Summertime getaways are so much fun. If I could, I’d be in a different place almost every weekend of the summer. And, like I mentioned in our bucket-list before baby, spontaneous travel is something I always look forward to doing. We decided to take a last minute weekend getaway to Islamorada, Florida right after the 4th of July. Just a 5 hour drive from home, we arrived on a Thursday afternoon and stayed until Sunday. This gave us 3 full nights to soak in the sunshine and sunsets. I’ve been to Islamorada a couple of times before, but this was my first time with the hubby, Marc-André. We didn’t get to experience all of my favorite fun things to do in Islamorada with just 2 full days there, but this is the perfect list of ideas for anyone visiting the sweet little island in south Florida.
1. Take Time to Relax
There’s just something about getting on US1 and driving through the Florida Keys. Between the palm trees, sunshine, and ocean breeze, taking in a breath of fresh air in Islamorada is the epitome of relaxation. Chances are if you’re heading to the Keys, you want to check-in to “island time”. As exciting as it is to try new things, visit attractions, and be busy all day long, don’t forget to relax!
Sit in a lounge chair, grab a drink and a good book, and chill. Islamorada is a little piece of paradise and it’d be a shame to not soak it all in. And if you’re like me, when you make a list of things to do in Islamorada, you’ll need to actually write down “relax” to make sure you do!
2. Play in the Warm Florida Water
From snorkeling to jet-skiing, there are endless options to get you in and on the water. One of the most popular things to do in Islamorada is fishing and there are plenty of charters to choose from for a day of fun. Islamorada claims the title for the sports fishing capital of the world. So whether it’s a private charter, full-day, or half-day, you’re sure to get a memorable experience with, hopefully, some really big fish! Alligator Reef is a popular destination for snorkeling and receives a ton of raving reviews. With hundreds of fish on the reef located below Alligator Reef Light House, it’s a beautiful spot to get underwater and appreciate the ocean life.
Take a boat, jetski, kayak, or paddleboard out to the famous Islamorada Sandbar. It was located off the shore of our hotel, and every day we could see dozens and dozens of boats enjoying the shallow waters of the sandbar. We had planned on taking advantage of the free paddleboards at our hotel, but the strong winds we experienced on the Atlantic side of the island were too much for us to battle on a paddleboard.
3. Visit Theater of the Sea
Theater of the Sea is family owned and operated and has been around for over 70 years. It’s no Discovery Cove, but there was something about it that seemed really special. Even on a Saturday, the crowds were limited, we enjoyed all of the shows, and spent some time on their beach. The staff was all wonderful and it’s obvious that their animals are the top priority.
I, personally, loved the natural environment. They pump in 12 million gallons of ocean water each day to supply the natural salt-water lagoons (instead of having pools for the mammals). We really enjoyed our morning here and if you’re planning on swimming with any of the marine animals, do it first and then enjoy the shows the rest of the day. We spent a total of about 4 hours at Theater of the Sea.
Located within walking distance of our hotel, we booked a session to swim with a sea lion. We had no idea what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised to get a private swim due to everyone else booking the dolphin swim! The experience was so much fun and we loved getting to know the 10-year-old sea lion, Bella. We got to spend right around 30 minutes in the water with her swimming, getting kisses, splashing each other, and petting her. Like the sea lion swim, the dolphin swim looked more intimate than other experiences I’ve had in the past. It’s not something I would need to do every time we visit Islamorada, but I’m so happy we did it.
TWF Tip: Even though Theater of the Sea has a photographer and [possibly] someone recording your experience, bring your own GoPro or waterproof camera! They allow you to have it during the experience and it’s much cheaper than purchasing their photos/video.
4. Go Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s
I feel like this is a must-do in Islamorada, even if you’re just passing through the island. While Robbie’s Marina features boat rentals, a restaurant, parasailing, and more, many tourists make the stop to see the “Silver Kings” in the water! That’s right, you actually get to hand feed the tarpon off the dock. The massive fish are truly a sight to see and there are usually dozens of them in the water waiting to be fed. Just watch out for pelicans and other birds that want to snatch the food from your hand!
5. Check out the Breweries
We love checking out local spots when we travel and we stopped at two breweries, Florida Keys Brewing Company and Islamorada Beer Company. Personally, we loved Florida Keys Brewing Company and all of the beers we had there! The brewery is laid-back, colorful, and gives all the island-vibes. Outside, they have a beer garden area that’s perfect for hanging out with friends and soaking in the sunshine.
While Islamorada Beer Company had live music and the beer was good, we just clicked more with the atmosphere at Florida Keys. My favorite beer at Florida Keys Brewing Company was the Honey Bottomed Blonde and Marc-André loved the Iguana Bait. 🍺 So if a cold beer on a hot day is your thing, I’d definitely add this on your list of things to do in Islamorada.
6. Enjoy Fresh Seafood
We love eating and drinking our way through our travels. It’s one of the best ways to connect with locals, embrace the culture, and try something new. Islamorada has so many options of great restaurants. Some of our favorites on the water included Lorelei’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar and Marker 88. Featuring live music, they’re both awesome places to catch the sunset while eating some fresh seafood (I’m a sucker for some good crab legs or oysters!). Watch out for the large iguanas that sneak around the restaurant grounds looking for a bite to eat. 🦎
Chef Michael’s, Kaiyo Sushi, and Islamorada Shrimp Shack are all popular picks, too! We didn’t make it to the sushi restaurant this trip, but I can’t wait to go back to try Kaiyo because the menu looks delicious!
7. Catch the Sunset
Of all the things to do in Islamorada, catching the sunset is at the top of my list. We stayed on the ocean side of the island but made sure to catch the sunset on the west side two of the nights. As an east-coaster that is familiar with sunrises on the beach, I get an extra spark of happiness when I get to catch a sunset on the water.
Whether it’s walking on a beach or relaxing on a dock, the Islamorada sunset shouldn’t disappoint. Next time, I’ll be booking a sunset cruise in advance. The holiday weekend had them all booked up before we got around to making a reservation, but that just gives us another excuse to go back. 😉
Where We Stayed in Islamorada:
Whether it’s sponsored or not, I always love talking a little bit about where I stay on vacation. It’s the one part of vacay that I usually spend hours researching. I’m not a total snob when it comes to accommodations, but if I’m spending money to stay somewhere, it has to be at least as comfortable and clean as my own home. As a spontaneous weekend trip, we booked the hotel just two days before going. On top of that, it was a holiday weekend. It was slim-picking, but I think we ended up with a nice little place.
A sister hotel to the beautiful Postcard Inn, Pelican Cove Resort just went through some major renovations. Every room has been updated and ours even included a small kitchenette and table. The room itself was very clean and comfortable (we loved the bed) but lacked a little warmth. I think it needed a rug or some plants in the room, but it was a great size.
All 63 rooms face the ocean, but some views are better than others. Our room on the “first” floor (but still elevated to what would normally be the second floor), had three large palm trees blocking the majority of the ocean. Another room we checked out had more of a marina and rooftop view, but there was water nonetheless. If you’re booking a room here, I’d suggest requesting a room on the third floor. The hotel offers a continental breakfast, but it was very mediocre. I had half a bagel and a hard-boiled egg. We ended up taking advantage of the Starbucks that was located right in between Pelican Cove and Postcard Inn. That was really convenient on this little Florida key.
Included in the nightly resort fee are bicycle rentals, paddleboards, beach chairs and towels, internet, and more. The employees at Pelican Cove were extremely friendly and helpful, which is always a plus for me. Overall, I give the hotel a solid 7/10. We booked an amazing rate because it was so last minute, but when we go back, I’d love to stay at the Postcard Inn.