Fun Islamorada Things to Do

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by Kristin Young | Updated On: May 5, 2022 | Florida Keys

Comprising six of the middle Florida Keys located between Key Largo and Key West, Islamorada is known for its coral reefs. This area between the Everglades National Park and the Florida Strait offers a wealth of natural attractions – as well as a few more commercial Islamorada things to do.

Water activities in Islamorada are of course popular, and in this area you can spend time exploring the sandbar, snorkeling and diving at the reefs, kayaking between Keys, paddling through the mangroves, fishing or relaxing on the beach.

Other must-do Islamorada activities include discovering the Fossil Reef Geological State Park at Windley Key, the Indian Key Historic State Park or the local History of Diving Museum, biking along the Overseas Heritage Trail or even swimming with dolphins at the Theater of the Sea.

Some of the best things to do in Islamorada are more laid-back, however, such as snapping a selfie with Betsy the Lobster, feeding the fish at Robbie’s, sampling the beers crafted by the local microbrewery or feasting on a delicious dinner at sunset. 

You could also follow your own Bloodline trail or take a scuba diving course. Whatever your interests, there are plenty of Islamorada attractions that will ensure your vacation in the tropics is a memorable one.

Whether you want to get active or unwind by getting into the rhythm of island life, this is the definitive list of things to do in Islamorada, Florida. Translating literally as ‘island dwelling ‘, this region is ideal for those who adore all things coastal, and in parts is also rich in history.  

In this post:


MAP

Islamorada Things to Do Map

16 OF THE TOP ISLAMORADA THINGS TO DO

Go Snorkeling

Islamorada Snorkeling

Although Key West and Key Largo are more well known tourist destinations, the best snorkeling is to be found in the middle Keys. The six islands that make up Islamorada are surrounded by coral reefs, and these offer some of the finest tropical snorkeling you’ll find anywhere.  For many these reefs are a must see in Islamorada.

The reefs here are unspoiled, making for incredibly clear waters and a breathtaking array of underwater life. As such they are mainly reached by boat, and whether you take a group tour or arrange a private charter it’s well worth the effort.

Snorkeling is for sure one of the top things to do in Islamorada, and favorite locations include Alligator Reef, Cheeca Rocks, Hens and Chickens and Donut Hole. Despite sustaining damage due to Hurricane Irma in 2017, at Alligator Reef there is still lots of sea life to be seen close to the lighthouse.

Another issue affecting the health of the local reefs is Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), which was first reported in Florida in 2014. This condition spreads rapidly and has proved fatal for some of the coral in the area, as it affects over 30 species. At Cheeca Rocks, however, the coral has somehow survived, and it’s currently the subject of study while experts try to restore the coral in nearby reefs such as Alligator. 

Taking a boat trip to explore one to more of the coral reefs around the area is for many a must do in Islamorada list. 


Kayak to Indian Key

Indian Key
Photo credit: Phillip Sunkel IV, Shutterstock

If you’d like to try a little snorkelling off shore while visiting the Florida Keys, making your own way by kayak to Indian Key Historic State Park is also one to add to your Islamorada to do list. Spread over 11 acres, the small island can only be reached by boat. 

The trip by kayak takes around 20 minutes, and you can rent kayaks from Robbie’s of Islamorada. Even for beginners, it’s an easy route across the shallow waters of the seagrass beds, and you might even spot trunkfish, sharks or stingrays along the way as they skim just beneath the surface. 

The short paddle takes you to one of the uninhabited islands that can be spotted when traveling along the highway – Indian Key Historic State Park. Look out for the ‘Kayak Landing’ sign as you approach and make sure you pull up here, as it’s the island’s sole authorised landing spot. This is to protect the natural habitat and the creatures that live in it.  

Once you arrive you can explore what remains of the former settlement. Being somewhat off the main tourist track, it’s a peaceful and seemingly timeless place that was burnt down in 1840 during an American Indian attack. Since then, it has been preserved as a State Park. 

With no amenities on the island, you’ll need to bring your own water and anything else you require – as well as cash to pay the park entrance fee. You can check current charges here.  


Visit Islamorada Sandbar

aerial view of Islamorada Sandbar
Photo Credit Thinkstock, Getty Images

Located under a mile from the shore, Islamorada Sandbar is one of the most fun things to do in Islamorada. In fact it can get very busy during peak periods, when visitors can see tables, chairs, beach umbrellas and even grills dotted around the shallow water – as well as lots of boats. 

