The Florida Keys & Key West continue to unveil upscale resorts, with six properties and nearly 460 units soon to be added to the 125-mile-long island chain’s accommodations inventory.
New seasonal airlift into Key West is also coming. United Airlines is scheduled to launch seasonal service from Newark, New Jersey, and from Chicago into Key West this winter through spring.
A new coral restoration marine trail and creative dining options also highlight fall offerings for visitors and residents.
In Key Largo, the 14-acre, 144-room Playa Largo Resort & Spa at mile marker 97.5 has opened as the first new-build resort in the Upper Keys in 21 years. The full-service resort is Autograph Collection Hotels’ 100th addition. Playa Largo offers about 40,000 square feet of meeting space and a 6,000-square-foot ballroom, ideal for destination weddings, corporate events and meetings and banquets. With three gourmet restaurants, kosher needs can be accommodated. Amenities include a pool with a 1,200-square-foot deck, 10 secluded bungalows, a three-bedroom beach house with a private plunge pool, a full-service spa, 6,000-square-foot beach and children’s activity and nature learning center. The resort is among 12 hotel partnerships between Florida developer Prime Hospitality Group and owner-operator Shaner Hotels. Playa Largo is located at 97450 Overseas Highway bayside. For more information, visit www.playalargoresort.com or call 305-853-1001.
Also in Key Largo, Largo, a private sanctuary at mile marker 101.7 is open for retreats. Nestled amid indigenous mahogany, palm and buttonwood trees and orchids, the retreat can accommodate up to 15 single guests or 30 in doubles. The Chicago-based Retreats Unlimited member offers a 5,000-square-foot Lodge with three units and six 800-square-foot bungalows. Up to 100 can gather on a private pier and paddleboard or kayak in a 15-foot-deep lagoon. Largo is located at 101740 Overseas Highway bayside. For more information, visit www.largoresort.com or call 855-451-0424.
In Islamorada, Little Basin Villas opened this summer in the village’s Arts District at mile marker 81.8, with nine three-bedroom, 3.5-bath waterfront vacation rentals for weddings, families and groups. Amenities include gourmet kitchens, free Wi-Fi, pool, Tiki hut and grill, smart TVs, washer, dryer, dishwasher, dock and beach access, personal audio systems and keyless entry and exit. Little Basin Villas are located at 84 Johnston Road bayside. For more information, visit www.littlebasinvillas.com or call 305-363-8999.
On Stock Island just northeast of Key West, the 20-acre Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina — billed as “Key West’s largest luxury resort” by developer Singh Investors — is to open in December with 175 spacious suites and rooms and six pools. Three-story buildings in traditional boardwalk resort style feature white clapboards, wooden porches and walkways along the water’s edge. A third-floor web-linked camera is to showcase scenery and boating activity. Spacious units range from 382 to 575 square feet. Suites offer private living rooms, wet bars, flat-screen TVs, local art and custom furnishings. An on-site marina has 111 wet and 52 dry slips. Watersports, a restaurant, bar, Starbucks, fitness building and dog park also are on-site. Oceans Edge is located at 5950 Peninsular Ave. For more information, visit www.oceansedgekeywest.com or call 305-809-8242.
Also on Stock Island, a new boutique Hotel Key West at the 220-slip Stock Island Marina is to open in early 2017, with 100 waterview rooms and suites and over-sized private terraces. First-floor rooms are to have private outdoor showers, with luxury suites offering soaking tubs and large balconies. Architecture is reminiscent of a classic wharf building. Rooms are to offer large flat-screen TVs, luxurious bedding and artisanal bath and body essentials. The property is managed by Hostmark Hospitality Group of Schaumburg, Illinois, and under development alongside the Stock Island Marina Village, the district that resort executives have dubbed the “Brooklyn of Key West” because of its transformation. The Hotel Key West is located at 7001 Shrimp Road. For more information, visit www.thehotelkeywest.com or www.stockislandmarina.com or email email@example.com.
