Named “The Purple Island” by Spanish settlers, Islamorada in the Florida Keys is today just as renowned for its fishing as it is for its namesake violet sunsets. And if you have a Netflix account, you may recognize it as the breathtaking backdrop of the dark new original series Bloodline. It’s not hard to see why Hollywood has taken notice, skipping over more well-known spots like Key Largo to the north and Key West to the south in favor of filming in the Village of Islands, as it’s known to residents.
Islamorada is a 90-minute drive from Miami and shares an area code with the Magic City—305, as the songster Pitbull is wont to remind us—but it feels like another world entirely. About seven miles long and at some points no wider than two lanes of road, it’s composed of four islands strung together by the Keys’ sole artery, the Overseas Highway, plus two more offshore. Set plumb in the middle of the Florida Bay at the mouth of the Gulf Stream, with the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, Islamorada is known today as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” But you don’t have to be an angler to appreciate its laidback allure—there are plenty of opportunities for R&R and great eating to go around.
Drop anchor at Pelican Cove Resort and Marina, located at the center of the village. The newly renovated resort reopened in December with 63 bright and airy guestrooms, each minimally outfitted in blond wood furniture and crisp white linens. After settling in, take in the ocean view from art deco chairs on your room’s private balcony, where you can watch pelicans swoop into the water for a snack. If you’d rather be closer to the action, head to the beach and sink into a hammock under the palm trees, or snag one of the resort’s complimentary kayaks or paddleboards to seek out the manatees that can be spotted in the nearby mangroves. If you’re more of a landlubber, the resort also offers guests free bike rentals for checking out the islands on two wheels.
All that paddling, pedaling and palm tree gazing works up an appetite, so head just down the road to the Key Island Grill for fish tacos, conch fritters and, of course, homemade key lime pie. Grab a seat by the open windows overlooking a waterway where fishing boats glide by on their way back from a morning at sea. Perhaps they’re heading to the famous Islamorada Fish Company, whose chef will cook up the daily catch from recreational fishers in addition to the full menu.
After lunch, walk over to the Theater of the Sea and take in a performance. There are several daily dolphin, sea lion and parrot shows, as well as chances to interact with the animals, snorkel, take a ride on a glass-bottomed boat or commission artwork from one of the sea mammals, who’ll hold a brush by the mouth to paint a masterpiece as you watch. Late in the afternoon, make your way to the Bass Pro Shops for tarpon-feeding sessions; soon the water under the dock will teem with large fish that practically eat out of your hand. Pop inside to shop for some gear or check out the full-scale replica of Ernest Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, which inspired his tome The Old Man and the Sea, written while he was a Keys resident.
In the evening, watch the sun dip below the horizon with some libations in hand. Islamorada is home to two great microbreweries where you can enjoy fresh brewed beer on-site. At Florida Keys Brewing Company, take in local art along with your Honey-Bottomed Blonde, brewed with local honey, or grab a pint of Sandbar Sunday, a wheat ale served with a wedge of key lime, at Islamorada Beer Company. Wind down with live music and a storied—and strong—Rum Runner at the Postcard Inn’s renowned Tiki Bar, where outdoor fire pits along the marina are the perfect setting to meet fellow travelers and compare vacation notes.
-Channel Sissy Spacek or Kyle Chandler and check into the Cape Cod-style villas at the Moorings Village, where Bloodline is filmed.
-For an upscale getaway, book a room (and a facial) at Cheeca Lodge and Spa and take advantage of its guests-only golf course and tennis courts.
-Want to drink where the locals do? Look no further than Hog Heaven, a sports bar by day and hotspot by night, boasting an indoor and outdoor bar, a private beach and live bands or a DJ on weekends.
Bass Pro Shops 81576 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada, Florida (305-664-4615) basspro.com
Cheeca Lodge and Spa 81801 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (800-327-2888) cheeca.com
Florida Keys Brewing Company 200 Morada Way, Islamorada (305-916-5206) floridakeysbrewingco.com
Hog Heaven Sports Bar 85361 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-664-9669) hogheavensportsbar.com
Islamorada Beer Company 82229 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-440-2162) islamoradabeerco.com
Islamorada Fish Company 81532 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-664-9271) restaurants.basspro.com/FishCompany
Key Island Grill 85501 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-664-8400) keysislandgrill.com
The Moorings Village 123 Beach Road, Islamorada (305-664-4708) themooringsvillage.com
Pelican Cove Resort and Marina 84457 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-664-4435) pelicancovehotel.com
Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle 84001 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-664-2321) holidayisle.com
Theater of the Sea 84721 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada (305-664-2431) theaterofthesea.com