Best Things to Do on Islamorada in The Florida Keys

Julie Diebolt Price Avatar
Things to do in Islamorada Sunset at Pierre's with a gorgeous orange sky and palm trees overlooking people watching from the beach.

The writer was hosted.

The breathtaking sunsets in Islamorada paint the sky in shades of purple and never fail to amaze tourists and residents. This spectacle can be traced back to the early Spanish explorers, who were mesmerized by the vivid hues of the setting sun and the surrounding waters.

The purple hue is caused by a combination of atmospheric conditions, such as the scattering of light by particles in the air and the reflection of light off the water. This unique phenomenon has made Islamorada, which means “purple island” in Spanish. a popular destination for photographers and nature enthusiasts. I am one of them.

What You Need To Know About Islamorada

Islamorada Is Known For…

Key Largo is known for diving, Key West is known for sunsets, and Islamorada, halfway between the two, is known for fishing. While the resorts have private sandy beaches, people come to Islamorada for fishing and snorkeling rather than the beaches, according to a local.

Islamorada is about 90 minutes south of Miami on the Overseas Highway. It’s known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World” because Islamorada hosts the largest fishing fleet per square mile in the world.

The Netflix family-drama series Bloodline was filmed in Islamorada, and the series takes place on the beach at the Moorings Village and Spa.

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Things to do in Islamorada - Lazy Days Restaurant, a blue and white, two-story building with cars parked in front. The second story has a mural that says Lazy Days and the staircase has a blue awning with Lazy Days on the front.
Lazy Days Restaurant. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

When Is The Best Time To Visit The Florida Keys

The best months to visit the Florida Keys are December through April. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to low 80s Fahrenheit. This time of year also offers the best fishing and water sports conditions.

November and May are transition months between seasons. Hurricanes occur in the summer, and temps are hot and sultry.

The busiest months on the Florida Keys are December through February.

Where Is Islamorada

Between Key Largo and Key West lie the Plantation, Upper Matecumbe, and Lower Matecumbe Keys. Islamorada is known as the “Village of Islands” due to its unique geography. Islamorada is between Mile Markers 80 and 90 in Monroe County.

The islands are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico (called the bay side), making it a popular destination for water activities such as fishing, boating, and snorkeling. The islands are connected by the Overseas Highway, which offers stunning turquoise water views.

Read More: Hawk’s Cay Resort Review: Family Fun in the Florida Keys

Things to do in Islamorada - Pierre's Restaurant, a blue and white two-story building with porches on both floors and palm trees in front near a red-brick paved area.
Pierre’s Restaurant. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

How Big Is Islamorada

In terms of demographics, Islamorada has a population of around 7,000 residents. The island is approximately 20 miles long and offers a variety of landscapes, including stunning beaches, mangrove forests, and crystal-clear waters.

Things to do in Islamorada - Lorelei Restaurant, a wooden pier juts out into the water with a yellow and white one-story building, a hedge and palm trees.
Lorelei Restaurant. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Things To Do In Islamorada

Regarding things to do in Islamorada, there is something for everyone. A visit to the History of Diving Museum is a must for history enthusiasts. It showcases the evolution of diving equipment and the history of underwater exploration.

For dining options, Islamorada is known for its fresh seafood. Numerous oceanfront restaurants offer delicious seafood dishes like stone crab claws, lobster, and locally caught fish. Some popular dining spots include Lazy Days Restaurant, Islamorada Fish Company, and Marker 88.

Things to do in Islamorada - View of a sign in front of a marina with several boats and people standing on a pier. The sign reads All Within an Easy Paddle with photos and text describing things to see nearby.
Activities at Robbie’s Marina. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Fishing is a major attraction in Islamorada, often called the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” The island offers excellent opportunities for both offshore and backcountry fishing. You can charter a boat and try your fishing skills for marlin, sailfish, tarpon, and many other species.

Water sports are also a big part of the Islamorada experience. You can go snorkeling or scuba diving to explore the vibrant coral reefs and marine life. Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular for those who prefer a more relaxed water adventure. That would be me!

Islamorada is a paradise for nature lovers, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts. Its unique geography, diverse demographics, and various activities make it a fantastic destination to explore.