The sandbar tops many a list of Islamorada things to do as a family, as kids and even pets will happily splash around in the warm water for hours. During holiday weekends, it can be like one big party to which everyone in the vicinity is invited, so don’t expect the place to yourself if you visit then!

Islamorada Sandbar is accessed by boat, and there are plenty of local companies who can take you there – or rent out a paddle board or kayak so you can make your own way. The sandbar is positioned close to mile marker 84, under a mile from the shoreline, and resembles a finger-shaped underwater island.   


Explore Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is another of the fascinating sites to be found in the Keys, and for those with an interest in history, it’s one of the main things to see in Islamorada.

The park lies close to mile marker 84.9 on Windley Key and is the site of a former quarry. This was used to supply the stone used during the construction of the Overseas Railroad. The Key Largo limestone found at the park is one of the highlights, and visitors can also explore the nature trails and examine the fossilized coral.

After Henry Flagler completed the Railroad, decorative sections of stone known as keystone were excavated here. Now, visitors can see quarry machinery and view cross sections of the fossilized coral reefs by walking along the eight foot walls.  

Strolling along the five self-guided trails or enjoying a picnic at the tables provided are also popular parts of many a Islamorada sightseeing itinerary. The park is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and you can check current entrance fees and opening times with the Florida State Parks service here


Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s

Feeding tarpon at Robbie's

Feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s has become one of the most iconic things to do in Islamorada, for families in particular. Over 100 of the ‘Silver Kings’, as they’re locally known, visit daily to be hand-fed fish by the visitors that are keen to witness the spectacle.

Note:  I thought Robbie’s would be a tourist trap, but it turned out to be one of my favorite stops along the Miami to Key West drive!  So much to do there- kayaks rentals, boat charters, fishing charters, shopping, feeding tarpon, seeing sharks and manatees, grabbing dinner.  I LOVE Robbies!

It’s quite a sight, especially when a large tarpon actually jumps out of the water to grab the food, treating those present to a flash of glistening silver. There are also pelicans resident here, who do their best to snag their share of the snacks before they disappear into the mighty mouths of the large fish.

Indian Key Map at Robbie_s

It all started with ‘Scarface’, a fish Robbie and Monica began feedback back in the mid 1970s. The creature was so called due to having a gash in its jaw sewn up by a local man of medicine after Robbie rescued it. After being force-fed for a few days, Scarface showed signs of improvement and he was finally released back into the dock six months down the line.

Scarface still continued to visit, bringing with him an ever-growing group of other tarpon. Decades later, people from all over the US and even the world flock to Robbie’s to take part in this impressive daily ritual. You can check out the latest prices for admission and a bucket of fish here

Tip:  Visit Robbie’s when a fishing charter is coming back in, and while they clean the fish you can watch dozens of sharks fight over scraps!   We even saw a very friendly manatee that used their hose as a drinking fountain.


Take a DIY Bloodline Tour

House from Bloodline

Actors aside, the Florida Keys were every bit as integral to the popular TV show. Despite some storylines perhaps portraying the islands in a negative light, overall the series did give tourism in the area something of a leg-up.

As free things to do in Islamorada go this is up there for fans, as many of the show’s storylines were played out in the immediate vicinity. Various areas feature, from aerial footage of a bus traveling along the Overseas Highway to bars, a bus stop and a boatyard featured during the episodes.

To see the house, it’s easiest to rent a kayak at one of the nearby resorts and paddle past.  We stayed at Cheeca Lodge which is next door, and it was just a short paddle to be right in front of the Rayburn House.  You can even rent the stunningly gorgeous house, known as Blue Charlotte, but be prepared for the impressive price tag that goes with it!

Show devotees can take their pick from the likes of Coral Bay Marina, Wahoo’s Bar and Grill, Abel’s Tackle Box, the Caribbean Club, Moorings Village private cottages, Sunrise Cuban Cafe, Mariner’s Hospital and Alabama Jack’s bar. 

As many of the locations are bars and restaurants, it’s easy to combine a DIYBloodline tour with dining out in the area. We recommend sampling the conch fritters while visiting Alabama Jack’s. Robbie’s of Islamorada and Anne’s beach were also featured in various episodes. 


