Experience the Culture of the Florida Keys at Morada Way

The Florida Keys have always been a unique natural paradise…but did you know they’re also becoming a renowned cultural center? That’s thanks in large part to the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District in Islamorada, a thriving creative community just steps away from Cheeca Lodge & Spa that is drawing artists, musicians, and tourists of all ages to the beautiful isle.

A six-block corridor bounded by the iconic Green Turtle Inn and the Hurricane Monument, the district, which was established in 2010, is attracting more and more attention thanks in large part to its Third Thursday ArtWalks. This indoor/outdoor street festival, held throughout the year from 6-9pm on the third Thursday of the month, draws over 1,000 visitors who come to enjoy the live music, performance artists, and shops and galleries that stay open well into the night on this special evening. There’s also plenty of eating and drinking to be done as you soak up the local culture—the district is home to some of Islamorada’s best spots, including Chef Michael’s and the Florida Keys Brewing Co. Guests of Cheeca Lodge & Spa can catch a free Island Time Trolley ride right from the resort to the drop-off at Hurricane Monument.

Want to check out this exciting new Islamorada destination this fall? Cheeca is offering a range of special offers to make a vacation at Islamorada’s most legendary resort even better, including a $200 resort credit for select suites based on a minimum four-night stay.

Now is the perfect time to check out all that the Florida Keys have to offer with a getaway at Cheeca. We can’t wait to welcome you!

5 Things to Do in Islamorada for a Fun Family Getaway

Islamorada is widely known as the “Sportfishing capital of the world,” but it’s also one of the most family-friendly vacation spots in the country. From one-of-a-kind parks and museums to secluded beaches, it offers something for everyone and embodies the unique, laid-back spirit of the Florida Keys.

Below are five of our favorite local attractions sure to please kids of all ages:

  • At Robbie’s Marina, you can purchase buckets of bait and feed tarpon (be prepared—they’re big!) right from the dock. State park tours or fishing and snorkeling excursions can be booked at this Islamorada institution as well, including trips to Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, accessible only by boat.
  • A trip to Theater of the Sea promises fun for the whole family. One of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world, its lagoons and tropical gardens are home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, sea turtles, tropical and game fish, sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, alligators, marine invertebrates, and birds. Twelve million gallons of ocean water are pumped in daily to supply water to the three-acre natural salt-water lagoons. You can choose from a variety of animal interaction activities, including swimming with dolphins, painting sea lions, or a parrot show.
  • Who doesn’t love a day at the park? Islamorada Founders Park offers forty acres of family-friendly activities with a distinct Florida flavor, including an Olympic-size pool, shallow water beach, water sports rentals, fishing jetty, a new shaded outdoor fitness park, and a new pickleball court.
  • Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about a favorite local pastime at the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, where you’ll view one of the world’s largest collections of historic dive equipment, including dive helmets from 25 countries.
  • Often voted one of the prettiest beaches in the Keys, Anne’s Beach is a relaxing place to while away an afternoon in the sun with a picnic lunch. Lined with mangroves, the beach has picnic tables, bathroom facilities, and best of all, warm, shallow, calm waters all year round that are perfect for young children.

There’s no better place from which to explore all that Islamorada has in store than Cheeca Lodge & Spa—and our new Family Fun Package is yet another reason to come visit! Book this special offer and receive a free Children’s menu entrée with the purchase of an Adult entrée at the same meal, along with buy-one-get-one-free admission to Camp Cheeca, where kids ages 5-12 will learn about the unique natural environment of the Keys while enjoying activities including scavenger hunts and fishing off the resort’s iconic pier. We look forward to welcoming you to our island paradise soon!

A Family Affair: Family Fun In Islamorada

Everyone loves a good comedy. But when it comes to family vacations, you don’t really want yours to resemble something out of “National Lampoon’s.”

There’s plenty for families to enjoy together at Cheeca, from snorkeling to kayak excursions arranged by our watersports team. And there’s lots of kid-friendly fun for when the adults need a little alone time; sign them up for Camp Cheeca, our day camp for mini nature lovers that is full of beach exploration, scavenger hunts and arts & crafts. (For a look at everything that the resort offers for families, head here.)

But we know that you may want to spend some time exploring the rest of beautiful Islamorada too. So if you’re rounding up the troops to head out and about, here are three family-friend ways to spend your day.

Swim with dolphins at Theater of the Sea

You’ve been dreaming of this ever since your days watching “Flipper.” And your kids — well, they’ve never heard of “Flipper.” (“Look on YouTube,” sighs dad.) But they love dolphins, and the idea of spending a day splashing and swimming at Theater of the Sea. Family-owned since 1946, it’s one of the oldest marine facilities in the world. And now it’s your family’s turn to get up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, stingrays — and even sharks! (Nurse sharks. The kind you won’t see in “Jaws.”) Don’t be nervous; there are plenty of experienced trainers who will join you for the dip — and even a staff photographer to capture photos perfect for the family album. (Or Facebook update. It is 2015, after all.)

