ISLAMORADA, Fla. — When I was a kid, I used to be fascinated with Swiss-Army Knives. They were versatile, intriguing and permanently entertaining. Just like Islamorada, the Sportfishing Capital of the World.
One of Florida's Keys, a cluster of about 1700 islands in the southeastern United States, Islamorada is brimming with quaint, local charm. But its true value lies in its versatile offering of fishing.
Boasting one of the largest charter boat fleets in all of Florida, the centrally-located Key offers anglers a guide that specializes in a number of different species. Heck, even Ernest Hemmingway came to the paradise when he was looking to fish.
Flanked by beautiful scenery, visitors can work through the picturesque mangroves or take a flats boat ride to the backcountry. Beyond that, visitors can capitalize on the supreme weather with parasailing, windsurfing, kayaking or kite boarding. And for the hardcore diver, Islamorada is the home of the History of Diving Museum.
And for those so inclined, Robbie's, a local must-see, provides people with the opportunity to hand-feed tarpon. Perhaps being sprawled out on a deck at Islamorada-based Robbie's hand-feeding hungry tarpon bait fish is not everyone's idea of a good time. But in many ways it is indicative of the versatility of Islamorada. There is something for everyone.
Built on resiliency -- one of the worst hurricanes, with winds estimated up to 200 miles per hour, to strike the U.S. made landfall near Islamorada in 1935 -- the "purple island" offers a vibrant artistic scene.
The Rain Barrel, an artist village and gallery, offers a number of different art forms and a perfect opportunity to grab a last-minute present so you appear thoughtful to your spouse.
And considering there is only one road the leads in and out of Islamorada, each visitor at some point must see the Theater of the Sea. Offering the ability to swim with dolphins, sea lions and rays, the themed attraction provides fun for kids and adults.
But I suppose, as it typically does, it comes back to fishing. This week's Redbone Celebrity Series is indicative of the location's versatility. Anglers are working to catch redfish and bonefish and the strategy options either on flies or artificial bait are abundant.
For more information on Islamorada, please visit www.fla-keys.com/islamorada.