My Magical Florida: Islamorada (Part V)

While most visit Islamorada to dive, a trip into the backcountry with rod or camera is a must. Part V of Coyle's "Little Loop" from our October 2011 issue.


Unique signage off Islamorada commemorates what locals call “Toilet Bowl Alley.”

The run north to Islamorada inside the reef was sloppy — don’t underestimate Hawk Channel. Our pick for parking is always Plantation Yacht Harbor (bay side) in Founders Park. Mind the tide when passing through Snake Creek if you draw more than four feet. The park has a beach (rare in the Keys), tennis courts and a pool. The adjacent bay waters are gin clear in the summer and ideal for an afternoon swim. Food is a skiff ride away — try sunset at Marker 88. For a taste of local history and great food, check out the Hungry Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. Its vintage bunkerlike construction was likely inspired by the devastating 1935 hurricane — a memorial to the storm is just a few miles away. While most visit the area to dive, a trip into the backcountry with rod or camera is a must. Try Capt. Matt at Bamboo charters.

I usually run from Islamorada to Stuart in one shot to avoid the big cities. With a draft of less than five feet, I run the inside route up Biscayne Bay and into the Atlantic at Cape Florida. If weather allows, I run north offshore, taking advantage of the Gulf Stream current. Should the weather be iffy, remember that Port of Miami, Port Everglades and Lake Worth inlets are only the “best choices” — don’t take ground swells for granted. I find Jupiter Inlet more difficult than Stuart’s St. Lucie Inlet, although lately it’s a tossup because St. Lucie is shoaling. If I stop along the way, Pier Sixty-Six in Fort Lauderdale or Sailfish Marina Resort in West Palm Beach usually get my vote.

Fortunately we were “weathered in” in Islamorada for weeks — a rum front! The point, however, is that epic cruises can be optimized and we could have pulled this one off comfortably in two or three weeks.


There you have it — a great loop you can enjoy cruising without being retired!

Did you miss any of the stops? Find the map below.


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