No PhD? No problem. Not everyone can be a scientist, but everyone can be an explorer. No trip to Islamorada is complete without spending time visiting nearby attractions to gain a better understanding of the history and environment of the middle keys. Some of our favorites are included below.
History Of Diving Museum (MM83)
Without question, not to be missed. The History of Diving Museum documents the international story of man’s attempts to explore, understand and venture under the sea. It also celebrates the special role that South Florida and the Florida Keys played in this mostly untold story. The amazing exhibits include diving artifacts and equipment that span the entire evolution of commercial, recreational and military scuba equipment and techniques. The museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of diving helmets. No scuba diving enthusiast should miss the Diving Museum! There’s a reason TripAdvisor ranks it the top attraction in the area.
Theater Of The Sea (MM84.5)
Theater of the Sea, established in 1946, is the second oldest marine mammal facility in the world. Its natural salt water lagoon was originally a quarry that supplied rock for Henry Flagler’s famous railroad which opened the Keys to the rest of the country in the early 1900’s. Today the lagoon is home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, sea turtles, tropical and game fish, sharks, stingrays and other forms of marine life. The 17-acre tropical paradise is also home to wild and exotic birds, lizards and crocodilians.
A pioneer in animal interactive programs, visitors delight in the entertaining and educational “Swimming” programs featuring Dolphins, Sea Lions or Sting Rays. Theater of the Sea also offers and adventure snorkel cruise, a four hour boat tour that covers over 13 miles of Atlantic and Florida Bay coastline. TripAdvisor ranks it the second best attraction in the area.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (MM 84.9)
As State Parks go, this one is ranked among the top in Florida. This park introduces the visitor to the geological history of the Florida Keys, and in particular its fossilized coral formations. Visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation- integral to the building of the Overseas Railroad and later an important source of “Keystone” that today decorates many public buildings across the United States. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park.
The Alison Fahrer Environmental Education Center offers displays on Flagler’s railroad, tropical hardwood hammocks, Florida Keys’ geology and more. The park has approximately 1.5 miles of trails that wind through a tropical hardwood hammock. Along the trails, visitors are able to observe over 40 species of trees and plants that are native to the Florida Keys. With the aid of a guidebook, numbered trail stops, and interpretive markers, it is easy for visitors to learn about the natural and cultural resources of the site. Ranger-guided tours are also available.
Indian Key State Park (MM78.5)
Only slightly more than 10 acres in size and separated from the Overseas Highway by open water, it hardly looks like a place of historic significance. Yet Indian Key has had a colorful past which is very much a part of early Florida history. It dates from the time of prehistoric Indians to the 1830s, when in 1836 this small key was the seat of newly created Dade County! At that time, this tiny island was the site of a lucrative business-salvaging cargo from shipwrecks in the Florida Keys. Accessible only by boat, visitors come here to swim, sunbathe, and hike. Indian Key is a short kayak paddle from the popular Robbie’s Marina, where rental boats and kayaks are readily available.
Robbie’s Marina (MM77.5)
“Amazing”, Breathtaking” and “Impressive” are words we often hear from first time visitors to the end of our dock. What they’re referring to is the school of 50 to 100 tarpon that comes here daily and lingers for hours. Maybe they just come here to see the humans, but toss a baitfish among them and the water churns as these monsters and the resident Pelicans vie for the snack. Occasionally a Tarpon actually rises up from the water in a powerful flash of silver and green to meet the fish as it leaves your hand.
Whether your passion leads you kayaking the mangrove creeks and streams of the Bay; hand feeding the majestic silver king from the dock; battling deep sea fish a la Ernest Hemingway; captaining your own boat around the islands; island hopping with a guide; snorkeling the country’s largest barrier reef; sipping cold beers as you watch the kids feed the tarpon and pelicans; or shopping for that perfect Keys souvenir-Robbie’s has it all.
Florida Keys Wild Bird Center(MM93.6)
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is the vision of its founder, Laura Quinn, known affectingly as the “Bird Lady”. For over 35 years prior to her passing in 2010, Laura was the driving force behind this organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of injured or displaced native and migratory wild birds. Her work continues and the center’s facilities continue to operate as a charitable foundation, hosting over one-half million visitors annually to the sanctuary’s boardwalk and bird hospital.
This remarkable organization exists off the donations of its visitors and benefactors. Be sure to visit while you’re in Islamorada, and hopefully you’ll take up the cause! You might be interested to know that TripAdvisor ranks this attraction than visiting Mallory Square in Key West!