Things to do in Islamorada - The entrance to Casa Morada, a driveway with blue sign on the left leads past trees and a small parking area to a white building in the distance.
Entrance to Casa Morada in Islamorada. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Casa Morada As Home Base

Casa Morada is a centrally located boutique hotel in Islamorada and was my home base for exploring these Florida Keys islands. It is known for its luxurious and intimate atmosphere, making it a great place to stay for those looking for peace and relaxation. The hotel offers stunning ocean views and a serene environment.

Things to do in Islamorada - Casa Morada, view of a blue pool with steps leading down and a white wooden cabana behind, surrounded by a pool deck and palm trees.
Pool and Cabana at Casa Morada. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Casa Morada, rated #1 on TripAdvisor, boasts a private beach where visitors can relax, swim, and participate in various water sports. The hotel’s rooms are elegantly decorated and equipped with up-to-date facilities, guaranteeing a pleasant stay. In addition, Casa Morada offers a swimming pool, a spa, and a restaurant that provides tasty meals.

Things to do in Islamorada - Shrimp Shack, woman with short grayish hair and sunglasses poses in front of a poster for the tv show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, autographed by Guy Fieri.
Shrimp Shack show by Guy Fiero with the author. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Florida Keys Food Tours

My first choice to learn about Islamorada history and dining options is the Florida Keys Food Tours, a walking tour through Paradise in historic downtown Islamorada, where TV shows Bloodline and Diner, Drive-ins and Dives were filmed.

When I learned about their tours and what they covered, I realized this is the best overview one can have with a limited amount of time on the island. When I spoke with the owner, Craig Zabransky, I realized their programs offer the perfect overview of things to do, including historical sights, local art, and sampling the best of the local Keys island-style cuisine.

Sharing 200 years of Keys history, the Florida Keys Food Tours offers a meeting with chefs, learning about island foods, introducing the art scene, historic landmarks, and more. I’m looking forward to learning how to blow the conch shell.

Things to do in Islamorada - Conch Shell Demonstration by Craig Zabransky of Florida Keys Food Tour. Person in a blue polo shirt holds a large conch shell in one hand while gesturing with the other.
Conch Shell Demonstration by Craig Zabransky of Florida Keys Food Tour. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Islamorada Itinerary

If you are planning your trip to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, as I am right now, you may wonder where to start.

When I begin planning my itineraries, I locate on a map where I will be staying. On this trip, I will be at Casa Morada, centrally located in Islamorada. This location is great because I won’t have to double back on attractions. As I drive south on Highway 1, the Overseas Highway, I will stop at attractions on the way down before I check into the hotel, making the most of my first day.

On the second day, I’ll take the food tour, which is a comprehensive introduction to Islamorada, and will visit the attractions on the island’s south side.

 On the third day, I will catch attractions I haven’t seen yet or take a boat tour of the outlying islands on a charter boat.

Planning the itinerary this way, I’m sure to see the highlights without going back and forth, or in this case, up and down the islands.

Islamorada Attractions

Working from the north just past Tavernier at Mile Marker 91.5, here is a list of Islamorada attractions traveling south on the Overseas Highway.

Things to do in Islamorada - Rain Barrel Village, a giant model of a Florida Keys spiny lobster sits surrounded by short hedges in front of a one-story building.
Betsy at Rain Barrel Village. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Rain Barrel Village

The Rain Barrel Village, easily found because of the giant Florida Keys spiny lobster at the entrance named Betsy, is a tropical garden and open-air complex. Specialty shops, boutiques, and galleries offer local art, custom jewelry, handmade crafts, and unique souvenirs.

This is the perfect stop for a selfie because Betsy is one of the most photographed landmarks in the Florida Keys.

Things to do in Islamorada - Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, a large piece of machinery sits on a metal track in front of a grass area being explored by people in the distance, next to a two-story white building surrounded by trees.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

Key Largo limestone, a fossilized coral reef, makes up the Windley Key Fossil Reef. The limestone was used to build Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad in the 1900s. The quarry was used until the 1960s to produce Keystone, a decorative stone.

Five self-guided nature trails show off the natural beauty of Islamorada. The visitor center features exhibits, quarry machine samples, and ancient coral reef cross-sections.

