Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
Tropical Bliss: Romance at Moorings Village Islamorada
Tropical Bliss Romance at Moorings Village in Islamorada
On a stretch of land that was once a coconut plantation and includes 1,100 feet of pristine beach -- a rarity in the Florida Keys -- sits the Moorings Village, the ultimate place to drop off the grid. Hidden under a jungle of banyan trees dripping in long vines are sandy pathways, folded between coral rock and fragrant pink and purple azaleas, that lead to cottages with bright orange, lavender and teal Bahamian shutters and tin roofs. The beachfront Maroni House provides front-row seats for early risers who want to see the sun wake up. Whether you're newly married or a longtime pair, the Honeymoon Cottage has cozy, overstuffed furniture, a king-size bed with sumptuous linens and a requisite tub built for two. But it's the African masks and statuettes from French owner Hubert Baudoin's private collection that are most noteworthy.
Before you completely settle in, make a quick trip to the Trading Post gourmet market and Martini's Liquors, where you can stock up on fixings for two: pâté, cheese, caviar and a bottle of Chateau de Beaucastel. For a sweet treat put in an order for a morning delivery of fresh pastries at nearby Bob's Bunz bakery. Before the sun rises, a bag of sweets will be left hanging on your door handle.
The easiest way to fall into the island rhythm together is with a private yoga session for two on the palm-studded beach. Or perhaps you'd relish doing nothing but swaying in a hammock or gazing at the horizon from the resort's pier. If restlessness sets in, take the complimentary two-seater kayak and paddle a mile out to the Cheeca Rocks Sanctuary Preservation Area. Tie off on a buoy and snorkel around the protected inshore patch reefs to get a better look at parrotfish and blue tang. Low tide is the best time to go.
For more door-to-door service, Tavernier Bicycle (305.852.2859) delivers too. Take a ride through Upper Matecumbe, Islamorada's downtown area and site of the Moorings, to check out the miles of boutiques and art galleries. At the Redbone Gallery, the Keys landscape and indigenous wildlife provide the focus. Eight miles south is kiteboarding-centric Anne's Beach. Adventurous couples book a two-hour kiteboarding lesson with Otherside Boardsports (305.853.9728), taking advantage of the two-for-the-price-of-one deal. Harnessing the wind's forceful energy in your hands as you maneuver a 7-foot kite while balancing on the water is an exhilarating experience.
That aforementioned bottle of wine will come in handy at the BYOB Spanish Gardens Café, where you can pair it with tapas such as bison empanadas or calamari in sherry. And for the ultimate sunset on the Florida Bay, score a coveted upstairs table on the veranda at Pierre's Restaurant. Sharing biscotti and mandarin oranges dipped in Valrhona chocolate fondue is a romantic -- and delicious -- way to wrap the day together. themooringsvillage.com -- Claudia Miller