Cruising the Florida Keys
Laid-back lifestyle and unexpected adventure awaits
The Keys offer something for everyone. Boaters will find a variety of marina options in the Keys from high-end resorts to small island hideaways. Regardless of where you stay, you will find a wonderful laid-back attitude, delicious fresh seafood served at a number of waterside bars and restaurants, and plenty of activities to fill your day.
Accessing the Keys is relatively easy from Miami on the East Coast or Marco Island on the West Coast. Boaters coming from Miami can leave Miami Beach Marina and start their journey via the Atlantic Ocean and then pick up the Hawks Channel (or the Intracoastal Waterway to Key Largo). Boaters leaving Marco Island can cruise directly south to Key West. With so much to do in the keys, you could spend weeks exploring each island. We put together our members’ favorite destinations starting in Key Largo and ending in Key West including suggestions on where to dock and highlights on what to do and where to eat in each area. We hope to hear your stories and adventures of cruising the Keys.
The Gateway to the Keys
Key Largo is your gateway to the keys and you will immediately feel the change in attitude from the hustle and bustle of south Florida. Many consider Key Largo the Diving Capital of the World and its proximity to the Everglades makes it a prime destination for kayakers, birders and other eco-tourists. Key Largo is also home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park which encompasses 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangrove swamps. Diving in this area is incredible with magnificent coral reefs and infamous shipwrecks like the Wreck of the Benwood and the famous “Christ of the Deep” Statue.” Visit: www.pennekamppark.com for more information.
Where to Dock
Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo, FL
Called “one of America’s most exclusive club communities” by Robb Report, Ocean Reef Club was founded in the late 1940s and today spans 2,000 secluded, tropical acres on the northernmost tip of Key Largo in the Florida Keys.
Its 1,700 private homes, condominiums and waterfront estates are complemented by an oceanfront Inn, two 18-hole championship golf courses, world-class tennis and lawn sports, some of the finest fishing in North America, a 175-slip marina, a 900-acre nature preserve, spa and salon, and 12 restaurants and lounges. (tel: 305-367-2611, www.oceanreef.com)
Where to Eat
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen for fried fish and key lime pie (MM 99.4, Key Largo, tel: 305-451-3722)
Calypso’s Seafood Grill for butter pecan fish, sangria, and a casual atmosphere (1 Seagate Blvd, Key Largo, tel: 305-
The Reef Cup served at the Ocean Reef Club - this potent drink combines gin, rum, triple sec, vodka, grenadine, orange juice, pineapple juice, and sour mix.
The Village of Islands
Islamorada's, reputation as The Sport Fishing Capital of the World is well earned. Comprised of six islands, it is situated between the saltwater wilderness of Everglades National Park in one direction and North America’s only coral barrier reef and the deep blue waters of the Florida Straits in the other.
Fishing enthusiasts will love the diversity of fishing in this area where you can catch a sailfish in the open ocean and then head into the backcountry for bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook and redfish in just inches of water. In addition to fishing there are many things to do in Islamorada. The Theater of the Sea Marine Mammal Park offers opportunities to swim with dolphins in controlled settings (www.theaterofthesea.com).
Of course, eating and drinking is another popular activity in the Keys and with all of the great fishing in this area, fresh seafood is plentiful. Above: Fishing boats in Islamorada Islamorada
Where to Dock
Holiday Isle Resort & Marina
Holiday Isle Marina offers boaters transient dockage and their world famous tiki bar and a large charter fishing fleet. It is located next to the Holiday Isle Beach Resort so you have access to the resort amenities including a pool, restaurants and more. (MM 84.5, tel: 305-664-2321)
Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina
Located in Islamorada’s Founder’s Park, this marina has 88 slips and sits within 35 acres of open space among sports fields, tennis courts, an Olympic size swimming pool and dive complex, skate park, a beach, playground and dog park. (MM 87 Bayside, tel: 305-852-2381)
Where to Eat
Mangrove Mike’s Cafe for breakfast or lunch (MM 82, Islamorada, tel: 305 664 8022)
Morada Bay Beach Cafe for sunsets, grouper ceviche and tuna tartare (MM 81.6, Bayside, Islamorada, tel: 305-664-0604)
Pierre’s Restaurant for fine dining Keys style (MM 81.6 Islamorada, tel: 305-664-3225)
The Pierre’s Punch – rum punch at its best from Morada Bay – a blend of Bacardi Coco, spiced rums, tropical juices, and a dark rum floater.
