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Robbie’s Marina: Feed the tarpon; it’s the best cheap fun you can find in the Keys

Last updated on July 6th, 2022 at 03:41 pm

A few years ago, you learned about how to feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada via word of mouth.

Robbie’s at Mile Marker 77 is famous now — it draws big crowds.

It’s still fun, although more crowded and commercial. The nearby restaurant, the Hungry Tarpon, has expanded to provide extensive waterfront dining. When we first visited, it was little more than a weathered wooden cottage.

The dock at Robbie's Marina in the Florida Keys, where visitors gather to feed the tarpon.  (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The dock at Robbie’s Marina in the Florida Keys, where visitors gather to feed the tarpon.  (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The big draw at Robbie’s Marina is the chance to see 50 to 100 enormous tarpon swimming around the dock in clear water only a few feet deep. You pay $2.50 to go out on the dock and it’s another $4 for a bucket of fish pieces to toss to them. It might be the most entertainment you’ll find in the Keys for a few bucks.

“Visit” Robbie’s Marina via it’s webcam, with views both above and underwater.

Tarpon grow to 5 to 8 feet long and weigh 80 to 150 pounds, so these aren’t the usual fish that gather when you throw bread crusts into the water in the Keys. These are among the great saltwater game fish, prized for their fight (but not as food.)

Robbie’s is a good marina to book a fishing charter, diving trip or rent a kayak. It became the favorite buffet for tarpon through an act of kindness.

Sign at Robbie's Marina, where you feed the tarpon. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Sign at Robbie’s Marina, where you feed the tarpon. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

More than two decades ago, the owners of Robbie’s saw a tarpon they named Scarface floundering in shallow water. When Robbie went to guide the fish into deeper water, he discovered its jaw was ripped open.

According to the story on Robbie’s website, he summoned a friend who stitched the jaw with twine and a mattress needle. After hand-feeding the fish for six months in a tank, a healthy Scarface went back into the wild. But not quite. Scarface kept coming back. And then he began bringing his friends.

You can feed the tarpon at Robbie's Marina by tossing fish to them. Some want to brave the experience of hand-feeding the toothy fish. (Photo: David Blasco)
You can feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina by tossing fish to them. But some visitors want to brave the experience of hand-feeding the tarpon. (Photo: David Blasco)

Today, the dock is filled with visitors in awe of the tarpon convention that happens every day.

The powerful silver fish flash in the sunlight as they lunge for the snacks dropped by visitors. Brave (I would actually say dumb) visitors try to hand-feed the fish, providing entertainment for those content to keep a distance.

Be prepared for aggressive pelicans that try to steal the fish before they reach the tarpon. Visitors often see manatees or nurse sharks near the docks too. 

The Hungry Tarpon is a popular waterfront restaurant located in Robbie's Marina in Islamorada. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The Hungry Tarpon is a popular waterfront restaurant located in Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Overlooking the marina and fish frenzy are outdoor tables from the Hungry Tarpon, a funky wooden fish shack built in 1947. For years, its breakfasts have been famous and its fish sandwiches popular for lunch. Now, the Hungry Tarpon has spread tables out along the waterfront for expanded seating. 

When visiting Robbie’s Marina, stop at Charli’s Shad Ice for cool treaet. We loved the Key Lim Pie Ice Cream. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Robbie’s Marina also has added several booths at an open-air market, where you can browse. We particularly liked the excellent Key Lime Pie Ice Cream at Charli’s Shave Ice at Robbies, located in an adorable Airstream camper.

Feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina: Useful links

A tarpon at Robbie's Marina, waiting for visitors to toss some fish. (Photo: David Blasco)
A tarpon at Robbie’s Marina, waiting for visitors to toss some fish. (Photo: David Blasco)

Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation

Hungry Tarpon, a restaurant at Robbie's Marina
Hungry Tarpon, a restaurant at Robbie’s Marina. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Special places to discover in the Middle Keys

Special places in the Upper Keys

Camping and lodging near Robbie’s Marina

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

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