Travel Thursday: Destinations You'll Be At By Lunch - Islamorada Edition
Summer is here and so is the urge for a summer vacation — or two. Not everyone wants to hop on a plane and it takes way too long to drive out of Florida. Luckily, there are plenty of great 48-hour getaways you can get to by lunchtime, complete with great food, family-friendly fun, and gorgeous beaches.
All summer long, MIAbites will be featuring #TravelThursdays with easy to get to destinations and guides on how to make the most of your adventures. So, grab your weekend bag and jump in the car and you’ll be there before you know it.
This week we are visiting: Islamorada
While there are still many vestiges of the devastation the Florida Keys sustained from Hurricane Irma, the resiliency of the residents and desire to rebuild and welcome visitors is apparent everywhere one goes.
WHERE TO STAY: Amara Cay Resort
Among the most impressive was the total rebuild of Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada. Less than a 2-hour drive from Miami, Amara was closed for over 3 months after the hurricane and underwent a major renovation both of the grounds and the interior. Ask to see the photo album of the before and after pictures. You will shudder at what Mother Nature is capable of doing.
As we arrived for our overnight visit, we were greeted by a colorful row of bikes lined up and ready for guests to use to explore the town. Once inside, the renovated lobby was bright and cheerful, with driftwood accents, hanging rattan chairs and a long bar and lounge and Amara Cay Resort spelled out in tiny pieces of string behind the front desk. Our room was spacious, with a terrace overlooking a garden area with firepit, a ping pong table and the bright blue sea in the background.
Amara Cay offers a relaxing and casual vibe for a getaway, a family vacation or a wedding.
WHERE TO EAT: Reelburger Bar and Grill
As invited guests, we were there to also meet the new chef at Reelburger, Chef Ryan Wisely, and try his many burger creations, so after a quick swim and freshening up we headed to the restaurant for the main event, Burgers N Brews, featuring local brewery Florida Keys Brewing Company beers paired with a variety of sliders. The tasting showcased the variety of burgers for every taste, from a Wagyu beef slider, to a beer battered Black Grouper, to Hot Fried Chicken slider and even the Tree Hugger, a vegetarian burger.
The beer pairings were equally distinctive, as owner/brewmaster, Craig McBay, shared brews with names like Stoned Iguana and Smelly Butt Pineapple IPA. Each one selected to enhance the flavor of the sliders.
The evening ended with the classic Key Lime pie, but Reelburger’s version was deep fat fried and topped with fresh berry coulis.
WHERE TO DRINK: Reelburger Tiki Bar and Pool
The Amara Cay Reelburger tiki bar and restaurant was our first stop for lunch where we nibbled on fresh grilled mahi mahi tacos and a refreshing strawberry and mango frozen cocktail. The pool area is adjacent, and its white umbrella topped lounge chairs were tempting, but we wanted to tour the property further, so strolled over to the shoreline and out to the pier. Amara Cay, like many resorts on the Keys is on what is known as the “Straits” the mostly coral reef body of water between Cuba and The Bahamas, which prevents a natural sand beach from forming, but the water is still clear and makes for some of the best deep-sea fishing in the country.
That, and other watersports like kayaking and paddle boarding, which are all available for use as part of the resort fee at Amara Cay. The swaying palm trees and hammocks made us feel like were on a private Caribbean island and not just 2 hours from Miami.
WHAT TO DO: Watersports and Art Walks
Obviously, sport fishing is the main draw of the Keys, but biking, snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding are equally popular.
While we were there, it happened to be the Third Thursday, which is when The Morada Way Art and Cultural District in Islamorada hosts a block long art and craft fair, and Amara Cay runs a free shuttle van that took us the mile up the road to Morada Ave where local artists, artisans and merchants have tents and booths for the attendees. Worth planning your visit around this very local and very neighborhood driven event. Florida Keys Brewing Company even has a tasting room and Biergarten right at the entrance. The upcoming dates for the Morada Way Art Walk are Thursday, July 19th, August 16th, September 20th, October 18th, November 15th, and December 20th.
Keep checking back every Thursday for the latest edition of Travel Thursdays with MIAbites, as we continue to supply you with exciting destinations you can be settled in by lunchtime.