Fishing, Family and Fun at Florida’s Cheeca Lodge

By Nancy Schretter

Cheeca Lodge has long been a mecca for fishing lovers. The resort’s location in Islamorada, the sports fishing capital of the world, offers guests a wide variety of angling opportunities. In recent years, however, this Florida Keys resort has been luring more than fishing enthusiasts to its 27-acre property. Families have discovered all of the wonders that Cheeca Lodge has to offer, and have been beating a path to its door. In addition, nearby attractions add to Cheeca’s appeal as a family travel destination.

The resort’s casually elegant atmosphere is an excellent fit with families. Although Cheeca Lodge is a top tier luxury resort, there’s no pretentious stuffiness here. Kids and parents relax around the pool, take kayak trips together on the Atlantic Ocean and the bay, and enjoy snorkeling in a saltwater lagoon stocked with a variety of fish. Other popular family attractions include the 1,100-foot palm-lined white sand beach, two freshwater swimming pools, the par-3 nine-hole golf course, and the 525-foot wooden pier that stretches out into the ocean. Kids love fishing from the end of this pier, while parents enjoy romantic moonlight strolls along its planks at night. Fishing enthusiasts can make arrangements for charter deep sea, backcountry, and party fishing boat trips through the concierge.

Cheeca Lodge is a member of RockResorts, an exclusive collection of premier properties in highly desirable location. The resort is in the midst of a massive $30 million renovation and enhancement program, and it shows. There are 203 guest accommodations at Cheeca Lodge, including oceanview and property-view rooms in the main lodge. Sixty-four suites and private villas are also available. All of the rooms are air conditioned, and some have private balconies or porches and 42” wide screen plasma televisions. Make sure to ask for one of the renovated rooms or the luxury one-, two- or three-bedroom condo-hotel residences. They are beautiful and well worth the additional cost.

Parents rave about the resort’s Camp Cheeca program, an environmentally oriented day camp for children ages 5-12. The camp is offered six days a week year-round from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Activities include arts and crafts, swimming and snorkeling in the saltwater lagoon, scavenger hunts, nature walks, fishing off Cheeca’s pier, making sand sculptures, and hermit crab races. Costs for the camp are $30 per day per child which includes lunch, and pre-registration is required.

On selected evenings, Cheeca offers a “Kids Night Out” program for children ages 4 and up. The program lasts from 6-10 p.m., and includes a pizza dinner, movies, games, arts and crafts, and occasional themed activities. The cost for this program is $25 per child. Babysitting is also available through the resort’s concierge. Babysitters are often Camp Cheeca counselors, or other local people who have been on the resort’s list for many years. It is wise to contact the concierge 24-hours before a babysitter is needed, or as soon as possible for weekends or holiday periods.

Recreation options at Cheeca Lodge are extensive. The resort charges a $39 daily resort fee per room, which covers tennis, golf, fishing rods (bait extra), beach cabanas, the use of sea kayaks, bikes and paddle boats, as well as the fitness studio and spa classes for guest 18 and older. Watersports are very popular with families here, as well as tennis and the par-3 golf course. Spa lovers can be pampered at Cheeca’s 5,000-foot state-of-the-art Avanyu Spa, which offers massages, facials, skin care therapies, and a wide range of other treatments. Although use of the Avanyu Spa is limited to guests 18 and older, selected Kids-Spa treatments are available for children ages 10-17. Adults will enjoy the oasis of tranquility at the spa’s adults-only pool, which features private cabanas with plasma screen televisions, and the newly constructed tropical island water feature with its lounge chairs and palm trees.

Dining at Cheeca Lodge is a treat, especially at the Atlantic’s Edge restaurant with its panoramic ocean views and signature entrees. More casual fare is available at the Ocean Terrace Grill, an open-air restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating near the free-form pool. Children’s menus are available at both restaurants. There are also a number of family-friendly dining options located nearby. Try the Islamorada Bakery or the Hungry Tarpon for breakfast (located right next door to ever-popular Robbie’s “Feed the Tarpon”) and the Islamorada Fish Company and Morada Bay for dinner.

If You Go:

** Contact Cheeca Lodge at 800-327-2888 or 305-664-4651 or visit their website at www.rockresorts.com. Request one of the renovated rooms and make your reservations early for prime holiday, winter, and summer vacation periods, as availability at Cheeca Lodge fills quickly during these times.

** Use Cheeca Lodge’s concierge to help you plan your trip. We found Cheeca’s concierge service to be very informative and responsive.

** Remember that you’re in the Florida Keys. Pack plenty of sunscreen and lather it on often. Cheeca Lodge’s white sand beach is a great asset in the Florida Keys, where they tend to be a somewhat of a rarity. Beaches in the Keys are generally not as long and wide as those in other parts of Florida, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

** If you are planning to take part in one of the nearby dolphin encounter or swim with the dolphins programs, make your reservations as early as possible. Nearby programs include Theater of the Sea (www.theaterofthesea.com or 305-664-2431, MM 84.5), Dolphins Plus (www.dolphinsplus.com or 305-451-1993, MM 99)), Dolphin Cove (www.dolphinscove.com or 305-451-4060, MM 101.9), Dolphin Research Center (www.dolphins.org or 289-1121, MM 58.9) or Hawk’s Cay Resort (www.hawkscay.com or 305-743-7000, MM 61). These facilities offer different types of programs and approaches, so make sure to do your research in order to pick the program that is best for you.

** Consider visiting some of the other family friendly attractions off property. These include John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102.7, snorkeling, diving and glass bottom boat tours); Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary (MM 93.6, daily bird feeding at 3 p.m.); Robbie’s Feed the Tarpons (MM 77.5, a dock where tarpon appear daily to be fed); Windley Key Geological State Park (MM 85, fossil park); Crane Point Hammock State Park and Museum (MM 50.5, children’s museum with hiking trails); and Bahia Honda State Park (MM 37, beautiful beach with great swimming and snorkeling).

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