Things to do in Islamorada - Large stone monument sign surrounded by flower and bush landscaping and green lawn, with palm trees behind, that reads Theater of the Sea.
Theater of the Sea. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Theater of the Sea

Theater of the Sea, family-owned since 1946, is in a tropical garden setting. Home to various marine life like sea turtles, fish, sharks, sea lions, stingrays, alligators, dolphins, and birds, their mission is to provide a wonderful home for their animals and share it with visitors.

Regularly scheduled shows run throughout the day from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Guests can interact with dolphins and sea lions or swim with sharks.

History of Diving Museum

Over forty years, Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer collected many diving helmets, air pumps, suits, lights, gear, memorabilia, prints, photographs, books, films, and videos. They incorporated it into a museum in 2000, and the History of Diving Museum showcases their contributions from over 30 countries to the history of diving. It’s become the largest and most comprehensive collection in the world.

Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad

Henry Flagler co-founded Standard Oil with partners John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews. For more than a century, Standard Oil was the world’s largest and most profitable corporation.

Henry Flagler built the Overseas Railroad from the fossilized coral limestone from the quarry owned by the Florida East Coast Railroad, Flagler’s resources and imagination. Flagler connected the entire east coast of Florida from Jacksonville to Key West and intended to take advantage of the Panama Canal to open up trade.

Flagler also built hotels and resorts along the Atlantic Coast of Florida and ushered in the Gilded Age in the late 1800s.

Things to do in Islamorada - Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, Blue and white, two-story building with large gable over the front entrance with signs underneath and palm trees and parked cars in front.
Florida Keys History & Discovery Center. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Florida Keys History and Discovery Center

The Discovery Center, located on the property of the Islander Resort, permanently exhibits a replica of Indian Key circa 1840, along with stories about the Overseas Highway, the people who created lives for themselves in the islands, and much more.

Things to do in Islamorada - hurricane monument, a round paved area with benches and a US flag on flagpole in the center, surrounded by green lawn and palm trees.
Hurricane Monument. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Hurricane Monument

The Hurricane Monument is a memorial to the 408 people killed in the 1935 Labor Day hurricane at Mile Marker 81.5. Carved out of the local coral limestone, the monument honors those who died in the strongest hurricane to hit the US.

Pioneer Cemetery

Located at Mile Marker 82, the Pioneer Cemetery is a small collection of statues, sand, and graves surrounded by a white picket fence. The Pinders, Parkers, and Russells were pioneers in the 1850s and settled in Islamorada.

Things to do in Islamorada - Florida Keys Brewing Company, two-story building with people entering through front entrance in the middle of the lower story, which is pink with Florida Keys Brewing Co. in large yellow letters above the doors and large windows on either side. The second story is blue with a white railing on the balcony and one window with pink shutters. There is a large cut-out display of Santa in a sleigh pulled by lizards along the balcony railing.
Florida Keys Brewing Company. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Florida Keys Brewing Co.

The first Upper Keys microbrewery, Florida Keys Brewing Co., is in the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. With a rotating selection of seasonal and barrel-aged beers, you can enjoy a draft beer while you check out the artwork, play some games, or listen to music. The FKBC distillery infuses its beer with local flavors like Key limes, local honey, and citrus.

Things to do in Islamorada - Art by Pasta, Sign showing blue water and a sandy beach that says, Islamorada Art Gallery by Pasta(c), with a wooden pole on each side, in front of a blue building, under a window with plants in front.
Art by Pasta. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Morada Way Arts & Cultural District

The primary thoroughfare between the iconic Green Turtle Inn and the Hurricane Monument is a six-block corridor called the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. This bustling corridor boasts studio spaces, restaurants, and art galleries integrated with parks, bike baths, and businesses.

Gallery openings, local artists, live music, food, and libations are featured on the third Thursday of every month.

Things to do in Islamorada - Green Turtle Inn, one-story white commercial building with green trim and palm trees and short hedge in front. A tall sign in front reads 'Sid & Roxie's Green Turtle Inn".
Green Turtle Inn. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Green Turtle Inn

The Green Turtle Inn, a famous Islamorada landmark since 1947, became known for its sea turtle specialties harvested from the local waters. Today, the “Turtle” has an Old Florida laid-back vibe and offers fresh seafood, steaks, and classic American dishes.

