Middle Keys Makeover

For those seeking road trip inspiration, FLI points travelers toward where to say, what to see, and where to dine in Marathon.

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Courtesy of Isla Bella Beach Resort

Situated 144 miles south of Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Middle Keys are often regarded as the forgotten stretch of the Sunshine State’s famed island chain. Not as adorable and quirky as the Lower Keys nor as established or accessible as the Upper Keys, they’ve never received attention on par with their siblings. However, that’s all changing thanks to Isla Bella Beach Resort, a 24-acre, amenity-rich property in Marathon that illustrates why the Middle Keys should no longer be overlooked.

Opened in 2019, Isla Bella Beach Resort is the first and only full-service luxury hotel in Marathon, holding claim to the largest private waterfront of any Keys property. The resort maximizes this excess through five oceanfront swimming pools, a 200-foot beach, and an outward-facing design for all 199 guest rooms and suites, such that each has its own fabulous Atlantic Ocean view. Delicately dressed in a palette of white and blue (with a few palm tree prints thrown in for good measure), rooms channel maritime-meets-tropical chic and recall the essence of a modern-day Keys’ beach house.

See and Do

Discover why the Florida Keys are celebrated internationally as a top fishing destination on a day trip with Two Conchs, which departs directly from Isla Bella Marina and offers excursions that specialize in the catch or fishing type, from tarpon to flats. Rent a kayak for some island exploration or ogle the stunning Middle Keys scenery on a 26-mile, guided Jet Ski tour around Marathon. If leisure’s more your thing, relax with a treatment at the 4,000-square-foot Spa at Isla Bella or spice up your sunbathing routine by crossing the Seven Mile Bridge and throwing down a towel at Bahia Honda State Park, which sports the finest white sand beaches in the Florida Keys.

Tip: Head under the sea on one of Isla Bella’s many day or night diving trips, swimming among the species-rich Sombrero Reef or the Thunderbolt shipwreck, home to numerous Goliath Groupers, some of which top 400 pounds.

Il Postino

Eat

Savor a light lunch of fresh seafood, tapas, and strong cocktails at The Beach Bar, Isla Bella’s feet-in-the-sand outdoor bar and restaurant. Grab one of the coveted Adirondack chairs for an epic sunset, and linger longer on Friday and Saturday evenings, when a live band performs. For dinner, feast on-property at Il Postino, a Neapolitan-style restaurant that serves decadent wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas, and Keys seafood with an Italian twist. Consider sharing the mouthwatering Burratini Caprese (made with double cream mozzarella), the parmesan-crusted local hogfish over cauliflower mousse (aka Maiale Vincotto), and a carbonara pizza bathed in a ricotta garlic cream sauce and topped with caramelized onions, bacon lardons, fresh mozzarella, and pecorino.

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