Sunday, March 04, 2007

Scene at Holiday Isle

ISLAMORADA -- A reggae band is lulling the bathers around the Holiday Isle pool with Bob Marley’s classic, No woman, no cry. A few dance; others lounge languidly at the bar. But unlike a decade ago, when March would have meant raucous crowds and more than a few wet T-shirts, today’s visitors are as likely grandparents and young families as college Spring Breakers.

Here on Day One of our one-week dash around Florida’s fave Spring Break spots, we’re solidly into the family zone.

Derek and Monica Schindeler of Plantation met here in 1991, back when a Sunday afternoon meant packs of young, suntan-oiled bodies at the half-dozen plus bars of the Holiday Isle resort. Then, cars pulling in and out of the lots backed up traffic up and down the Overseas Highway; rumrunners fueled by Bacardi ruled.

Today, they bring their children, ages 3 and 6, for a family swim. “It’s a lot more family oriented,’’ said Monica. “Then, it was a more Spring Break atmosphere. It does seem to have mellowed a bit.’’

It’s likely to mellow more. By year’s end, Holiday Isle is slated to close, making way for 151 casually luxurious Grecian-style apartments in a new condo-hotel development, Ocanos. Already, a part of the beach is reserved for visitors to the sales center, decked with sophisticated lounges with plush, white cushions.

Wander the bars and the fishing boat dock here, and locals will tell you they aren’t convinced the condos will really happen. “We’ll see when we see,’’ says one long-time bar tender. Certainly Ocanos' plunge pools, Argentinian wood finishes and $1.2 million-plus price tags are a world away from a place T-shirts dub “a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem.’’

For the few student Spring Breakers here, none of that seems to matter. “We wanted to come to the Keys. We found this on the Internet,’’ said Danielle Long, 21, at student at N.C. State University traveling with four friends from Fort Lauderdale to Key West. Holida Isle “is very relaxing, but there aren’t as many young people as we thought.''

Maybe they should have waited a week. Bikini contests slated for March 11, 18 and 25 bring a $1,000 prize.


Top: On the beach at Holiday Isle Resort in Islamorada.

Center: Derek and Monica Schindeler, of Plantation, and family.

Bottom: Spring Breakers from N.C.: From left, Lauren Jenkins, 20; Jessi Long, 18; Stacey King, 21; Danielle Long, 21; Ashley Brown, 21;

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