Islamorada, Florida

Photo: The Moorings Village & Spa
Photo: The Moorings Village & Spa

Islamorada was only supposed to be a quick lunch stop. The pale turquoise water, the salty sea breeze, and the smell of seafood cooking somewhere nearby made your stomach start to grumble just 90 minutes south of Miami though. You had hoped to make it to the Seven Mile Bridge, or at least Marathon, before taking a break. But you end up at the Beach Café at Morada Bay for conch chowder, shrimp ceviche, and Morada Bay crab cakes instead. Add a mason jar filled with rum and tropical fruit juice plus colorful Adirondack chairs positioned between surfboards and palm trees on the white sand, and it quickly becomes obvious that you aren’t going to reach Key West. At least not today.

The Florida Keys are known as the American Caribbean. They start 15 miles south of Miami, and by the time you reach the Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West, you’re just 90 miles from Cuba. Islamorada, which spreads out over five islands, is about the halfway point. The Purple Isle is famous for its sport fishing, abundant diving and snorkeling spots, and rum cocktails. You’re adding the latter to the already well-known list after your long, lazy lunch.

Luckily, a picture-perfect resort is just steps away from the café. The Moorings Village & Spa sits on a former coconut plantation. Hundreds of coconut palms still dot the property. They’re surrounded by dense, jungle-like landscaping and sandy wooden walkways. Each freestanding cottage is decorated the way you envision your future beach house, with white-washed walls, pastel accents, and wicker chairs. Wraparound decks face the calm water. Plus hammocks, teak loungers, and more Adirondack chairs are well spaced on the sugary sand.

Photo: The Moorings Village & Spa
Photo: The Moorings Village & Spa

Since you’re still feeling full—and a little bit lightheaded—from lunch, you decide to spend the rest of the afternoon doing, well, nothing. Maybe tomorrow you’ll go fishing. Gray ghosts, better known as bonefish, glide across the flats on the gulf side of town, while marlins and sailfish are caught farther offshore on the ocean side. Maybe in the morning you’ll don flippers and a mask to go snorkeling. Schools of tarpons congregate around the coral-encrusted Eagle, an intentionally sunk freighter, and green moray eels like to hang out around Davis Reef. Or maybe tonight you’ll borrow a bike. Art galleries line the streets. Music is usually flowing from the amphitheater. And pods of dolphins swim in the water that’s never far from sight.

But first, you’re thinking about a beach nap. The hammocks strung between the coconut palms look relaxing, but it’s the one at the end of the pier that’s actually calling your name. You stroll across the sand, step onto the wooden boardwalk, and walk toward the end. A thatched roof provides some shade from the hot sun. A small breeze keeps you cool. While the water, filled with every shade of blue imaginable, seems to extend forever. It might not be as easy to fall asleep as you expected.

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