Visit Robbie’s | milemarker 77.5
Chances are, you have heard or seen Robbie’s of Islamorada without ever stepping foot in this roadside attraction. World famous for hand-feeding tarpon the size of humans, Robbie’s has been featured time and again on television news stations and America’s Funniest Home Videos for tourists being gummed by five- to six-foot-long tarpon leaping out for a snack of baitfish. But there is much more to the crowded docks and fishy waters.
Roadside is apt in describing this place; it's little more than a dirt parking lot just off the Overseas Highway on the northern end of Lower Matecumbe Key, the southernmost island of the Islamorada chain. The dirt-packed tourist trap is replete with local artist tents, dive tiki bars and a marina that caters to fishing and dive charters, eco-tours, leisure and booze cruises, kayak and SUP rentals, and boat and wave runner rentals. Simply put, for the chap or gal looking to get out on the water, Robbie’s is a one-stop shop of fun and the headquarters to reach Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key.
Feed the Tarpon
A must for an Islamorada first-timer, pony up a couple bucks and walk the plank, bucket of baitfish in hand, to feed some true shallow-water leviathans. Just off the dock lurks dozens of tarpon ranging in size from 50 to 100 pounds, all looking for a herring snack. Daring guests dangle baitfish just inches from the surface as they await scaly beasts to leap for a snack. Most drop the bait at the first signs of a lunge (the golf ball-sized eyes can be disconcerting), but every now and then a brave tarpon-tamer will actually let the fish take the bait directly from their hand, making for a few scrapes and a great picture to mark the occasion.
Not to be outdone, two saltwater crocs, countless rays and skates and a few resident nurse sharks also patrol the waters looking for a handout at the fish-cleaning stations. It’s quite the scene, especially because this same spot is where throngs of people launch kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, making for pretty hairy beginnings to an otherwise tranquil paddle.