The Heart of the Keys
Marathon situated mainly on Vaca, Fat Deer, and Grassy Keys, is a 10-mile-long island city at the midpoint of the Florida Keys.
Known by the locals as “The heart of the Keys” for geographic reasons, but also to reflect the old-Keys lifestyle that is prevalent along with the spectacular fishing, diving, snorkeling and sailing. Sombrero Reef, a federally protected section of North America’s only living coral barrier reef, lies just a few miles offshore.
Beyond it are the Florida Straits, and on the north side of the island lie the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Bay and the Keys backcountry. Do not miss Bahia Honda State Park, which has one of the world’s top beaches and is home to many unusual plants and animals.
Where to Dock
Coral Lagoon Resort & Marina
The new Coral Lagoon Resort & Marina is now open. This waterfront resort located Oceanside on nearly 6 acres of lushly landscaped property, offers 25 classic Key West Conch-style cottages and marina homes, as well as a resort-style pool and a full-service marina with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean. The marina has a state of the art dry storage facility for boats to 36 feet and wet slips for boats up to 50 feet, gas/diesel fuel, dockside marina store, fish cleaning stations, boat motor repair services, and Coral Lagoon guests also have access to the beach, gourmet restaurant and tiki bar just down the street at Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort. (tel: 305-743-2502, www.corallagoonresort.com/contacts.htm)
Banana Bay Resort and Marina
Banana Bay Resort and Marina located in Marathon at MM 49.5 Bayside, recently completed $1.5 million in renovations and expansions that has created a new marina now boasting 34 transient slips ranging from 25’–60’. The docks are made of beautiful Brazilian teakwood and include electric, water and cable TV. Boaters docking their vessels at Banana Bay Resort and Marina are granted full access to the resort facilities including deluxe guestrooms, large fresh water pool, whirlpool, poolfront Tiki bar, small sandy sunning beach, meeting & catering facilities, wedding gazebo, boat, bicycle & watersport rental and adventures. (tel: 877-743-0175, www.bananabay.com)
Hawks Cay Resort and Marina
(MM 6, Duck Key, tel: 305-743-9000) see Marina Spotlight or link for more details.
Where to Eat
Butterfly Café for horseradish encrusted grouper (MM 48.5 at Tranquility Bay Resort, Marathon, tel: 305-289-7177)
Keys Fisheries for the lobster reuben and stone crabs when in season (3502 Gulfview Ave, Marathon, tel: 305-743-4353).
Mahi Margarita made with Patron
Silver Tequila and Blue Curacao served at the Keys Fisheries The Heart of the Keys Marathon situated mainly on Vaca, Fat Deer, and Grassy Keys, is a 10-mile-long island city at the midpoint of the Florida Keys.
Key West is a magical place that combines Conch culture, great restaurants, entertaining nightlife, the arts, and a maritime tradition resulting in a place where there truly is something for everyone. Biking or walking are the best ways to explore Key West’s palm-lined streets and gingerbread mansions, tin-roofed conch houses, the John Audubon House and Ernest Hemingway’s home not to mention the hundreds of bars and shops that line Duval Street.
There is so much to do in Key West so be sure to check out the local papers (or www.keywest.com) to find out what is happening during your stay. Also, a great way to get a perspective of Key West is to ride the Conch Train or the Old Town Trolley. These funky but informative guided tours will take you past the historic seaport, infamous drinking establishments, and the lovely homes and gardens of Key West.
Where to Dock
Located at the entrance of the historic “bight” in downtown Key West. The marina has been completely renovated and now includes a pool, Dante’s Restaurant & Tiki Bar, Prime 951 Steakhouse, Cable TV and pumpout hookups at every slip, diesel /gas on-site, making this a great place to stay in Key West. (tel: 305-294-2933, www.conchharbormarina.com)
Where to Eat
Santiago’s Bodega for tapas like yellowfin ceviche and beef tenderloin (207 Petronia St, Key West, tel: 305-296-7691)
The Good Life for Baja Fish Tacos in a quaint neighborhood setting (1100 Packer Street, Key West, tel: 305-296-8484)
El Siboney for great Cuban food (900 Catherine Street, Key West, tel: 305-296-4184)
Dark and Stormy served at Schooner Wharf Bar (Key West Bight). Gosling’s ® Black Seal rum, 1 bottle ginger beer, 1 slice lime
The Florida Keys offer so many different experiences for boaters. Marinalife can help you plan your next adventure through the Florida Keys. Visit: www.marinalife.com/cruises/keys