Resorts in the Florida Keys & Key West continue to win awards and undergo renovation, expansion and rebranding. On Stock Island just east of Key West, two new hotels with a total 175 rooms are soon to be unveiled.

Visitors can celebrate the 100th anniversary of Naval Air Station Key West through a new exhibit at the Custom House Museum and shop at a new nautically themed home goods and accessories chandlery, or waterfront store, in Key West.

Sustainability initiatives throughout the Florida Keys continue to protect the destination’s unique eco-tourism offerings. Everglades National Park has opened two pristine bays for catch-and-release fishing — areas that have been closed to the public for 30 years. Meanwhile, eight coral reefs along the Florida reef tract are to undergo restoration efforts with the outplanting of more than 50,000 staghorn and elkhorn coral.

Here’s what’s new:

Keys Accommodations

Two new resort hotels, both with on-site marinas, are opening on Stock Island.

The 20-acre Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina is scheduled to open in mid-December with 175 suites and rooms and six pools. Spacious units range from 382 to 575 square feet. An on-site marina has 111 wet and 52 dry slips. Oceans Edge, developed by Singh Investors, is located at 5950 Peninsular Ave. For more information, visit oceansedgekeywest.com or call 305-809-8242.

The 100-room boutique Hotel Key West, located within the Stock Island Marina Village complex, is to open in the first quarter of 2017. All rooms will have water views and property amenities include a lush pool area, watersports options and a full-service restaurant. The $38 million hotel is to include flexible small group, incentive and event space. It will offer the Keys’ largest deep-water marina, featuring 220 slips and will be able to accommodate vessels up to 300 feet long. The Hotel Key West is located at 7001 Shrimp Road. For more information, visit thehotelkeywest.com or call 305-296-1717.

In Key West, the Historic Key West Inns Hotel Collection has opened an 11-room extension at Chelsea House, bringing the Chelsea House offerings to 48 total guest rooms. The collection acquired and fully renovated the former Blue Parrot Inn, built during the late 1880s as the Walter C. Maloney House, adjacent to Chelsea House. “The newly renovated guest rooms are among our best,” said owner Julia Fondriest, offering “a special area of seclusion for small wedding parties, family gatherings and other travelers who want a quiet retreat.”

Chelsea House’s addition includes a fully accessible room, private courtyard and pool, and pool lift. All rooms feature high-speed wireless connectivity, high-definition television and LED lighting. Bathrooms feature porcelain tile and Carrara marble. Historic Key West Inns Hotel Collection also includes Albury Court, Cypress House, Key Lime Inn, Lighthouse Court, Merlin Guest House and Merlin Extended Stay Cottages. Chelsea House is located at 709 Truman Ave. Visit historickeywestinns.com or call 800-549-4430 or 305-296-2211.
Hyatt Hotels Corp. has rebranded its Key West hotel property as the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa following a multimillion-dollar enhancement. The 120-room waterfront property became part of the Hyatt Centric portfolio of lifestyle hotels in early November. It features contemporary guestrooms, spa services, a 24-hour fitness center, DryBar Buttercup blow dryers and eco-friendly bath products. Property upgrades include a redesign of the Blue Mojito Pool Bar and Grill with new décor and space for larger parties, and an expansion of the Jala Spa. The spa now offers three treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure station, updated furnishings and fixtures, and a change of location to the hotel’s ground floor. Hyatt Centric hotels are known for their sought-after locations, such as Key West’s historic Old Town, and their offerings for the experiential traveler. Hyatt Centric is located at 601 Front St. Visit keywest.centric.hyatt.com or call 305-809-1234.
Expedia Inc.’s trivago.com has named two Key West hotels — the 27-room Marquesa Hotel and the 22-room Almond Tree Inn — among its 40 America’s Best for 2017. Trivago ranked the Marquesa Hotel third among 10 hotels in the 4-Star Category. Almond Tree Inn placed sixth among 10 properties in the 3-Star Category. The awards recognize the 10 best properties in America in 5-, 4-and 3-Star and Alternative Accommodation categories. Rankings were based on over 175 million traveler ratings from 34 different booking sites. “It’s really an honor for Key West to have two such highly ranked properties,” said Harold Wheeler, director of the Florida Keys tourism council. “For Key West to be commended as one of only five U.S. destinations with more than one winning hotel is remarkable.”

The Marquesa Hotel, a four-building compound with a history dating back to 1884, is located at 600 Fleming St. Visit marquesa.com or call 305-292-1919.

Almond Tree Inn, offering daily complimentary continental breakfast and happy hour, is situated at 512 Truman Ave. near Key West’s Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Visit almondtreeinn.com or call 305-296-5415.

Trivago also recognized Key West for its southern hospitality and music in its Room 5 online hotel magazine. For additional information, visit trivago.com or room5.trivago.com.
In the Middle Keys, Marathon’s 2.5-acre Bonefish Bay Motel & RV Resort is to open an addition with eight new units, each with a kitchenette, by mid-December. The property also recently added 13 sites for recreational vehicles. Each 30-foot-wide by 60-foot-long site offers 30- and 50-amp power with water and sewer hookups. The resort also features four half-duplex efficiencies with full kitchens and king beds, and a king single-bedroom unit. Property amenities include a freshwater pool, boat ramp, dock and Tiki huts with grilling areas and an on-site Abyss dive shop. Bonefish Bay is located at 12565 Overseas Highway. For more information, visit bonefishbay.com or call 305-289-0565.
Key Largo’s Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the United States’ only submerged recreational hotel for divers, and its adjacent MarineLab Undersea Laboratory recently celebrated more than 30 years underwater in a Key Largo lagoon. Jules’ Undersea Lodge initially was a research laboratory, one of the most technologically advanced habitats of its kind. It was renamed in the 1980s, with its name inspired by the novelist Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” and transformed into a two-bedroom retreat. Its entrance is 21 feet beneath the surface. The lodge has hosted more than 10,000 overnight visitors. MarineLab’s educational programs teach about 5,000 students each year. The experience offers guests the world’s only Recreational Aquanaut specialty scuba diving recognition. Visitors who are not certified divers can take a short Discover Scuba course with an instructor. Jules’ Undersea Lodge is located in Key Largo Undersea Park at 51 Shoreland Drive. For more information, visit jul.com or call 305-451-2353.

