Islamorada is one of the northernmost Florida Keys. It comes right after Key Largo, and Tavernier. Most of my adventures in the keys have involved either Key Largo or Key West with barely a passing notice to the islands in between. As this was my first real visit to Islamorada, I decided to do it right and spend some time staying and exploring. I spent about two weeks exploring on the internet first and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to see. My first stop was Marker 88 for lunch.
This was my first visit to Marker 88 and as the name implies, it's right at mile marker 88. Key West starts the whole mile marker thing with mile 0 and addresses along US-1 are based on the mile markers all the way up thru the Keys. This visit almost didn't happen as the sign literally jumped out at me and the entrance turn-in was about a foot and a half long. Even with a two second peek in the rear view mirror I knew it was a place I wanted to see so a U-turn was in order. Not something for the faint of heart on US-1 in the Keys.
Our meal started off with the most pleasant server I've met in a long time and a menu that had some unusual items. Something different is always my first choice so I had a Cuban Sandwich with Thai Green Beans. If you have a taste for something new and spicy, get the green beans. My travel companion on this trip had the Tuna Steak served burger style with a chutney topping and sweet potato fries. Everything was done to perfection and served with a smile.
The restaurant is actually a giant patio right on the water. There are a few shade covered seats which we were lucky enough to get and an indoor section for those that don't find blazing heat appetizing. We hated to leave but we had more to see so we broke away from our pleasant conversation with our server and moved on. Little did we know this entire long weekend was going to be a string of pleasant conversations with strangers.
Our next stop was just a mile marker down the road. The Rain Barrel - A Village of Artists. You can't miss it. There is a lobster sculpture the size of a bus right out front. We stopped to take a picture and found the most amazing collection of artists just behind the lobster.
The first gallery we entered was Emerald Bay Trading Company. The gallery was the size of a walk-in closet yet filled with items from all over the world. We asked the simple question of how did this all get here and wound up with a half hour conversation on the subject. Donna Davis, the proprietor, was mainly a basket weaver and her medium of choice - Pine Needles. Her work is intricate and extraordinary and her collection of world wide items is a passion. The Rain Barrel is a cluster of little houses and buildings with a winding, shady walkway connecting them. Heading to the back we found the pottery shop. The pottery is all made onsite in a workshop in the back. We got a little history of the shop and information about the area from the owner as we watched her create a made to order piece right in front of us.
We skipped a few stores on the way to the pottery shop but one was a must see on the way back. The SeaSide GlassWorks owned by Stephanie Martin was one that needed a much closer look. The glass work was like nothing I've ever seen before in both intricacy and bursts of color. This seemed to be the day for an education and Stephanie was perfectly willing to share all her secrets in making her mystical glass creations. Obviously knowing the secrets is not enough to actually producing the art just as viewing her web site is no substitute for seeing her larger pieces in person.
It was only our first few hours in Islamorada. We felt like everyone was an ambassador for the island and we were very special guests. Not a typical day in South Florida but just another day in the Keys from what we learned. There is a lot more to this story so check back for the next chapter coming soon.