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Santa Goes South: Christmas Shopping Island-Style in Islamorada and Key West



The multitude of funky boutiques, art galleries and shops make Christmas shopping a breeze in the Conch Republic. In Key West, Besame Mucho showcases gifts filled with vintage romance and a European touch, while the Green Pineapple puts a new spin on up-cycled and recycled items. The gift shop at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory offers one-stop-shopping for nature-lovers. For the bibliophiles on your list, Key West Island Books has everything Keys-related from literature to cookbooks. If you want to take home a taste of the Keys, Peppers of Key West's Goin' Bananas Hot Sauce or Kermit's key lime cookies in a Hemingway tin should do the trick. Need something sparkly for that special lady? Key West Local Luxe shines with handmade baubles made from precious and semi-precious stones.

Since Islamorada is the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, it's no surprise you'll find all the gear your family fisherman desires in World Wide Sportsman. Just down the street, buy for the art-lover at Gallery Morada, which is full of whimsical crafts from over 200 American and Canadian artists. As a bonus, most of these stores will ship, and some even gift wrap. Holiday shopping? Done.


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For island-lovers: Hidden behind the Trading Post, a mom-and-pop grocery store in Islamorada, uCúmbe provides a solid anchor for the new Village Square. The store is set amidst a tranquil oasis complete with waterfall, white sandy beach and lounge furniture. With a motto of "Keysy not cheesy," the local owners have stocked the shelves with classy island goods. As soon as you enter the front door, the delightful scents of their fragrance and body products, like Swedish Dream Sea Salt candles, tickle your senses. They carry everything from home decor to gifts, which are tastefully displayed around the store. The walls are covered in works by local artists, and there's even something for your pet like collar sets by Harry Barker. In a separate section, you'll find a satellite outpost of clothing boutique Miss Monroe. Bright tropical colors abound in this sampling of casual apparel and accessories.




For the crafty: Gallery Morada is a colorful wonderland of modern, whimsical 3-D handmade crafts from over 200 American and Canadian artists in clay, glass, wood, metal, fiber, mixed media and paper. Owner Laurie Wickham eschews items that are mass-produced, instead hand-selecting pieces that are exceptional within each medium. Over the years, she has developed a loyal following by continually updating her store with something new and different each month, offering free gift wrap and paying special attention to what her customers enjoy. Check out their collection of Spiritiles. These glass on copper artworks are handcrafted in Georgia and lined with quotes of wisdom, wit and warm wishes. Peruse the wide selection of handcrafted jewelry and funky gifts like purses made from vintage bathing caps.




For the fisherman: World Wide Sportsman is a two-story nirvana, offering one of the largest selections of saltwater, freshwater and fly fishing gear you'll ever find in one place. Men, women and children will find a wide variety of outdoor apparel and accessories in name brands like Timberlake, Columbia, Costa Del Mar and Guy Harvey. Even if you're not shopping, the store is worth a visit for the saltwater aquarium filled with indigenous fish and full-size boat parked in the middle of the building. You can actually climb aboard the boat, which is the sister ship to Ernest Hemingway's beloved Pilar. Next door is the popular Islamorada Fish Company, or you can head upstairs to the Zane Grey Lounge. Their patio has a prime view of the sunset, top-shelf martinis and cigars.


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For a taste of the Keys: No visit to Key West would be complete without having a slice of refreshing Key lime pie, and Kermit's always makes the shortlist for the best in the Keys. When you stop in for a slice, it's hard to leave without an armful of scrumptious gifts. Spend some time at the tasting station sampling sauces and jams like Chipotle Key Lime Barbecue Sauce or Key Lime Jalapeno Pepper Jelly. Peruse their decadent candies, cookies, cakes and fudge. Their Key Lime Cooler Cookies make a lovely present, packaged in a collectible tin with a painting of the Hemingway House by noted Key West artist Martha DePoo on the lid. You can even ship someone Key lime pie bars dipped in Belgian chocolate or an entire pie.




