The Florida Keys & Key West are experiencing a lively spring. New properties continue to enter the marketplace as Stock Island experiences a tourism resurgence. Established favorite resorts are getting rebranded and refreshed.
In addition, welcoming hotels and resorts collect accolades by prestigious travel booking sites and guides. Meanwhile, the Keys continue to unveil their ecotourism and literary heritage with unique new tours. And a spirited product — the first such in Florida — is to be launched in Key West, illustrating its growing popularity for culinary creativity and organic cocktails.
In Key Largo, Dolphin Point Villas, at mile marker 102 bayside, is soon to accommodate groups up to 62 and events of up to 100 guests. Slated to open June 1, the new resort includes six stand-alone villa homes and is adjacent to Dolphins Plus, where guests can swim with dolphins. Five villa homes offer accommodations that range from one to three bedrooms. A sixth, the Nautilus House estate, sleeps up to 16, with five bedrooms and five baths, a private pool and large wrap-around porch. Dolphin Point Villas is located at 101910 Overseas Highway. Visit dolphinpointvillas.com or call 305-451-0315.
In Marathon, the new SkipJack Resort & Marina, the former Sombrero Resort & Marina, has opened with a $6 million renovation, refurbished rooms and new landscaping. Skipjack offers 60 deluxe suites, accommodating up to four people in one-bedroom king rooms with sleeper sofa and kitchenette, and a heated pool and 54-slip marina. Boot Key Bar & Grill and a separate poolside bar are on-site. Vessels up to 60 feet can be accommodated with 30- and 60-amp electrical power, fresh water and pump-out facilities. Skipjack Resort & Marina is located at 19 Sombrero Blvd. in Marathon. For additional details, visit skipjackresortmarathon.com or call 305-289-7662.
On Stock Island, the key directly adjacent to Key West, the 100-room The Perry Hotel Key West at Stock Island Marina is to open soon. The new $38 million hotel has one of the Keys’ largest deep-water marinas with 220 slips accommodating vessels up to 300 feet long. Located at the 42-acre Stock Island Marina Village, overlooking Safe Harbor and a 220-slip marina, the resort village is to include an on-site distillery, artist galleries, an organic community garden and a dog park. Executive chef is Ryan Fredstrom, who oversees two “boat to table” restaurants: Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar and The Salty Oyster Bar and Grill. Fredstrom honed his cooking skills at Four Seasons in Washington, D.C., and Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach. The Perry Hotel Key West is located at 7001 Shrimp Road. For more information, visit perrykeywest.com or call 305-296-1717.
Key West’s new adults-only contemporary H2O Suites, with 22 one-bedroom suites and individual pools at 11 of the suites, has opened with 24-hour concierge service. The suites have private balconies or patios, plus living area and wet bar, spa-inspired baths with rainfall showers and Italian marble, king beds and two flat screen TVs. Guests are welcomed with complimentary champagne and Chambord on arrival. The property’s rooftop pool serves mimosas and bloody marys, wine and assorted tapas. Nightly turndown service includes frozen Dove ice cream bars, muffins and chocolates. A fitness center features state-of-the-art cardio, resistance and fitness equipment and free weights. H20Suites, owned and operated by Maryland-based Meisel Holdings, is located at 1212 Simonton St. Visit H2osuites.com or call 305-296-3432.
The 178-room Key West Resort & Marina has joined the Margaritaville hotel collection, officially becoming the Margaritaville Resort & Marina, Key West. Known for its scenic waterfront location, the property is just steps from the island’s landmark Mallory Square and a block from legendary Duval Street. The resort features oversized rooms and suites, 6,000 square feet of meeting and event space and a full-service marina with watersports and activities. Anticipated upgrades include refreshed rooms and renovated suites, live entertainment, Margaritaville-inspired guest amenities and new signature travel packages. Margaritaville — inspired by the hit song and lifestyle of singer, songwriter and author Jimmy Buffett, a former Key West resident whose music is spiced with references to the island — is a global lifestyle brand with destination resorts and hotels across the southeast U.S. and Caribbean. Margaritaville Resort & Marina is located at 245 Front St. Visit MargaritavilleKeyWestResort.com or call 305-294-4000 or 855-366-8045.
