Islamorada, the Purple Island

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Sunset over Key West

This may be a name you have never heard spoken.

Even you guys who live in America.

You see, Islamorada is on the Florida Key’s.

It is, sort of, almost, the half-way point between Key Largo and Key West

Ahh, I hear you say. “The Florida Key’s; I’ve heard of that, Key Largo, Key West, Marathon, yes. I know of those.”

First, here a bit  of information (blurb)…

Islamorada, a “Village of Islands,” is an incorporated village in Monroe County, Florida, United States. It is located on the islands of Tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key and Plantation Key in the Florida Keys.

The name Islamorada (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈizla moˈɾaða]), “The Purple Isle,” came from early Spanish explorers in the area.

Okay, now we have that out of the way, I want to tell you a few things about a stay I had in Islamorada.

However, that would make an awfully long post, so I’ll break it up into two or three separate posts, starting with this one, the story of my arrival in the good ‘ole U.S. of A. and the journey down to Cheeca Lodge.

Virgin Atlantic's New Upper Class Cabin
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabin with the longest business class bed in the sky. Perfect for this long haul flight.

We flew from London to Miami International airport, courtesy of Mr Branson’s Virgin airline. (One of the ‘Wild Geese’ top five favourite airline operators by the way).

On this occasion, we were flying as a family, not just the usual my Wife and I scenario, so I had organised the rental of one of those big van things.

In this instance, it was a Chevy. I think the correct term is a ‘Day van’? But I will stand corrected if that is wrong. We came to simply call it ‘The Bus’.

Oh, just to clarify, the ‘we’ in total, comprised of my Mother and Father in law, my Son, my Niece and, of course, my Wife and I. Considering the amount of luggage between us, you can see why we needed a larger vehicle.

Anywayhow… I drove from Miami. Once out of the airport, a few jinks left and right got us onto the interstate highway, the US1, (or Interstate 1). South of the city, the road skirts the swampy green flats of the Everglades. It then becomes the ‘Ocean Highway’ as it leaves the mainland and crosses the bridge into Key Largo. Here I saw the first of the little oblong signs announcing the distance between here and Key West, which is the goal of many a trip to the Keys. ‘Mile 126’ it said, the numerals stacked on top of each other like hieroglyphs in an Egyptian cartouche.

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Florida Keys, Islamorada

From outside of Miami, it is a simple drive South.

Just South.

One road all the way.

In fact, if you keep going you will eventually get to Key West and the Southernmost point of the United States Mainland. (A place where Cuba is closer than Miami). I have done that journey, but it was not during this ride.

We stopped at Key Largo for coffee and to answer the call of nature.

Some may say this place was named after the film 1948 film ‘Key Largo’, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. But it was, by then, already known as Key Largo.

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This is fond urban myth. Otherwise known as ‘spin’ or poppycock. But it is good for tourism.

The area was first recorded as Rock Harbour and Tavernier. The first hint of a community of Key Largo, was an 1870 post office named Cayo Largo, situated at Rock Harbour…. The rest is history and speculation.

Back in the bus, to continue our journey South.

Part of the fun of driving through the Keys is clocking their names as you pass. Ragged Key, Knockemdown Key, Saddlebunch Key, Fat Deer Key, Tea Table Key, Indian Key, Sugarloaf Key and so on.

I did have to giggle at one road sign, which read: Crocodile crossing, next six miles’.

By the way, the word ‘key’ comes from the Spanish cayo, meaning ‘islet’ .The Interstate one highway strings them all together, like beads on a necklace. Many keys are connected to the next by bridges.

The highest, longest and altogether most spectacular crossing is the Seven Mile Bridge, linking Marathon with the Lower Keys. It is a thrill to drive across. You have magnificent views of the waters below and can see the remains of the old railroad bridge, that was built at the turn of the last century to link the Keys to the mainland. The railroad was destroyed in a the devistating hurricane of 1935.

Each key is a totaly different place; the look and feel changes woth each crossing, almost with every mile marker

I took it easy driving, because of the unfamiliar roads, the fact I was fairly bushed from the long flight, but most of all, because for some unfathomable reason everybody drives on the wrong side of the road in America and I was being cautious, as I got used to that stupidity.

Even so, the journey did not seem to take too long and soon we were pulling into Cheeca Lodge, the hotel which would be our home for the next few weeks.

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Cheeca Lodge

Now Cheeca Logde is a great place to stay and use as a base to explore the keys from. As I mentioned earlier, it is almost half-way down the chain. Turn right out of the entrance and you head north for Key Largo. Left will take you down South, to Key West.

Basically, that is all you need to know.

The main lodge (reception, bars, restaurants, etc.) of the hotel is beachside, the accommodation scattered around some wonderfully kept gardens, where many of the facilities, like the tennis courts and Jack Nicklaus designed Golf course are also hidden.

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Cheeca Lodge’s jetty

Self-proclaimed, but I think rightly so, Islamorada is said to be the fishing capitol of the world and is home to numerous fishing tournaments throughout the year.

One of the most prestigious is Cheeca Lodge’s own Presidential Sailfish Tournament held each January. Started by former president George H.W. Bush in 1990, this tournament has become an annual favourite of serious anglers worldwide and is a part of the Gold Cup Series of sailfish tournaments

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Great fun

I can personally vouch for the quality of troll fishing these waters and, believe me, I have fished many locations around the globe.

Okay, back to the story!

Rather than just grab the keys from reception and fuss about registering, we all took the chilled out option and crashed out in comfortable seating in the lounge of the main lodge. Coffee and coke were ordered, as was a large, icy cold beer.

I think I deserved one after the drive.

I chucked my father-in-law the bus keys so I could enjoy that frozen, back of the throat feeling, as I took a gulp of the first of two cold beers.

After which, we sent the kids to bed, before jumping under the covers ourselves.

It had been a long, eventful journey from London to Islamorada and I wanted to be up fairly early to enjoy the following day…

I shall, as promised, continue my Florida Keys story in the next post, which I shall probably title in some exciting or exotic manner, by calling it Islamorada, chapter two!

Stay tuned folks 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Paul.


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4 thoughts on “Islamorada, the Purple Island

  1. I enjoyed this post and what straight roads they do have in the good ole US we did Florida to Kentucky in one Longggggg day…we were on a timescale …but that is another story… What a lovely name Islamorada is it conjours up all sorts of images in my minds eye…Love this post 🙂

    Like

  2. We had our problems with the Vikings, Romans, Saxons, Normans and such.

    Over the esuing thousands of years it made no difference we still struggle with everyday Shussh!

    Anyway, America really belongs to us!

    Like

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