Key West Sailing Adventures’ water-savvy ship hands charter passengers to pristine locales for sailing and snorkeling trips. The four-hour excursion outfits each set of up to six divers with all necessary underwater gear—including masks, snorkels, and stingray saddles—as they dive into local reefs. After four hours of subaqueous sightseeing, divers return to the ship’s deck for a two-hour sunset cruise, which chases the picturesque sinking of the nation’s southernmost sun. Excursions occur aboard the 37-foot O’Day sailboat, a solid vessel that avoids bobbling atop waves by practicing core-strengthening Pilates twice weekly. The ship’s galley comes fully stocked with snacks and soft drinks to tide over mid-ocean hunger pangs.
Amidst the sparkling waters of the Florida Keys, Key Largo Fisheries has furnished kitchens and kebabs with fresh seafood fetched from local fishermen and exotic locales since 1972. Succulent shellfish including lobster ($10.99/lb.), stone crab ($12.99–$29.99/lb.), and shrimp ($9.99–$15.99/lb.) newly plucked from nearby waters unbutton their hard-shell exteriors to reveal butter-ready meat. Grouper ($15.99/lb.), yellowtail snapper ($12.99/lb.), and other finned fare make enticing grilled or fried main dishes, and an array of premade items including crab cakes ($7.99 for two) and smoked fish dip ($15.99/qt.) supplies gatherings with quick, convenient eats. To sate seafood cravings or cede to mermaids begging for scraps, the Take Away Cafe populates its menu with a range of oceanic ambrosia.
Islamorada, deemed one of the Best Honeymoon Spots by the Knot, rests quietly in the upper portion of the Florida Keys, southwest of Key Largo. Visitors living the laid-back Keys lifestyle can bask in the sun, feed green and silver tarpon by hand from a dock, or saunter from snorkeling with dolphins at one marina to kayaking with paddle-wielding manatees at the next. Most eateries extend beach or patio seating to diners to offer a better view of the sunset and its reflection in the ocean while guests sip cool beers.The historic Overseas Highway, once a railroad connecting the Keys until Mother Nature repurposed it with a hurricane in 1935, now ushers motorists up and down the Keys to experience each bit of blue and green beauty Florida has to offer. At Bahia Honda State Park, travelers can tip their swim caps to a bridge standing as a reminder of the old railway as they wade to ultimate relaxation in warm Gulf water.
Outfitted with wireless speakers, the tables at Sand Bar prop up plates from the lunch and dinner menu, illuminated by the flickering glow of 40 TVs. Platefuls of fish and chips emerge from the kitchen either beer-battered or crunchy, with shallow depths of signature tartar sauce for dipping or rock skipping ($9.99). Additional seafood options include hand-breaded oysters ($9.99) or coconut shrimp served with house-made orange-honey sauce ($13.99), residing alongside a culinary crew of thin-crust pizzas, grilled burgers, and sandwiches. Diners can also haul in fresh fish that they have caught or lured out of the sea with trails of mini marshmallows for Sand Bar cooks to prepare with professional bravado ($7.99). Parched throats can sip the sauces off wings that come in increments of 10, 20, or 30 ($6.99–$19.99) or gurgle bottled or draft selections from the beer list. In addition to after-dark fare available until 2 a.m., Sand Bar keeps antemeridian hours, filled with the sounds of eggshells cracking open to help concoct selections from the breakfast menu, including omelets, egg sandwiches, and pancakes.
At Gino's Olde Marco Trattoria, classic Italian assemblies populate the folds of a multifarious menu, alluring diners to topple pangs with aromatic pastas, veal, and thin-crust pizza crafted upon homemade dough. Mushrooms stuffed with spinach and sausage ($9) or family secrets jumpstart digestive engines while coated in a creamy cheese sauce. Veal cacciatore ($18.50), sautéed among onions and peppers, touts a creamy cloak of marinara, and pasta alla puttanesca ($14.50) slides across tongues atop rafts of olives and capers. Pizzas arrive decorated in specialty toppings, such as the pescatore ($20+), which whirls hunks of clam, shrimp, and calamari beneath a scented undertow of fresh garlic and oregano. To chase sizzling bites, diners can browse Gino's wine list, where vino by the glass volunteers to irrigate pipes or contribute piquant additions to tie-dyed shirts.
Chef Martin's international twist on regional American cuisine helped to earn his restaurant, Verdis, a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013. In the modern bistro's kitchen, he infuses classics with foreign spices to create signature dishes such as nut-crusted tilapia with brown butter-rum sauce, rack of New Zealand lamb with port demi-glace, and crispy duck in raspberry-ginger hoisin sauce. These mains are joined by other simple, gourmet dishes such as PEI mussels and littleneck clams. In the cellar and on the wooden wine racks that line the dining room walls are more than 70 bottles of wine. More than 20 of these are available by the glass, and all are designed to pair with the current menu offerings or stand in as finger paints in an emergency. These dusky reds and icy white wines also complement the colors found in Verdis' design palette, characterized by light earth tones and dark wood trim.