In Key West, the new 22-room boutique H2O Suites Hotel is to open in December with luxury one-bedroom suites, a rooftop deck and pool, and 11 plunge pools. The property, at the site of the former Spindrift Tropical Hideaway motel, is under development by Maryland-based Meisel Holdings. Key West architect is Peter Pike. H2O is located at 1212 Simonton St. For more information, visit www.h2osuites.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 36-room The Saint Hotel Key West, greeting guests with a “Play Naughty, Sleep Saintly” theme, has been named an Autograph Collection Hotels member. Autograph Collection Hotels select properties for their individuality, distinction as an iconic landmark, remarkable design or best-in-class amenities. The hotel reopened in February 2015 after a $22 million transformation of the Southern Cross Hotel, one of Key West’s oldest operating hotels. The Saint is located at 417 Eaton St. For more information, visit www.thesainthotelkeywest.com or call 305-294-3200.
In mid-December, United Airlines is to launch new seasonal flights into Key West from Newark, New Jersey, and in early 2017 from Chicago. From Dec. 16 through May 4, 2017, United will offer daily nonstop service from Newark Liberty International Airport into Key West. United is to offer Saturday-only nonstop service from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Key West from Jan. 7 through April 29, 2017. United Ground Express, a United Airlines subsidiary, is to handle ground services in Key West. For more information, visit United at www.united.com or call 800-864-8331, or visit Key West International Airport at www.eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.
A new operator, Up The Keys Eco-Tours, offers tours exploring Florida Keys eco-attractions for six to 26 participants in comfortable 14-passenger vans. Certified international tour director Kim Stamps designed the journeys to share the Keys’ unique history, culture and ecology. A roundtrip All-Day Adventure tour departs Key West and travels north to Grassy Key. Participants can search for wildlife such as the tiny indigenous Key deer at the National Key Deer Refuge. Other stops include the quirky Bat Tower on Sugarloaf Key, Bahia Honda State Park and the Marathon area’s Turtle Hospital, Dolphin Research Center or Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. A four-hour Twilight Tour, roundtrip from Key West to Big Pine Key, stops at the Bat Tower, Blue Hole, No Name Pub and a Lower Keys dinner venue. For additional details, visit www.UpTheKeys.com or call 305-587-5575.
The Adderley House — the Florida Keys’ oldest house outside Key West, located at the bayside Crane Point Museum and Nature Center at mile marker 50.5 in Marathon — offers an enhanced visitor experience after recently completing a $119,000 upgrade. Renovations include new signage, a tin roof above the community kitchen, a new garden with medicinal herbs and plants, and a fire pit. The family home of Bahamian immigrant and sponge fisherman George Adderley, built in the early 1900s, has weathered some 110 years in the Keys’ subtropical climate. New historical enactments with evening stories, performances and refreshments are to be offered on the third Saturday of the month. Tours are to highlight hard-scrabble life of Adderley Town, where Middle Keys settlers subsisted on indigenous fish and conch. The new events are priced from $45 per person including tax. Discounts are offered for children; kids under 5 are free. For more information, visit www.cranepoint.net or call 305-743-9100.
At Key West’s Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, a new permanent exhibit, “Voyage to Freedom: Cuban Rafters,” showcases the Mariana, a 21-foot makeshift vessel that carried 24 Cubans to Key West. The Mariana, built mainly from 14 steel drums and an eight-cylinder truck engine, landed in Key West in August 2015 after a 111-mile voyage from Cardenas, Cuba. Its passengers, called “balseros” or rafters, were granted asylum. The Mariana anchors the open-air exhibit, unveiled in August in the museum’s courtyard. Panels with descriptions in English and Spanish detail the Cuban sea migration experience to American shores. The museum is home to artifacts and treasure recovered from two shipwrecked Spanish galleons, Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita, which departed Cuba in 1622 and later sank off the Florida Keys. For additional details, visit www.melfisher.org or call 305-294-2633.
