You know how it is when you're traveling, especially in the islands? Sometimes you come across a business or outfit that just doesn't care, or that disappoints you...and then there are the folks that surprise you with great attitudes, above-and-beyond helpfulness, and all around professionalism. This week, as the Island Runaways are exploring some of our favorite isles in the Sunshine State (not to mention the world), we encountered an awesome place for those of you planning to kayak the Florida Keys. And Zickie and I thought to ourselves, hey, wait a minute! We're travel bloggers. We've got to tell our friends about The Kayak Shack.
(Kayaks just waiting to be taken out on the water. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
Many of you who love the Keys have probably stopped off at Robbie's Marina, located bayside at Mile Marker 77.5 in lovely Islamorada. Maybe you've eaten lunch at the Hungry Tarpon restaurant, bought a painted sign for the tiki bar back home, or fed those real, live tarpon that skulk around the docks looking for hand-outs. We'd been to Robbie's before, too, but despite my real enjoyment of kayaking had never rented from here before. Big mistake. This is the perfect departure point for not just one, but three excellent Keys destinations. But location, location, location is not the only element that makes this outfit a worthy recipient of your hard-earned dinero.
(A friendly Kayak Shack welcome. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.
First of all, the staff at The Kayak Shack were welcoming and happy to help. This makes a big difference. I'd always rather support a place where people actually appreciate you as a customer. But friendliness can only take you so far. So, after completing the brief paperwork...
(Paperwork's all in order! Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)
we were interested in which kayaks we were getting. In terms of watersports, equipment always needs to be of good quality and should be well-maintained. As someone who has rented kayaks from more than a few places over the years, I was happy to see that the two we were assigned were comfortable and high quality. The seat backs were particularly good, and wow, does that help once you start paddling. The paddles were also nice, and not too heavy, unlike some rental paddles.
The nice guy who hauled our kayaks into the water found our daughter the right sized life jacket and made sure she put it on correctly. We also had life jackets, although were not required to wear them. Then he helped us climb into the kayaks, and ensured we didn't bang our ankles or otherwise injure ourselves in our eagerness to get going. We were given advice about paddling to Indian Key, a journey I just covered in another blog post.
(Kayaking off the Florida Keys. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Needless to say, the ocean was clear and gorgeous. And the paddling was easy, with just a touch of breeze on the way out (which meant that kayaking back in was even easier). Indian Key, as I wrote in the post, was an amazing experience, made even more amazing by the guided tour we arranged.
(Taking a break for a silly selfie. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Yet from The Kayak Shack you can also explore Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. Here you can tour the 1919 Matheson House and discover the island's interesting botany. Park rangers lead tours at 10 am and 2 pm, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Or, there are mangrove canopy systems just a few minutes from the shop, where you can see Keys' nature up close. Next time I'm in Islamorada, I definitely want to go on one of these two trips! I always say, to really see the Keys at their best you've got to get out on the water. Kayaking provides us all a way to go into nature quietly...thus allowing us to see and hear much more than we might in a motorized craft. (Not that I'm knocking motor boats, my friends!)
(A quiet way to observe sealife and birdlife. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
When we headed back to Robbie's, the staff took care of hauling back in the kayaks and made sure we didn't forget any of our things. What can I say? It was an easy, enjoyable time in a gorgeous setting. Exactly what we all want on an Island Runaway.
If you'd like more information about the three paddling destinations that are easily reachable from The Kayak Shack and Robbie's Marina, just click here for their website.