I’d rather keep a little distance from the cute creatures, there’s still plenty to experience. Check out daily shows with dolphins, sea lions, and parrots, take a bottomless boat ride, or visit exhibits of everything from endangered sea turtles to crocodiles and colorful tropical reef fish. You can even catch some ray and go snorkeling at Theater of the Sea’s guests-only Lagoon Beach.

Hit the seas with Family Fun Boat Tours

You don’t need a yacht to enjoy the ocean waters on a private cruise. Just look up the folks at Family Fun Tours, which offers a selection of excursions around Florida Bay that accommodate up to six swashbucklers. What to do? That’s up to you. You can snorkel in the pristine waters at North America’s only living coral reef, and it’s safe for kids: The boat has a safety line to hold on to for any younger paddlers who are still earning their sea legs. You can take a ride out to Islamorada’s famous sand bar, found about a half-mile from shore, and kick back with a picnic lunch on what feels like your own small private island. Educational eco-tours will familiarize the family on all the fascinating flora and fauna of the Florida Keys, and sunset cruises are a spectacular way end a fantastic day with family.

Immerse yourself in the History of Diving Museum

Sure, it sounds dry. (Dry! Get it?) But trust us: the Diving History Museum is an amazing place to soak up fascinating information on the equipment, technology, and watershed moments involved in our explorations of the deep You’ll also discover the unique role that South Florida has in this history. The museum has one of the largest collections of diving-related relics and artifacts in the world, from antique helmets to air pumps, and its Bauer Diving History Research Library — named for the museum’s founders, SCUBA experts Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer — holds over 2500 rare volumes of works related to diving that attract international notice. Talks from diving experts and other special events are held regularly, and a visit here is an experience that’s educational and exciting for all ages. Dive in.

Walk This Way: Third Thursday ArtWalks

The Florida Keys has earned a reputation as an art-centric region where painters, writers, sculptors, and creative minds in every medium find endless inspiration in our radiant sun and soothing surf. But while plenty of people are aware with Key West’s vibrant art scene, many visitors are less familiar with all that Islamorada has to offer. Trust us, culture vultures: At Cheeca, you’re just steps away from many opportunities to view fantastic pieces produced by some of the Sunshine State’s most talented artists — and maybe even bring something home that’s fit to frame.

And one of the best ways to explore the local art scene is through Third Thursday ArtWalks. Every month, Islamorada art galleries simultaneously open their doors to guests, inviting art lovers to take a leisurely crawl along the Arts District. The experience is equal parts indoor art fair and outdoor street festival. Many artists without galleries set up colorful booths specifically for the occasion, live musicians take the opportunity to strut their stuff, and many restaurants that line the Old Highway and adjacent streets get in on the fun too. (No reason an art crawl can’t double as a food crawl too.) ArtWalk dates through the rest of the year are: September 17, October 15, November 19 and December 17.

Want to get walking? First, get clicking. More details on Third Thursday ArtWalks are at moradaway.org.  

“BLOODLINE” Fans: Here’s Your Guide to Fantastic Filming Locations to Visit

Are you ready for your close-up, Florida Keys?

In case you’ve been living under a rock — or more likely, a fishing dock — the Netflix thriller “Bloodline” is one of the hottest new series on (Internet) TV. And we’re not just talking about the balmy Florida weather that serves as the show’s backdrop (you can practically feel those warm tropical breezes through the screen.) “Bloodline” is a sensation, and its setting in the Upper Keys has offered viewers around the world a front-row seat to see the gorgeous landscape that our nook of the Sunshine State has to offer.

So it’s not surprising that some of our most recent guests — and “Bloodline” fans — are hoping to see some of the locations that have been featured on the show. Well, ask and ye shall receive. Until Netflix starts offering “Star Tours” of filming locations, here is a handy guide to a few “Bloodline” related spots worth a visit.

Cheeca Lodge and Spa: Yes, it’s true! If you’re staying with us, you’re staying at one of the filming locations for “Bloodline.” Oscar-winning star Sissy Spacek dined on fine cuisine at our restaurant Atlantic’s Edge during a May episode — and this isn’t the first time Cheeca has been a hit on the small screen. Wedding planners may want to note that Cheeca was spotlighted in the show “Platinum Weddings,” chronicling lavish and gorgeous celebrations. (Guess they heard about our reputation for impeccable wedding services.)

