It’s part of the Florida character to do so. Is there a down-side to living in paradise? Sure is! All of us are guilty at times of taking it for granted and forgetting to slow down and smell the proverbial roses (or jasmine). 

There is no better cure for this condition, than to transform yourself from a Florida local, back into a Florida tourist-and visit the other, near and far, wonderful communities that abound throughout our state.With this goal in mind, my wife and I loaded up the SUV, put the kids in the third-row with a treasure trove of Usborne activity books and Pipsqueak markers on the folded second row and hit the road for the Florida keys—Islamorda in particular. An original resort on the island has been given a new lease on life by involved and passionate new ownership. The Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina at Holiday Isle is so “Florida” that just thinking about it can put sand in your shoes. Three hours flew by and before we knew it, we were headed southwest on the Overseas Highway across jewel-like turquoise waters and quiet mangroves.

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The Oceanfront Lanai rooms are in the main building and feature a walk-out patio that leads you directly to the beach. Every morning, the kids couldn’t wait  to throw open the sliders and head out to the beach with pail and shovel in hand. Ciao Hound hosts both humans and four-legged friends for incredible homemade pastas.  And yes, there is a canine menu and seating area.

We knew we were in for something exceptional when we pulled up. A retro-modern, ultra-coastal lobby stands apart from the main building welcoming you to the resort campus. Framed above by Jetson-style hanging pendant lights, the front desk is crafted (literally) from old Florida hardback books—the spines of classics such as Hotel Florida, Paradiso, Men at Sea and Jacques Cousteau: The Ocean World create a colorful, beachy mosaic.  The beautiful space lets you know that this is a resort where attention to detail is paramount. However, once you have the keycard for your room, the rest of the resort is best described as timeless.

Our two young children lead the way, and by the time we parked our car they were out of their shoes and had no interest in putting them back on for the remainder of our weekend. Some resorts are “by the beach” or “near the beach”—at the Postcard Inn you never leave the beach. Our ground floor unit had two sliding glass doors that opened onto a low concrete patio, which then lead to sand. There is sand between your room and tiki bar (famously the location where the Rum Runner was invented), there is sand between your room and the pool table, there is sand between your room and the ocean-side saltwater pool, there is sand between the pool and the kayak and paddleboard launch area and there is even sand between your room and the sandy beach.

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If you harbor secret fantasies of running away from all your responsibilities and becoming a beach bum (who lives in beautiful resort) then check that box as your dreams come true. From dawn to dusk we found ourselves happy and at peace with no thought given to the hectic weekdays we had left behind.

Normally a vacation with small kids can be more challenging than staying at home. Especially when you have young kids cooped up in a hotel room, you may wonder why you took your whirling dervishes away from their toys and the conveniences of home. At Postcard Inn, however, the beautiful beach is literally part of your room and from sunrise to sunset, our happy pair were obsessed with it. Mom and Dad were able to open the glass doors and let the sand monsters run outside to play, watching from bed through the curtains. A few ground rules; “don’t go near the ocean without an adult,” and the kids were able to dig holes, build sandcastles and chase seagulls while we parents enjoyed waking up slowly, for the first time in a long time. And just down the beach (a few minutes walk) is a giant Jenga set and a 3-foot tall Connect Four for the kids.

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We took advantage of the many resources offered. I signed up for a quick one-on-one scuba refresher at the dive shop on site and took the course in the resort’s landside pool the first afternoon. The next morning I walked (through the sand) to the marina where we headed out for a fantastic day of scuba exploration on the lively lovely reefs that surround the island. We saw gentle nurse sharks, moray eels, rays, coral heads, barracuda and an incredible array of gorgeous fish in water so clear that you wouldn’t believe me if I told and you, on a reef in easy, 30-40 foot deep shallow waters. In a single outing you can dive Davis Reef and Davis-Crocker Reef, a secret reef known only to the resort dive guides. On the second afternoon, the whole family loaded into two tandem kayaks the resort team prepped for us. The staff, “Batman” and “Spiderman”, as their shirts announced, got our kids into lifejackets, and we paddled straight off the beach from our room. Again, calm water and lovely weather made it delightful, as did the dolphin that came to play with our boats as the kids squealed. (Seriously, is that dolphin on retainer or what?) You’ll enjoy intimate mangrove tunnels within minutes of the launch area.

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We exhausted the kids paddling, swimming and playing beach games set-up by the resort superheroes. You’ll find three restaurants on site including the famous Tiki Bar as well as the Raw Bar (where you can get an insanely delicious shrimp and grits for breakfast), but our favorite by far was Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen and Bar—their newest addition. Complete with cozy alfresco dining on a beautiful wood deck and a Pooch Patio for doggie dining, their tagline says is all: “Good Food. Great Friends. Ruff Life.” Their shrimp scampi and  snapper in puttanesca sauce were to die for and while I don’t normally eat much bread, I made an exception for their incredible homemade flatbread, which the kids inhaled.

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After the short walk back from Ciao Hound, the little ones fell blissfully to sleep. Then we snuck out onto the beach and enjoyed a hammock right in front of our place for some relaxed adult time. The sun had set and the fire pits were flickering. The gentle whoosh whoosh of the ocean ended a perfect day, reminding us that we also live in paradise, but that it sometimes helps to get far enough away to have little perspective on just how wonderful that is.

Bonus Tip

The Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina at Holiday Isle shares its key with the long-lived aquatic animal park, Theatre of the Seas. Theatre of the Seas is a spectacle for the whole family. Even if you are a regular to SeaWorld, you have never been this close to the animals, nor seen the tricks performed under the loving instruction of their trainers. And I’m not just saying this because my four-year-old daughter was kissed on the cheek by a dolphin, who also sang her Happy Birthday in squeaks, although I admit that helps.