Things to do in Islamorada include of course world-class fishing but also some other attractions, too. Islamorada is actually a chain of islands between Key Largo and Marathon, running from Mile Marker 88 to Mile Marker 73 (Marathon is at MM 50). It includes the Keys called Matecumbe, Windley, and Plantation, whose residents state on their address forms that they live in Islamorada. It’s known as the Sportfishing Capital of the World, but there are some things to do in Islamorada for land-lubbers as well.
Theater of the Sea
Theater of the Sea is one of those showy, grab you as you go by large tourist attractions you just hope your kids won’t spot from the back seat of the car as you speed by with your fingers crossed. You really can’t miss it with its gigantic sculptures out front depicting critters and shells. The grounds are pristine and sharply landscaped, with shrubs trimmed into shapes of dolphins. The parking lot is at times dominated by sleepy, nonchalant cats basking in the sun or refusing to give up parking spaces. The attraction itself offers, among other things, swim with the dolphins. You can also swim with the sting rays if you’re on a budget because it’s much cheaper. Those poor underpaid sting rays! Theater of the Sea is one of the best things to do in Islamorada if you have kids.
You ask, how could a tackle store be listed under Islamorada Attractions? The answer is that the World Wide Sportsman is so much more than a tackle store. It’s a grand resort of all things fishing, fish, and boating. It’s got a cafe, a restaurant, a marina, rockers on the porch overlooking the bay, a glass elevator, a giant fish tank, and a replica of Ernest Hemingway’s boat Pilar, which you can climb up into and have a look around if you like. All this is in addition to rows and rows of fishing clothing, sunscreen shirts, a ladies boutique upstairs next to yes, the Art Gallery! The footwear section is fascinating if you like all sorts of Crocs and flip flops, not to mention deck shoes. There’s a snorkel and lobstering section where you can get ready for the Lobster Season. The gift section in front has a faux fireplace and wing chairs in the book store area, and more gourmet sauces, fish rubs, and fry batters than you can shake a stick at. After fishing, World Wide Sportsman is perhaps next on the list of most popular things to do in Islamorada. It’s really something to see, and you’ll also probably find something you need, even if you don’t fish.
More on Indian Key
Indian Key has eleven acres of land on it, and in the heyday of the Florida Keys wrecking industry, in the 1830s, it was private village of sorts. Jacob Houseman started the personal town so he wouldn’t have to follow wrecking industry rules and regulations of Key West. He even had a Post Office and a bowling alley. Audubaon spent time on a large boat just off Indian Key, discovering new birds such as the roseate tern. He and his art partner George Lehman, who did the landscapes while Audubon did the birds, spent time here drawing cormorants, egrets, and the like. Audubon shot lots of birds so he could stuff them and wire them into poses for artistic renderings later.
Jacob Houseman had connections or money, because he was able to get the Navy to put a fleet of ships off Indian Key to protect his village from Seminole Indians. Caloosa Indians had supposedly had massacred 400 shipwrecked Frenchmen on the Island a while back. The Navy fleet turned out to like drinking a whole lot more than protecting Jacob Houseman’s island, however. The whole village except for the postman’s house, was burned to the ground in 1840 by the Seminoles. They also killed over a dozen people. Jacob Houseman had to go back to Key West and make a living as a worker on a rival wrecker’s boat. It only lasted six months until he died in an accident on board. He’s bured at Indian Key and if you visit the island you can read the historical plaque marking his gravesite.
Another settlement was formed on Indian Key thirty years later, and schooners were built here. This was around the time when the Alligator Reef lighthouse was being built, so workers lived on Indian Key as well.
In the 1930s and 1940s, people dynamited Indian Key looking for treasure. The island is kind of messy looking because of this, and looks nothing like the natural beauty of Lignumvitae Key, which has been preserved. You are allowed to visit Indian Key, and hours are 8 am to sunset. It’s at Mile Marker 78.5. This is one of the more popular things to do in Islamorada if you love the water or nature.