 
Keys Meetings

In Marathon the 126-acre Florida Keys Country Club and 18-hole golf course is to soon break ground on its $100 million luxury Florida Keys Resort hotel and entertainment complex at mile marker 50. The development’s first phase is to include a two-story, 98-room luxury resort and 18 villas with pools. The hotel also will offer two convention spaces with 3,500 total square feet, three restaurants and three bar areas, a full-service luxury spa and two pools. The family-friendly resort’s 14,000-square-foot entertainment complex is to include a 5,000-square-foot convention area and golf learning center and two virtual simulators.

First phase development, targeted for completion by early 2018, also is to include a 24-bay AquaGolf driving range with a 12-acre lake and floating greens. The golf course’s front nine holes will be redeveloped.

The development’s second phase, to begin in early 2018, is to develop the final nine holes and an additional Professional Golf Association-style 18-hole putting course. Golf architect Kip Shulties is overseeing the course’s redesign and expansion.

For more information, visit floridakeyscc.com or call 305-743-2551.

 
Keys Attractions

Key West’s Custom House Museum is to showcase a new exhibit, “The Navy in Key West,” from Jan. 13 through December 2017. The museum recently celebrated the 125th anniversary the building’s completion in 1891. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Naval Air Station Key West, the exhibit explores the relationship between Key West and the U.S. Navy by showcasing historical images, artifacts, uniforms and military memorabilia. “Key West would not exist as it does today without the Navy, and the Navy would not exist as it does today without Key West,” said Cori Convertito, museum curator. In 1993, the Key West Art & Historical Society spearheaded the historic building’s restoration, a project that is ongoing. The society also oversees its use as a museum. The Custom House, an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, is located at 281 Front St. Visit kwahs.org/exhibitions/the-navy-in-key-west or call 305-295-6616.
Key West’s Danger Charters is to open Danger Chandlery, a 600-square-foot retail store reminiscent of a nautical chandlery that once lined working waterfronts, in late December. Plans call for the chandlery to sell nautical artwork, toys, sailboat models, books, kitchenware such as trays and cutting boards, jewelry and custom-designed boating and home accessories decorated with harbor charts. Danger Chandlery will be “an immersive maritime historical experience, with marine artifacts on display for folks to learn about our amazing nautical heritage here in Key West,” said Lara Fox, vice president of Danger Charters. Danger Chandlery is located at 255 Front St. at the Westin Key West Resort & Marina’s Sunset Shoppes. Daily hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter and until 9 p.m. in summer. For more information, visit dangercharters.com or call 305-296-3272.
Classic Harbor Line’s Schooner America 2.0 has returned to Key West for the winter season, offering sailing tours through April. The vessel is a tribute to Schooner America, which won the first America’s Cup Race in 1851. America 2.0’s onboard amenities include open-deck seating and bar service for up to 75, an open salon below and two restrooms. Catering options are available for private group charters. Tours include champagne sunset, afternoon and full moon sails, along with monthly full moon evening sails, priced from $55 to $85 per person. For more information, visit sail-keywest.com or call 305-293-7245.

 
Keys Sustainability

For the first time in 30 years, Everglades National Park has opened an area as the park’s first designated for catch-and-release fishing. The park’s pristine Joe and Snag bays, near the southeastern border of the park, are now accessible to non-motorized boats through Trout Creek from shallow 60-acre Trout Lake. The bays are adjacent to Blackwater Sound off Key Largo, providing new fishing grounds for Upper Keys visitors. Visitors are required to use a paddle or push pole to enter, though there is a six-slip Trout Lake mooring area to accommodate motorized boats carrying a kayak or canoe. The nearest designated overnight campsite is North Nest Key, about 5 miles away. Four creeks provide access from Trout Lake to 3,311-acre Joe Bay and adjacent 484-acre Snag Bay. Boaters must remove a combustion or trolling motor from the boat’s transom or bow before entering the area. Both Joe and Snag bays were part of the park’s protected Crocodile Sanctuary, closed to public entry in 1980 for protection of the American crocodile and other species. Since then, the American crocodile has recovered from the brink of extinction, allowing public access under the park’s 2015 general management plan. Monroe County’s Little Madeira Bay and other areas within the Crocodile Sanctuary remain closed. For additional information, visit nps.gov/ever or call 305-242-7700.
Key Largo’s Coral Restoration Foundation, through a $2.1 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is to restore eight reefs along the Florida reef tract. The unprecedented upcoming efforts seek to restore more than 50,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals. The three-year grant, to be matched by the foundation, will engage “citizen scientists” through a Citizen Scientist Monitoring Program. The program allows individual snorkelers or divers to collect data on previously outplanted corals. The staghorn and elkhorn corals are to be outplanted onto eight reefs to restoration levels outlined through NOAA’s Acropora Recovery Plan. A pilot study involving about 10,000 corals outplanted across 20 reefs will help determine restoration sites. In related news, the foundation has added a new species of coral — pillar coral, a hard coral that gets its name from a finger-like columnar form — to its nursery. The corals, once found across the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, are listed as “vulnerable,” with only about 600 colonies remaining from 92 monitored sites throughout NOAA’s Florida Reef Tract. For additional details, contact coralrestoration.org or call 305-453-7030.

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