Visit the History of Diving Museum

History of Diving Museum, Islamorada Florida Keys

The History of Diving Museum is a small, local and not-for-profit institution in Islamorada. The premise behind it is to showcase the history and development of diving, and there is equipment and other relics on display. 

Based around the tale of mankind’s quest to discover what lies beneath the surface of the ocean, the museum boasts an impressive layout as well as a helpful, knowledgeable team of staff who are on hand to answer any questions.

The museum was founded by a couple from Ohio who adored diving, and together they laid the foundations for the collection that traces the history of human diving back some 4,000 years. 

Engaging exhibits and a colourful facade help to enhance this museum’s mass appeal, placing it up there with the key attractions in Islamorada, Florida. The contribution of the local area to the overall development of diving also adds context. 

During 2021, for example, the featured exhibition focused on the role of ‘Diving in Pop Culture’, an accessible topic that appeals to a large number of people. 


Relax at Anne’s Beach

trees on Anne's Beach
Photo Credit: Steve Heap

Located at Lower Matecumbe Key, this beach is one of the most popular places to visit in Islamorada. It is named for Anne Eaton, a local environmentalist who used a wheelchair for much of her life. 

If you’re driving, there are two free parking lots close to mile marker 73. Once you arrive, the amenities and attractions at Anne’s Beach include a boardwalk, shallow waters that are ideal for swimming, picnic tables and bathrooms.

Despite beach days featuring on many lists of Islamorada things to do for couples and families, the Keys’ beaches can be far from Florida’s greatest. Anne’s doesn’t offer the broadest stretch of sand, but it is white and powdery and a good place to enter the warm, clear and shallow waters. 

The boardwalk is a highlight of Anne’s beach. It’s lined with covered picnic tables and makes a good place to sit other than on the sand, which can be littered with ocean debris after stormy weather. 


Go Fishing

Man Fishing Florida
Photo credit: Maridav, Shutterstock

As you may have guessed if you’ve read the section on feeding the fish at Robbie’s, tarpon fishing is a popular pastime in this area. It’s an important inclusion in this guide to Islamorada, Florida things to do as the region has made major contributions to the development of both saltwater fly and backcountry sport fishing. 

If you want to take a fishing boat charter led by a competitive grade captain, this is the place to do it. Many pioneers of the sport such as Jimmy Albright, Ted Williams and Cecil Keith honed their superlative skills in this very place.

In fact the official Keys site run by Monroe County Tourist Development Council proclaims that Islamorada is the entire world’s ‘sport fishing capital’. A bold claim, but the area’s heritage does back this up.

Species that can be reeled in around the region include tarpon, sailfish, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, dolphin and bonefish. For women who want to learn the art of angling, the local ‘Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing’ university can provide tuition in fly, inshore, offshore and boom fishing.  


Bike the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is one of the top free things to do in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West alike. Stretching for 106 miles, the paved trail comprises a series of connected segments that means visitors can travel through the islands without venturing onto the highway.

Due to the distance, biking is the most popular way to travel along the trail but it is also open to pedestrians. The trial runs parallel to Highway 1 and passes over more than 20 of the now little-used historic Flagler Railroad bridges en route. 

Along the way, the trail is purposed by locals and visitors for pursuits such as fishing, skating and sightseeing as well as hiking, cycling and running. The trail’s longest section runs between mile marker 106 in Key Largo through to Mile Marker 72 in Islamorada. 

It’s possible to take in many ecological points of interest along the way, including the National Marine Sanctuary and the White Heron, Deer and Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuges. It’s a great way to see the scope of the islands, with plenty of natural beauty to experience as you travel. 


Photo Op with Betsy the Lobster

Betsy the Lobster Islamorada

One of the more lighthearted Islamorada tourist attractions comes in the spiny form of Betsy the Lobster. This larger-than-life fibreglass crustacean is 30 feet tall and can be found at the entrance to the Rain Barrel artist’s village.

The lobster was created during the 1980s and has starred in many a traveler’s photograph ever since. Originally Betsy was on display in the southern Keys, but moved to Islamorada in 2009. 

Rather than being a cartoonish caricature, Betsy has been painstakingly made to reflect her real-life counterparts, and as such does have the capacity to scare small children. You have been warned!