Tripadvisor.com has named three Florida Keys hotels among its “Top 25 Hotels for Romance” in the United States. Honored were the 23-room The Gardens Hotel and the 24-room Orchid Key Inn, both in Key West, and the Island Bay Resort, with 10 kitchenette cottages, in Tavernier. The Gardens Hotel, built in the 1800s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located at 526 Angela St. in Key West. Visit gardenshotel.com or call 305-294-2661. The Orchid Key Inn, with complimentary daily breakfast, is located at 1004 Duval St. in Key West. Visit orchidkeyinn.com or call 305-296-9915. Island Bay Resort’s cottages, with private decks, patios and grills, are located at 92530 Overseas Highway at mile marker 92.5 in Tavernier. Visit islandbayresort.com or call 305-852-4087.
Forbes Travel Guide has ranked five Lower Keys and Key West resorts among “recommended” global properties that, according to the guide, offer “consistently good services and facilities” for 2017. Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is described by Forbes as “sprinkled with bungalows decorated in a South Seas style.” The luxury property is located on a private island off Little Torch Key, with access at 28500 Overseas Highway. In Key West, The Marker Waterfront Resort at 200 William St. earned its first “recommended” status as “an outlier in opulence.” Also “recommended” are three other Key West resorts. The Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, “exudes some of the old Key West grandeur, elegant and graceful” at 1500 Reynolds St. The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort “is a small getaway with a tropical, relaxed atmosphere” at 1435 Simonton St. Southernmost Beach Resort “offers stimulating activities for everyone” and a “superb location” at 1319 Duval St. For additional details, visit forbestravelguide.com.
Duck Key Charters LLC in Marathon now offers direct charter flights from Florida Keys Marathon International Airport to Jose Marti International Airport just southwest of Havana, Cuba. Roundtrip flights from Marathon to Havana cost $3,400 to charter a five-passenger Piper Aztec aircraft. Through World Cuba Travel, Duck Key Charters arranges a group guide and two or more nights’ accommodations in Havana, priced from $875 per person. Visas and insurance are included and arranged through World Cuba Travel. Duck Key Charters also flies charters throughout Florida, to the Bahamas and to Grand Cayman.
To book, visit FloridaKeysAir.com or call 305-393-3646.
Sail the Keys, the only sailboat charter company on Islamorada’s Windley Key at mile marker 85.5 bayside, offers new family vacation charters ranging from three-hour to six-day sailing adventures with snorkeling, paddleboarding and kayaking. The tours sail Key Largo to Key West and explore local waters around Islamorada. Activities can include snorkeling at Hens & Chickens Reef south of Islamorada or at Alligator Reef, named after an antipirate schooner that was destroyed in 1822 after striking the reef, and lunch and wildlife sightseeing at Cheeca Rocks. A stop at Indian Key Historic State Park is offered on longer trips. The company is based out of Smuggler’s Cove Resort and Marina at 85500 Overseas Highway. Visit sailthekeys.net or call 954-235-4207.
Lazy Dog Adventures at Stock Island’s Hurricane Hole Marina has launched new backcountry tours aboard a new six-passenger pontoon boat to give guests an authentic local experience. The tours offer backcountry stand-up paddleboard and kayak paddling, snorkeling and swimming amid mangroves and near an isolated sand bar. Morning half-day tours run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and afternoon half-day trips run from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Half-day tours are priced from $200 for two people to $700 for five to six participants. Full-day tours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., are priced from $600 for two to $1,000 for five to six. Private charters are priced from $700 to $1,000. Lazy Dog can accommodate families and pets. It also offers guided kayak and snorkel eco-tours, dockside kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, beginner stand-up lessons and paddle yoga and fitness. Lazy Dog is located at 5114 Overseas Highway. Visit lazydog.com or call 305-295-9898.
The Key West Literary Seminar has launched an Old Town Literary Walking Tour on weekends in Key West, departing from the Monroe County Public Library at 700 Fleming St. Sarah Thomas, a local writer and educator, guides the tours and shares stories of writers and their works. Inspired by an original walking tour created by former Key West writer David Kaufelt, the new tour features the former homes and favorite haunts of Tennessee Williams, Shel Silverstein, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost and others. The 75-minute tour departs Fridays at 5 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. It’s priced at $25 per person; advance purchase is required. Visit kwls.org/tour or call 305-293-9291.
In Marathon, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters has a new lionfish exhibit that features colorful lionfish and rocks teeming with invertebrates in a 300-gallon custom tank — billed as the only one of its kind in the Keys. The exhibit was created to illuminate the negative impact of releasing exotic species into the wild. Lionfish are an invasive specifies to the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean with a voracious appetite and no natural predators in the Keys. Lionfish are able to expand their stomach to several times its original size and reproduce year-round, spawning thousands of eggs. Aquarium Encounters is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 11710 Overseas Highway. Visit floridakeysaquariumencounters.com or call 305-407-3262.
