Islamorada is comprised of five islands that lie off the southern Florida coast between Key Largo to the north and Key West to the south.
Islamorada is primarily known as a hub of world-class sport-fishing and draws saltwater anglers from all over the world who come in search of tarpon, billfish, and bonefish.
The area is famous for its tropical climate, laid-back atmosphere, and abundance of historical attractions. For those who’d rather avoid the crowds often associated with the state’s more commercialized cities, it’s a great place to visit.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Islamorada, Florida.
1. History of Diving Museum
Though it’s only been open for slightly more than a decade, the History of Diving Museum has amassed an impressive collection of items relating to humankind’s exploration of the sea.
The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, and guided tours are available for those who’d like an insider’s insight into the things they’re seeing.
Items on display include diving equipment, photographs, and first-hand historical accounts of significant events.
The cost of admission is inexpensive, and most guests typically spend about an hour exploring.
Special free programs are held on the third Wednesday of each month as well.
2. Whale Harbor Restaurant and Seafood Buffet
For many out-of-state visitors, a vacation in Florida means eating as much seafood as humanly possible. For those staying in Islamorada, Whale Harbor Restaurant and Seafood Buffet is the perfect place to do just that.
Often referred to as Islamorada’s most iconic restaurant, it has just undergone major renovations and now includes a rooftop bar.
The restaurant features everything from shrimp and lobster to oysters and fresh local fish; it’s open daily from noon until 9:00 PM.
They don’t take reservations, so if you visit during peak times, there may be a wait. Most guests choose to order a drink and relax overlooking the water until a table becomes available.
3. Anne’s Beach
Florida has more coastline than any other state excluding Alaska, and for many visitors, beaches are where they spend the majority of their vacation time.
Anne’s Beach is located on Lower Matecumbe Key and is named after a famous environmentalist, who dedicated much of her life to preserving South Florida’s natural splendor.
The beach is characterized by warm, clear water and a lack of waves, making it perfect for families traveling with little ones.
Beach amenities include ample parking, restrooms, and covered seating areas. There’s also a boardwalk that winds its way through mangroves, tidal marshes, and wetlands.
4. Keys History and Discovery Center
For those in the Keys and Islamorada for the first time, visiting the Keys History and Discovery Center would be a great way to get an overview of the area’s history, culture, and attractions.
The center is focused on preserving and promoting the area’s unique history, and its exhibits and displays are spread over two floors overlooking the water.
Operating hours are from Thursday to Sunday from 10 AM until 5 PM, and admission is inexpensive – and free for children 13 and younger. The center features a movie theater and a variety of interactive exhibits that touch on many topics appropriate for adults and children alike.
5. Indian Key Historic State Park
Indian Key Historic State Park is located just off US Route 1 but is only reachable by boat, which means it tends to get less foot traffic than many other more easily accessible attractions in the area.
The Island on which the park resides covers just over ten acres and is most well-known for the abandoned early 19th-century town that once flourished with fishermen and traders.
Some of the town has been preserved, and for lovers of history, there’s no better place to get an interesting look into the past. The park is also popular with anglers, hikers, and kayakers, and is open daily from 8 AM until sunset.
6. Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory
There’s no shortage of restaurants in south Florida who claim to have the state’s best key lime pie, and most locals know that such assertions are little more than marketing ploys.
Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory is located on Overseas Highway in nearby Tavernier. According to locals and visitors alike, it should be in serious contention for best key lime pie.
Their pies are made fresh daily, and they offer a number of sweet, non-key lime options as well.
It’s a great place to stop for an afternoon coffee and slice of pie after a long day on your feet, and they offer both in and outdoor seating. They’re open every day from 10 AM until 9 PM.
7. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
When workers were quarrying stone to build the Overseas Railroad, they discovered vast fossil deposits; many of them are from more than 100,000 years ago.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is one of the few places visitors can get up-close-and-personal with such amazing fossils. Inexpensive guided tours are offered from December to April when the weather is usually perfect.
The park’s visitor center is a great place to stop first, as its exhibits have been designed to give guests an overview of the things they’re about to see. Trails and covered seating areas make the grounds great places to explore on your own as well.
8. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Stretching through some of the state’s most incredible natural environments between Key Largo and Key West, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is a popular attraction for fit hikers, bikers, and lovers of the great outdoors.
The multi-use trail stretches for more than 75 paved miles. With several access points along the way, it is convenient for those staying anywhere in the Keys.
The trail passes through some state and national parks and marine sanctuaries, giving visitors a wide range of activity options, including camping, fishing, and horseback riding.
With a little planning, it’s possible to find lodging conveniently close to trail access points.
9. Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Though they’re not as common as their alligator cousins, American crocodiles are iconic Florida animals that are most at home in the state’s southernmost portion.
The Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 to preserve the crocodile’s natural habitat and provide a safe breeding area.
The refuge includes a number of trails that lead to observations areas from where guests will have the opportunity to view the toothy predators in their natural environment.
The grounds include seating areas and garden areas as well as lots of informative signs that describe the things you’re seeing. The refuge is located on County Road 905 in Key Largo.
10. The Florida Keys Turtle Hospital
The warm waters off the Florida coast are home to a variety of marine turtle species. Florida Keys Turtle Hospital is located on Overseas Highway in Marathon and was established in the mid-‘80s to provide rehabilitation to sea turtles that had been injured or orphaned in the wild.
The hospital operates as a not-for-profit organization and strives to return most animals back to their natural environment.
The hospital’s staff offer a variety of educational tours and conservation-centered activities for all ages. Most guests who’ve visited consider it one of the most poignant and memorable experiences of their Florida trip.
11. Crane Point Museum, Nature Center and Historic Site
The Crane Point Museum, Nature Center and Historic Site is comprised of more than 60 acres. It includes a variety of historical and natural attractions, making it a wise destination choice for those travelers looking to maximize their limited vacation time.
There’s no better place to get an overview of the region’s history, including its settling, immigration, culture, and economy. It’s also popular with outdoorsy types.
The museum includes a variety of exhibits and artifacts, and the center’s outdoor portion is crisscrossed by nature trails that wind their way through coastal wetlands and hardwood forests. Many guests opt for the staff-led trolley tours that are offered regularly.
12. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Located along County Road 905 in Key Largo just a short drive from Islamorada, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is most well-known for its varied natural habitats and the abundance of outdoor activity options it offers visitors.
The park is a favorite among animal lovers and wildlife photographers and is home to alligators, crocodiles, and a variety of land animals that are relatively easy to see from its trails.
The trails are well-marked and include seating and observation areas, as well as informative signs that describe the things you’re seeing. Ranger-led tours are available as well, so check their website for specifics.
13. The Dolphin Research Center
Previous guests who’ve visited the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key have described it as a place that far exceeded their expectations.
The center is most well-known for its dolphin shows, but it’s also a research facility. It was founded in the mid-‘80s to rescue and protect dolphins and other marine mammals like sea lions.
The center’s permanent animal inhabitants are those that can’t be released back into the wild; though they often perform tricks for visitors, the facility’s primary aims are education, research, and conservation.
Guided tours are the best way to experience the center, and classes and workshops are offered regularly for a wide range of ages.
14. Key Largo Conch House
The Key Largo Conch House is open daily from 8 AM to 10 PM. For many visitors, it embodies the spirit of the south Keys more so than any other restaurant.
Over the years, the restaurant has been featured on a number of national television shows and has won plenty of coveted awards, especially for its fresh seafood and conch fritters.
The restaurant is family-owned and operated and is popular for its attentive servers, ample portions, and reasonable prices. There are many non-seafood menu items as well. Expect a crowd if you plan on dining during peak times.
15. AquaVentures Eco Tours
These days, many tourists are environmentally conscious and eco-friendly and prefer to engage in footprint-neutral activities in the great outdoors.
AquaVentures Eco Tours is located on Knights Key Boulevard in Marathon and offers a variety of options appropriate for most ages and levels of physical abilities.
Tours generally last from one to three hours depending on the group, and it’s common to see a variety of animals, including manatees, rays, and wading birds.
Prices are reasonable, and for those traveling with large groups, it may be possible to customize your tour and negotiate special rates.