Grab a Drink at Florida Keys Brewing Company

The Florida Keys Brewing Company – or FKBC – is a local microbrewery that can be found in the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District of Islamorada. It’s the first company of its type to have set up in the area, and the tasting room is open daily from 11am to 10 or 11pm. 

The taproom offers tastings of all FKBC’s own beers, which are brewed right here. The pretty beer garden is one of the best places to go in Islamorada when you want to relax. If you do get bored of gazing at the tropical foliage and colourful flowers you can play giant, outdoor versions of games like Jenga.

Kids and pets are welcome in the garden and there are regular live music events. Beer fans will love the tasting room’s beer flights, or can take their pick from a range of barrel-aged, limited edition and seasonal brews. 


Visit the Theater of the Seas

Theater of the Seas, Islamorada, Florida

The Theater of the Seas is for families in particular one of the essential Islamorada places to visit. With cool lagoons and tropical gardens, the site provides a home for various species including stingrays, sea lions, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and alligators. 

This marine mammal park has been family run since the mid 20th century and offers a number of packages for visitors. As well as general admission, visitors can swim, wade with or meet dolphins, sea turtles and sea lions. 

You can also get up close and personal with an alligator – if you want to – paint with a sea lion, swim with rays or meet the colourful lorikeets. An assortment of events also takes place throughout the day, such as shark feeding, the sea turtle talk or even a bottomless boat ride.  


Take a Discover Scuba Course

A Discover Scuba course is ideal for those who want to dip their toe into the world of scuba diving, but aren’t quite sure how they’ll take to the sport. This is often referred to as a ‘resort certification’, and the one day course will have you diving at two local locations by the afternoon.

This is one of those Islamorada best things to do when you have an interest in exploring the underwater world but have as yet received no relevant training. After the meet and greet, it commences with a pool session to familiarize you with how to use the equipment. 

After lunch, you will undertake two shallow reef dives while under the expert guidance of your instructor. If you love this taster and want to do more, Discover Scuba will also count towards the cost and content of the full Open Water Certification course.


Have Dinner with a View of the Sunset

Sunset at the beach
Photo Credit John English IV, Getty Images

One of the finest things to do in Islamorada at night is to dine al fresco while watching the sun sink down low before dipping below the horizon. Pierre’s beach patio at the Morada Bay is the best place to do this, and is located at mile marker 81.6.

It’s an idyllic scene – palms sway overhead as you scrunch the sand beneath your toes, sitting at one of an informal and colourful collection of round, painted tables with matching or coordinating stools. If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Islamorada for couples, surely securing a table here has to be a priority.

Morada Bay features two eateries – the more formal Pierre’s restaurant and the laid-back Beach Cafe. The latter focuses on relaxed dishes like burgers, fish and chips, tacos, pasta and the catch of the day, while the upmarket menu at Pierre’s features the likes of Florida lobster curry, Wagyu steak and sea bass served with imaginative accompaniments such as sweet purple rice, bone marrow and black garlic butter or Key lime beurre blanc.  


Paddle Through the Mangroves

People Kayaking in the Mangroves Florida Keys

If you’re seeking active stuff to do in Islamorada, then paddling through the mangroves is a lovely way to spend a few hours. You can rent a kayak or paddle board to make your own way from places like Robbie’s, or by booking onto a guided tour you’ll be in the safe hands of an expert.

For a lot of people exploring the ecosystem of the mangroves is among the top 10 things to do in Islamorada, as much of the flora and fauna that can be seen here is unique to the area. 

Tours tend to last for two or three hours, and one option is to take a kayaking trip a few hours before sunset. This is a fabulous way to see some of the finest natural sights of the area, and for couples it can be one of the most romantic yet fun things to do in Islamorada too. 


WHICH ISLAMORADA THINGS TO DO WILL YOU SHORTLIST?

Among all these Islamorada fun things to do, which will make your vacation to-do list? Whichever you choose, you can see there are plenty of exciting, relaxing and romantic things to do in Islamorada. 

From Islamorada family activities suitable for kids to cool Islamorada things to do at night, there are plenty of natural and man-made attractions and Islamorada points of interest to keep you occupied during your stay!

Looking for more ideas for your next Florida Keys trip??? Check out all of our Florida Keys Guides HERE!

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Hi!  We’re Kristin & Andrew, lovers of everything tropical.  We spend as much time as possible searching for the best beaches, snorkeling, hiking, and fun in the sun!