swim with sea lions at Theater of the Sea. Photo courtesy of Theater by the Sea

Explore

In Islamorada, it’s easy to get up close and personal with local sea life. At Theater of the Sea, admission comes with dolphin, sea lion, and parrot shows; a bottomless boat ride; plenty of tropical fish, shark, sea turtle, stingray, alligator, and crocodile sightings; and access to a lagoon-style beach. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, visitors can swim with dolphins or sea lions in a tropical lagoon trimmed with native foliage.

Pick up a watercraft at the Kayak Shack at Robbie’s Marina. Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Robbie’s
Pick up a watercraft at the Kayak Shack at Robbie’s Marina. Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Robbie’s

Take advantage of Islamorada’s best feature by paddling your way around. Located at Robbie’s Marina, the Kayak Shack rents watercraft and offers solo and guided tours. Nearby destinations include a mangrove canopy system inhabited by manatees, stingrays, and nurse sharks and Indian Key Historic State Park, an 11-acre barrier once home to an old wrecking colony and ringed by living coral reefs that make it a prime spot for snorkeling.

Outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy both swimming and hiking will want to take advantage of Captain Samantha Zeher’s private ecotours. Zeher, who has a degree in marine biology, operates Keyz Charters, shuttling guests to popular landmarks like Alligator Lighthouse, Cheeca Rocks, and Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park aboard a 21-foot deck boat (docked at Robbie’s Marina). Along the way, she shares interesting facts about local history, wildlife, and ecosystems.

Perfect Key Lime Pie Martini at Islamorada Brewery & Distillery. Photo courtesy of Islamorada Brewery and Distillery
Perfect Key Lime Pie Martini at Islamorada Brewery & Distillery. Photo courtesy of Islamorada Brewery and Distillery

Eat & Drink

Dubbed the “sportfishing capital of the world,” Islamorada certainly makes it easy to reel in some great aquatic fare. A few standouts: the tilefish sautéed with blue crab, shitake mushrooms, capers, and Key lime cream sauce at Chef Michael Ledwith’s eponymous 40-seat eatery, Chef Michael’s; the gourmet grilled cheese and lobster sandwich at Cheeca Lodge, made with creamy brie cheese on sourdough bread; and the snapper ceviche at Marker 88, which is bursting with flavor enhanced by a light dusting of cilantro,
onion, pink peppercorn, and Fresno chili.

Snapper ceviche at Marker 88. Photo courtesy of Marker 88
Snapper ceviche at Marker 88. Photo courtesy of Marker 88

You can’t go to the Keys and not indulge in a little Key lime magic. Stop by Islamorada Brewery & Distillery for a Perfect Key Lime Pie Martini, and indulge in Key lime pie made with a macadamia nut and Rice Krispies crust at the Green Turtle Inn. It just might be the tastiest slice in the state.

Christ of the Abyss near Dry Rocks. Photo by Stephen Frink
Christ of the Abyss near Dry Rocks. Photo by Stephen Frink

Detour

Grab your underwater gear and visit Florida’s Coral Reef, the world’s third-largest coral barrier reef, which extends from the Dry Tortugas to the St. Lucie Inlet. Just 21 miles north of Islamorada, you can catch a boat at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to access the reef, where you can snorkel or scuba dive past rocky shoals teaming with vibrant brain, elkhorn, and star coral as well as top-notch dive sites like the Christ of the Abyss near Dry Rocks, whose outstretched arms are viewable from the ocean’s surface. Tours/equipment rental are available at the John Pennekamp Dive Shop.

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