For the hotheads: Shopping for gifts at Peppers of Key West is literally a heart-warming experience. Belly up to the hot sauce bar to sample their spicy sauces from around the world. (It's free!) The "tasting staff" entertains and makes helpful suggestions while visitors try everything from jerk sauce to dips and "weapons grade" (the fifth and final step of the Peppers Heat Ratings) hot sauces. Cheese and crackers help return taste buds to normal, and each sample comes with a description of what you're trying. You'll be surprised when you realize you've spent over an hour kicking it with some chili sauce. They carry over 900 products, but don't miss their house brand. Habanero jelly beans anyone?




For the bibliophile: It's hard to believe that a town with such rich literary heritage has only one remaining bookstore. Key West Island Books offers an extensive collection of local interest books, and the devoted staff can help you find that perfect gift. For lit-lovers, there's an entire section of books by and about Ernest Hemingway, as well as a vast selection of works by local authors. Cookbooks highlighting Keys' cuisine, history tomes, travel books and local wildlife guides promise something for everyone on your list. Watch their calendar for author readings and book signings. Ask about signed works they may still have in stock from past events.




For the nature-lover: You don't have to go through the exhibit at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory to get to their amazing gift shop. Packed with everything from collectible pieces like Franz porcelain jewelry to inexpensive stocking-stuffers like a butterfly pen, this is a one-stop-shop for anyone who loves nature. They offer a wide array of clothing and accessories featuring flying critters. Educational items range from a scholarly field guide to a children's puzzle. For the serious collector, step into the adjacent Wings of Imagination Butterfly Gallery, which offers original artwork by artist Sam Trophia. The acrylic shadow boxes depict the butterfly's beauty preserved and suspended in art form in a spectrum of colors, shapes and sizes. Don't worry, these aren't the same beauties from the garden.




For that special woman: Key West Local Luxe is like cracking open a giant jewelry box and walking inside. The sleek gallery-style boutique is filled with dazzling displays of handmade, one-of-a-kind, rare-find jewelry made from precious and semi-precious stones. The pieces are miniature works of art in a surprising range of prices and styles. They work directly with the artists, cutting out the middleman, to keep the prices attainable. Owner Barb GrOb also designs works like the optic-quality She-She Shades bamboo eyewear and Sparkle Specs sunglasses that use bejeweled chains instead of stems. To make the shopping experience less painful for the guys, owner GrOb, is happy to do your shopping for you. With just a few questions, your budget and a photo of your lovely lady, she promises to have the perfect gift selected, wrapped and ready to go (or even delivered).


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For the eco-conscious: At the eco-chic Green Pineapple boutique, everything has a story. With a focus on what they call mindful consumption, the store is packed with gifts perfect for your earth-conscious pals. Creative up-cycled items include candles in old tea cups or vintage cans, silver spoons flattened into pendants, Mason jar wine glasses and canvas bags made from recycled sails. Whether it's one-of-a-kind jewelry from around the globe, hand-made wooden kitchen ware or breezy tropical clothing, the eclectic offerings focus on fair trade and support for artisan women around the world. Also home to the Key West Yoga Sanctuary, the shop is filled with Zen decor, ensuring a relaxing shopping experience. Don't miss the organic cafe, date & thyme, in the back where fresh juices and smoothies provide an energetic boost.




For the romantic: Off-the-beaten path in Bahama Village, this charming boutique has an air of vintage romance. Their apothecary's intoxicating scents will draw you in off the street. The approach is old-world, pure and simple like the cult-fave Smith's Rosebud Salve (said to be the best lip balm ever). It's easy to get lost among the elegant displays of European chocolates, letterpress note cards, lavender sachets and crisp linens. Their unique jewelry collection includes Spanish Milagros (protective charms) and hand-crafted brass bangles with a polished patina. For the home, discover Bolivian wool throws, Syrian glass carafes and candles and incense from the inspired Parisian team of Astier De Villatte. You can tell that each treasure was chosen with care and has a backstory, and the owners are on-hand to share them with you.


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Meet Claudia Miller

Claudia Miller has been writing about South Florida for over 17 years--seven from Key Largo. A budding photographer, she can usually be found stalking a sunset. Despite being a tad...  More About Claudia

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