By Kara Franker
Measuring only 20 miles long and, in some places, barley 150 feet wide, Islamorada is a collection of islands located in the Florida Keys.
Legend has it the area was named by Spanish explorers who, upon seeing the purple sky at sunset and the purple bougainvillea, called it “isla morado” or purple island.
Islamorada is known as the Sport-Fishing Capital of the World. And recently the island was named one of the 17 most romantic destinations in the U.S.
Here are five fun things to do in Islamorada:
1. Explore trails, shipwrecks and mangrove hammocks.
Check out the 11-acre Indian Key Historic State Park and view the remains of a shipwreck salvage community from the 1830s. There are also several hundred yards of well-maintained trails that line the interior of the island.
Visit Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, an exposed coral reef that once served as a quarry for construction of the Key West extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. An environmental center documents park and regional history, and self-guided nature trails wind through mangrove hammocks.
The Spanish named Long Key State Park "Cayo Vivora" or Rattlesnake Key because its shape resembles a snake with its jaws open. Explore this island by canoeing through a chain of lagoons or hiking two land-based trails. The Golden Orb Trail leads through five natural communities to an observation tower that provides a panoramic view of the island. And the fishing experts say some of the best bonefishing in the Keys is found here.
2. Hang out at Robbie's Marina and feed the tarpon.
At Robbie’s Marina, purchase buckets of bait and feed the tarpon from the marina dock. Fishing and snorkeling excursions and state park tours can be booked as well, including trips out to Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. Accessible only by boat, the island features a virgin hardwood hammock, along with an early Florida Keys pioneer family home and a stone wall believed to have been built by Native Americans.
3. Watch a dolphin show or listen to live music.
At Theater of the Sea, view dolphin and sea lion shows at the second oldest marine mammal facility in the world. Then hop in the water and swim with bottlenose dolphins, stingrays and sea lions.
Or head to the ICE Amphitheater at Founders Park. This outdoor performing arts amphitheater features concerts, dance and other live performances.
4. Learn about Florida Key's history.
Experience one of the world’s largest collections of historic dive equipment and trace 3,000 years of diving at the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum. A special gallery features artifacts and recovery tools used by pioneering treasure hunter Art McKee. The “Parade of Nations” features historic dive helmets from some 25 nations.
Located nearby, the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center is part of Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost. Also a conference center for meetings and groups, the venue showcases the history, environmental and marine conservation efforts of the Florida Keys.
Located at Mile Marker 81.6, there's a 65-foot by 20-foot art deco–style Hurricane Monument, commemorating veterans and locals who died during the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Beneath the tiled mosaic that forms the base of the monument are the ashes of many who died in the storm.
5. Picnic at Anne's Beach or Islamorada Library Beach.
Pack a picnic and head out to Anne’s Beach (MM 73.5) or Islamorada Library Beach (MM 81.5). Situated along the roadside, Anne’s Beach is a popular spot for sunning and swimming. A boardwalk through mangroves links two sandy areas and covered picnic structures can be found along the length of the boardwalk. Somewhat hidden behind the Helen Wadley Branch library, Islamorada Library Beach also offers picnic facilities.
If you go...
To help plan your Florida Keys vacation, check out Fla-Keys.com to make this the ultimate Florida Keys road trip.