Alabama Jack’s: In the first episode of “Bloodline,” John’s brother Danny (actor Ben Mendelsohn) is dining at a casual waterfront seafood spot. Spoiler: It’s actually Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo. And though Danny is seen downing fish tacos, the eatery is actually most famous for its conch fritters.

Anne’s Beach: Named for Florida environmentalist Anne Eaton, this Islamorada beach is a must-visit because its shallow waters ensure a warm, wave-free setting for swimming and sunning. (It’s also good training ground for novice kiteboarders.)

Caribbean Club: This throwback bar is where many of the characters in “Bloodline” are seen tossing back beers and playing billiards. It’s a classic Keys joint for stiff cocktails and fun nightlife, and it most famously served as inspiration (and exterior shots) for the 1948 Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film “Key Largo.” (Don’t miss the back deck with its killer sunset views.)

Long Key State Park: If you’re not yet caught up on the series, we won’t spoil what important scene takes place here. But the 965-acre mangrove- and mahogany- filled park is an absolute must-visit for TV fans and nature lovers alike. Bring a picnic and do some wildlife spotting on the nature trails. Then snorkel, swim, or canoe, whether you’re spending an afternoon or pitching a tent for a full overnight.

The Moorings Village and Spa: In reality, it’s a two-story plantation house and hotel. On “Bloodline,” it’s the Rayburn House, a family-owned inn that features much of the show’s action. And guess what — they’re our neighbors! We totally understand if you want to grab lunch at their seaside Beach Café before coming home (sweet home!) to our lush gardens and swimming pools. Hey, we’re “Bloodline” fans too!

Robbie’s of Islamorada: If you’re looking to book a boat rental, take a snorkeling or Jet ski, excursion or even hit the high seas on a chartered island tour or sunset cruise, visit Robbie’s. This unique, multi-service destination has seen its boats and docks featured in “Bloodline.” And while you’re scoping the scene, you can also chow down at its on-site eatery, Hungry Tarpon Restaurant. (Afterwards, turn the tables and hand-feed a tarpon yourself!)

CHEECA #TBT: In the Beginning

Every week, social media’s #TBT brings us reminders of the people and places — and more importantly, hairstyles — that have defined our past.

But while you’re searching through old vacation photos to post on Facebook, it probably hasn’t occurred to you that your favorite vacation destination has a pretty interesting history of its own.

Allow us to share: While Cheeca prides itself on offering the finest in amenities and hospitality expected by the modern traveler, we also have a rich history as a landmark property in the Florida Keys. So we decided that we’d highlight some of our own favorite memories, famous visitors, and throwback photographs — to bring you closer than ever to Cheeca’s legacy. (But please, don’t judge our hair.)

Image by www,KeysHistory.org

It’s best to start at the start, of course. So this month’s #TBT takes us all the way back to 1919. What you’re looking at above is the Matecumbe Club — otherwise known as the “Millionaire’s Club” — an exclusive property that once stood right by the current Cheeca Lodge. You see, during the 1800s the Keys hardy early pioneers (known as the “Conchs”) constructed the very first buildings of Islamorada right on the beach where Cheeca is now. Among them was an old church and schoolhouse; there was even a small pioneer cemetery, now a designated historic site that Cheeca helps protect. (You can still visit it today.)

Today, the contemporary Florida Keys Overseas Highway follows the historic railroad's route through the Keys. Photo courtesy of the Monroe County Library

In 1905, the building of the Overseas Railway linked the Keys to Miami and beyond, and the islands slowly began to build their reputation as a sportsman’s paradise. (That literary legends like Ernest Hemingway waxed romantic about us didn’t exactly hurt.) In these earliest days of Keys tourism, a handful of 11 businessmen from the New York Cotton Exchange built the Matecumbe Club, designed as an exclusive and discreet getaway for the wealthy. One of its more prominent members was Lunsford Richardson and his brother Smith, who founded the Vick Chemical Company. The Richardsons would take a private rail car from their native Greensboro, North Carolina, all the way down to Flagler’s railroad, which took them on to the Islamorada Rail Station. (And you thought your flight was long?)

The Florida Keys Memorial is located next to Cheeca. Photo courtesy of US National Archives

The Matecumbe Club, like many of Islamorada’s most historic buildings, was destroyed in the infamous Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 — a Category 5 storm that is still considered the most intense hurricane to ever hit the US, based on atmospheric pressure. But its building marked an important moment in the island’s history: It was a spark that helped to fire up the Keys’ tourism reputation, one that has only grown stronger and more exciting over the years. (Not many of us can say that after looking at our #TBT photos!)

That’s just a quick glimpse at some of the fascinating history associated with Cheeca Lodge and Islamorada. Check back soon for another #TBT photo as we surf along the Cheeca timeline.

Have a #TBT photo of your own Cheeca getaway? Share it with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

#CheecaTBT #SayCheeca