Enter the 125-mile-long island chain at Key Largo, the Upper Keys' longest island best known for Pennekamp Coral Reef Park
, mile marker (MM) 102.5, the first U.S. underwater preserve. There is famous wreck diving, an undersea hotel, world-class sportfishing and eco-tours. Key Largo - 42 miles south-southwest of Miami - is the longest island of the Keys chain, famous as the site where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall battled both Edward G. Robinson and a hurricane in the movie of the same name. The African Queen, the actual boat Bogart skippered in the movie, can be viewed at MM100 adjacent to the Holiday Inn Resort & Marina.
Known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World" and boasting more sports fishing world records than any other fishing destination in the world, Islamorada is heralded for its angling diversity and features the Keys' largest fleet of offshore charter boats and shallow water "backcountry" boats. Anglers can find sailfish, marlin, dorado (or mahi mahi), kingfish, snapper, barracudas and grouper in the ocean. Tarpon, bonefish and redfish, are common species in the shallow bayside waters.
Also part of the Upper Keys is the cluster of "purple isles," including Plantation Key, Windley Key
, both Upper and Lower Matecumbe Key and Islamorada, the crown jewel. Islamorada's name is thought to have been derived from Spanish explorers who named the island after the Spanish word "morada," referring to the lovely violet sea snail (janthina janthina) found here.
Two offshore islands have colorful, historical pasts; Indian Key
, where a pioneer, 18th century tropical agriculturist was killed by raiding Indians, and Lignumvitae Key
, named for the hardwood tree. Both are accessible by boats or kayaks.
Morada Bay Beach Cafe