For those looking to explore the shallow waters around Islamorada without the constant whir of a motor, head out to sea on a kayak or stand up paddleboard. Forget horsepower—these manpowered vessels allow explorers to go from deep blue straight to the beach all at a self-paced speed.
For the beginner and experienced paddler alike, the area immediately around Robbie’s is a great place to explore. Rentals are available at the Kayak Shack ($40 for a half-day rental), part of the menagerie of Robbie’s open-air shops. Launching in the marina with 100-pound tarpon swimming just below the plastic keel and among your feet is an exhilarating experience, but once into the open waters, it's smooth paddling.
One of the more popular trails to paddle is the Back Country Tour. Manned with a hand-drawn map of the area, paddlers head west along the northern edge of the Lower Matecumbe, a mangrove-fringed forest filled with small channels, islets and alcoves to explore. At the furthest reaches of the map, about two miles west of Robbie’s, paddlers pass through what looks like a keyhole in the mangrove jungle. This leads to a protected estuary where acres of seagrass beds serve as a nursery and Cassiopeia jellyfish (upside-down mangrove jellyfish) pump and filter like carnivorous moving bouquets. The paddle back to the marina takes kayakers and SUPers through narrow mangrove thickets and rivulets. Two saltwater crocodiles roam the waters here, though they are too small to pose any threat to people. But the mosquitos are another story altogether—they are the size of pigeons and are most certainly not after that crumbled-up bag of Cheetos. In other words, bring Off.
- The Back Country Tour takes about two hours for those leisurely paddling.
- For those looking to take in a little more on in their paddle, Robbie’s is a jump, skip and paddle to both Indian Key (about 30 minutes) and Lignumvitae Key (about 20 minutes).