A giant sculpture called “Embracing Peace” created by artist J. Seward Johnson has been installed alongside the front steps of Key West’s Custom House Museum at 281 Front St. The 25-foot-tall bronze artwork was inspired by a famous photograph of a sailor and nurse locked in an immortalized kiss in New York City’s Times Square, celebrating the end of World War II. The image has been called the most famous kiss in American history. Johnson, whose works are showcased throughout the world, created “Embracing Peace” in 2005. More than 250 couples in Key West gathered at the Custom House Museum on Valentine’s Day 2017 to re-create the famous kiss. One of the island city’s premier historic sites and museums, the Custom House is operated by the Key West Art & Historical Society. “Embracing Peace” is the fourth of Johnson’s super-sized sculptures to grace the museum’s steps during the past nine years. Visit kwahs.org or call 305-295-6616.
Key West’s recently reopened restaurant Mangoes, located at the corner of Duval and Angela streets in the heart of Old Town, now offers private dining and meeting space for parties, weddings and groups of up to 300 guests. An upstairs banquet room can accommodate 150 with a full-service bar, TV, private restrooms, a stage and vintage booth seating. A downstairs dining room offers capacity for 50 and overflow into the Starlight Lounge, adjacent to an outdoor full-service bar. The full restaurant can be reserved for a private party with a capacity of 300. Mangoes is located at 700 Duval St. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8002.
Key West is soon to get its own brand of organic agave spirits or tequila known as mezcal. The new spirits are produced and distilled at Key West Legal Rum as the only type of its kind distilled in Florida, said Paul Menta, the distillery’s co-owner. Menta recently traveled to Jalisco, Mexico, to research how the native blue agave plant, a base ingredient for tequila, is grown. The tequila is to be branded “in a unique way that’s Key West, which is all about its unusual characters and personalities,” Menta said. The brand, “El Jefe,” is named after former Key West fire chief Bum Farto. The disappearance in the 1970s of Farto, who drove a lime-green car and wore rose-tinted glasses, remains a Key West mystery. The brand is to be launched Friday, May 5, in Key West. The date is known as Cinco de Mayo, celebrating a Mexican Army victory in 1862. Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, which distills in raw salt-cured barrels, is located at 105 Simonton St. Visit keywestlegalrum.com or call 305-294-1441.
Angler House Marina in Islamorada has a new guest houseboat that is available for a two-night minimum stay. Houseboat guests have full access to marina amenities. The custom-built 50-foot-long Villa Fina is an 800-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath boat that, docked, can accommodate up to four adults and two children. Angler House Marina, surrounded by a natural hardwood hammock and mangroves, includes a two-story Tiki hut and dock, Bermuda-grass lawn, the Canoe Club bar, flat-screen TVs, outdoor kitchen and pool. Angler House Marina is located at 80500 Overseas Highway. Visit AnglerHouseMarina.com or call 305-664-5247.
The marina at the 216-room Marriott Key West Beachside offers water taxi service from its new 16-slip dock to the Key West Historic Seaport. The 25-minute service is aboard Fury Water Adventure Key West’s newest 40-person, 45-foot-long catamaran. Passengers are transported from the marina to the downtown seaport at 631 Greene St. Transportation is priced from $10.95 each way for adults, $8.95 for children 4-12, and free for kids 3 and under. Key West Beachside Marina’s dock, available to guests for rentals, is offered for boats up to a 40-foot length and 13-foot beam. A Dock and Dine service allows guests to dine poolside at the resort’s Blue Bar or its indoor Tavern N Town restaurant. Marriott Key West Beachside and its new bayside marina are located at 3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd. Visit keywestmarriott.com. Call 305-296-8100 or 888-902-8620 for taxi reservations.
A new David Wirth Gallery, the artist’s second, has opened adjacent to Mangrove Mike’s Cafe at mile marker 82.2 bayside in Islamorada. The gallery showcases the marine and wildlife sculptor’s original style of art, wood and bronze sculpture and a new line of local slab wood furniture. Works by Florida wildlife artist Nancy Tome also are exhibited. The new David Wirth Gallery is located at 82200 Overseas Highway. Wirth’s first gallery, also with a workshop and showroom, is located at 88888 Old Road in Tavernier. Visit davidwirth.com or call 305-244-2466.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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