Islamorada City Brief

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The "Purple Isles" or Islamorada as we know it, is southwest of Key Largo on Upper Matecumbe Key, with a population of over 8,000. Hundreds of years ago, Spanish explorers sailing past Islamorada, saw the purple hue of its coastline (from the shells of sea snails, which have a purplish tint) and gave it the name "islas moradas", Spanish for purple isles.

When you think of Islamorada, think "Sportfishing Capital of the World". Islamorada boasts the largest concentration of charter fishing boats in the entire island chain. You will find sailfish, tuna and dolphin in the Atlantic, and tarpon & bonefish in Florida Bay. There are too many charter boat companies to list them all here, but most offer a few or more of the following activities and amenities: fishing in the "backcountry" waters (Florida Bay for those of us non-locals), offshore fishing charters, charters from Everglades National Park to the Marquesas, captain for hire services, backcountry guides, reef fishing, quality gear, bait, tackle, license, dockage, fuel, boat rentals and accommodations. Half, 3/4 and Full day charters are available.

Theater of the Sea, the second oldest marine park in the United States, is an option for people who do not wish to fish. It offers continuous tours of sea life, dolphin shows and dolphin swims. Other options are Robbie's, offering a wide variety of marine activities, and Easy Adventures, an informative eco-tour of Florida Bay. Avanyu Spa, at Cheeca Lodge, is a full-service spa offering massage therapy, facials, mud wraps, skin purifications, anti-stress wraps and steam rooms. State parks include: Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site, accessible only by boat, Long Key State Recreation Area (allows campfires and has a natural beach for snorkeling) and Indian Key State Historical Site. Kayak out to Indian Key, located less than 1 mile off the Lower Matecumbe and tour the island that was once home to New York seaman John Jacob Housman, who built a colony of richly-landscaped homes there in 1831. The island was raided by hostile Indians in 1840, who destroyed most of the homes. Snorkel a bit on the Atlantic side and see a barracuda or two. San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Park is the site of a Spanish fleet sunk in 1733, for diving afficionados.
Public beaches: Anne's Beach and Matecumbe Public Beach (both do not have public restrooms) and Plantation Yacht Harbor, which has watersports rentals, full facilities, and a restaurant.

With sportfishing being so popular in the area, you can expect to find and plenty of fine seafood restaurants to whet your appetite. Try the Atlantic's Edge Restaurant at Cheeca Lodge & Spa, the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant or Squid Row. For the meat and potatoes crowd there is an Outback Steak House. Whatever your tastes, there are many other outstanding eateries to choose from in the area.

No vacation is complete without a little shopping! Try Treasure Village, Latitude 25 Clothing Co., Worldwide Sportsman and many other great shops and galleries in the Islamorada area.

The Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Houseboat Vacations of the Florida Keys, Inc., Edgewater Lodge, Pines and Palms Resort, Bed & Breakfast Islamorada and the Rainbow Bend Resort are a few of the accommodations that run the gamut from houseboat rental to full-service resort. There are also plenty of campgrounds and RV parks to choose from.

Come to Islamorada to fish, snorkel, dive or just simply to take in all the wonderful pleasures that this upper Keys island has to offer.

By
Jean M Mazza
02/02/04