Indian Key Historic State Park

Indian Key was the first county seat for Dade County in 1836. It was home to a profitable business that retrieved valuable items from shipwrecks in the Florida Keys. Today, Indian Key is an uninhabited ghost town. You can hike, swim, sunbathe, visit the observation tower, and take the self-guided interpretative tour at this historic site.

Only accessible by kayak now due to storm damage on the boat ramp, Indian Key Historic State Park is an offshore island. It is open from 8 am until sundown every day of the year. Local charter companies offer kayak rentals.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park

A wealthy Miami chemist by the name of William J. Matheson, bought the tiny island of Lignumvitae in 1919, the year my dad was born. Matheson built a caretaker’s home with a windmill for electricity and a cistern to store rainwater. Today, this structure is the visitor center for the island forest, a virgin tropical hardwood hammock.

The Lignumvitae Key is accessible only by boat or kayak. Florida Keys Boat Rentals provides a ferry service at Robbie’s Marina on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Check their website for details and schedule.

Things to do in Islamorada - Robbie’s Marina Photo Opp., wooden lifeguard chair sits on the beach with signs on either side - the left one is yellow with a waypost design in multiple colors showing distances to Key Largo, Islamorada, Miami, Key West and Ft. Lauderdale. The sign on the right is blue with a breaching whale that says Robbie's Marina MM 77.5 below.
Robbie’s Marina Photo Opp. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Robbie’s Marina

 Robbie’s of Islamorada is a must-visit when you are in the Florida Keys. It is the place to connect it all, from snorkeling trips, offshore fishing, eco-tours, and jet ski adventures in mangrove tunnels to kayak and paddle board rentals.

I plan to feed the giant tarpon fish, see great art, and pick up a few souvenirs when I’m there. You can book a day trip at Robbie’s to visit the historic islands only accessible by water or sunset cruises later in the day.

Islamorada Sandbar

Less than a mile offshore, near Mile Marker 84, is the famous Islamorada Sandbar on the Atlantic Ocean side. During the summer and holiday weekends, the sandbar is overwhelmed with boats, lounge chairs, BBQ grills, and picnic tables submerged underwater.

The sandbar is only accessible by water. Therefore, a charter company like KeyZ Charters will help you get there. If that scene is too much for you, KeyZ Charters can also take you to other shallow beach areas on a personal sandbar boat tour that includes Key Largo, Marathon, and all of the Florida Keys.

Alligator Reef Lighthouse

There are no alligators at Alligator Reef Lighthouse because they are freshwater reptiles. You are more likely to see crocodiles, and then, rarely. The lighthouse was named after the USS Alligator, a US Navy schooner that ran aground on the reef and sank in 1822.

The 150-year-old lighthouse is about four nautical miles east of Indian Key over the island chain’s barrier coral reef. The only way to get there is by boat.

Sea Oats Beach

The sand berms between the beach and Overseas Hwy at Sea Oats Beach sustained significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017. Red streetlights were installed to protect the sea turtle hatchlings on this nesting beach to keep them from entering the road. White streetlights attract the hatchlings because they mistake them for the moon.

Things to do in Islamorada - Anne’s Beach., Sand and dried seaweed along an expanse of beach with blue water and blue sky.
Anne’s Beach. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Anne’s Beach

Located at the southern end of Lower Matecumbe Key at Mile Marker 73.5, Anne’s Beach is a local favorite and was featured in the Netflix series, Bloodline. The shallow water, boardwalk, and covered pavilions with picnic tables and benches are the last stop on my Islamorada itinerary.

Environmentalist Anne Eaton is memorialized at this little beach. Eaton fought to preserve and protect the area and wildlife of Islamorada. Hidden behind mangrove trees, this shallow beach with clear waters is a great place to learn to snorkel because there are no waves—the perfect place for me.

Julie Diebolt Price is an award-winning professional photographer, educator, author, and travel writer. She writes about two things – photography and travel (along with a little food and beverage). Julie educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures.
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One response

  1. It is always so much fun to read a post about your home town, so glad you enjoyed your time visiting. and I am impressed about how much you did when visiting Islamorada…. Plus, super glad to see you enjoyed your time on the Florida Keys Food Tour too.

    I look forward to reading more about your adventures.

    Stay loving the cuisine, culture and cocktails of the keys,

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