Keys Meeting Venues
The 800-square-foot Angler House Marina at mile marker 80.5 in Islamorada can accommodate up to 60 participants in an atmosphere of old Florida charm, surrounded with natural hardwood hammock and mangroves. It includes a two-story Tiki hut with the Canoe Club bar, dock, soft Bermuda lawns, flat-screen TVs, an outdoor kitchen and pool. Angler House, formerly the La Siesta Marina, is to offer resident memberships this fall. Themed events are to include craft beer pairings and wine tastings, family paddle days and fishing tournaments. For more information, visit www.AnglerHouseMarina.com or call 305-664-5247.
In Marathon, the 139-acre Florida Keys Country Club at MM 50 is to begin its redevelopment later this year as a destination resort, spa, golf and tennis club. The renovation is to include a 14,000-square-foot, two-level entertainment complex that will feature golf and tennis pro shops, a learning center, 5,000-square-foot convention and meeting facility, two restaurants and two bars. A multilevel 50-bay AquaDriving Range is to feature floating greens in a 12-acre lake. Its golf course is to undergo renovation spearheaded by golf architect Kip Shulties. The Club’s Harbor View Cafe currently hosts the monthly Marathon Full Moon Party and charity events. For more information, visit www.floridakeyscc.com or call 305-743-2551.
Keys Food and Drink
The Tiki Bar at Islamorada’s Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina at Holiday Isle has reopened with a new bar and upgraded lighting and sound systems. Locally legendary for its rum runner cocktail made from banana liqueur, rum, brandy and grenadine, the popular spot near the Islamorada marina is open daily beginning at noon. It closed in September 2015 for renovations. The Tiki Bar, which originally opened in 1969, is located at mile marker 84. For more information, visit www.holidayisle.com or call 305-664-2321.
In Key West, the Stoned Crab restaurant, Three Hands Fish sustainable seafood market and Key West Legal Rum distillery have launched two new eco-foodie package experiences, “Chef Distilled” and “The Three Hands Experience,” said Paul Menta, Key West Legal Rum’s co-owner and the Stoned Crab’s executive chef. The Chef Distilled package includes an afternoon at Key West Legal Rum distillery, where participants learn how its rum is fermented, distilled and bottled. Participants then label and taste-test their own bottle. Next is a cocktail hour at the Stoned Crab’s Eco-Bar — Key West’s first bar to serve cocktails crafted with only organic or all-natural ingredients — where participants concoct and shake their own rum-infused cocktails. A four-course, prix fixe dinner follows at the Stoned Crab featuring Key West Turkey, a whole fish stuffed with lobster and crab stuffing, skewered with pink shrimp. The Three Hands Experience offers three segments beginning with a half-day morning charter fishing trip, giving participants a chance to catch Keys species. At a dockside market, participants then learn about market species, flavor profiles, cooking techniques and how to fillet their catch. The fresh fish is hand-carried to the Stoned Crab, where Menta prepares it for participants as the main course of a prix fixe seafood dinner. The Key West Legal Rum Distillery stands at 105 Simonton St. The Stoned Crab and its Eco-Bar are located at 3101 N. Roosevelt Blvd. For more information, email email@example.com or call 305-296-0616.
Mote Marine Laboratory and partners have launched a coral restoration effort in Key West at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which includes an educational public snorkel trail, to help restore depleted reef areas. Mote scientists and volunteers out-planted about 5,500 corals this summer in 10 to 15 feet of water about 20 feet beyond a breakwater off the state park’s beach. Mote is using a revolutionary “re-skinning” technique to enable fragments of brain, star and boulder corals to fuse together rapidly over dead coral skeletons to form new living coral heads. The corals grow to about the size of a golf ball in three to four months and are then planted in singles and groups of five. The project is a collaborative effort between Mote Marine Laboratory, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Florida Keys tourism council and Florida State Parks. For additional details, visit www.mote.org or call 941-302-4997.