The fisherman’s paradise known as Islamorada was incorporated as a municipality in January 1998. Now called the village of Islamorada (or, more accurately, “Islamorada, Village of Islands”), the 20-mile long — and in some places, barely 150 feet wide — village encompasses Plantation, Windley, Upper and Lower Matecumbe keys.
Legend has it that area was named by Spanish explorers who, seeing the purple sky at sunset and the purple bougainvillea, used the words “isla” and “morado” or purple island.
It’s probably more likely that the area was named by William J. Krome, the primary surveyor for Henry Flagler’s railroad through the Keys. Trains would only stop at named towns, so Krome is said to have christened the location on Upper Matecumbe Key “Islamorada,” after the schooner Island Home owned by the pioneering Pinder family.
Known as the Sport-Fishing Capital of the World, Islamorada is where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly fishing were pioneered. It’s where legendary fishing guides Jimmy Albright, Cecil Keith and Stu Apte plied their trade.
Islamorada’s unique location, lying between Florida Bay (the “backcountry”) and Atlantic Ocean (aka the “front side”), provides an unrivaled diversity of fishing opportunities. The Gulf Stream flows past the islands from 10 to 20 miles offshore, bringing seasonal visitors like sailfish and marlin, kingfish and wahoo, dolphin and tuna close enough to shore to be targeted by small-boat anglers.
For human visitors, Islamorada boasts perhaps the greatest density of professional offshore charter boats with tournament-grade captains in the world.
Scuba divers and snorkelers flock to the village to explore the extraordinary reef line and patch reefs that hold huge numbers of tropical fish, sponges, soft and hard corals, and crustaceans. Davis, Conch, Alligator and Pickles reefs, Crocker Wall and the Aquarium and Fish Bowl offer divers and snorkelers of every skill level safe and easy viewing of Islamorada’s diversity of marine life.
The intentionally scuttled 287-foot Eagle is Islamorada’s premiere artificial reef. The wreck sits on a 105-foot-deep sandy bottom but can be enjoyed and explored at depths of 60 to 70 feet. In the San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve, divers and snorkelers can see the wreck site of one of the 1733 Spanish treasure fleet galleons at depths of 15 to 20 feet.
On land, travelers can step inside a coral reef to see 20,000 years of reef development at the Windley Key Fossil Reef State Geological Site. A short ride by boat, Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site is home to a virgin hardwood hammock untouched by modern development, and the original Matheson home.
The Islamorada area also features eco-tours, water sports equipment rentals, tennis facilities, bicycle trails, historic hikes, beautiful vistas of both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay, opportunities to swim with dolphins and stingrays, and a typically quirky Keys recreational activity: feeding the tarpon off the docks at Robbie’s Marina, mile marker (MM) 77.5 bayside.
Area beaches include a family facility with picnic tables behind the Islamorada Public Library and Anne’s Beach, where stretches of sand are linked by a boardwalk nature trail.
Islamorada’s restaurants range from very upscale continental to casual to downright funky. Along with fresh-from-the-dock seafood, steaks, pizza and hamburgers can be found to satisfy everyone in the family.
Islamorada is a 1.5-hour drive from Miami International Airport and a 40-minute drive from Marathon Airport in the Middle Keys. For more information, visit the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.islamoradachamber.com, call 1-800-FAB-KEYS (800-322-5397) or (305) 664-4503, or stop by the Islamorada Visitor Center at MM 83.2 bayside. Information also can be obtained by writing the chamber P.O. Box 915, Islamorada FL 33036.
Information & Photo Provided "Courtesy of the Florida Keys Tourist Development Council"