FLORIDA KEYS — The Florida Keys & Key West are experiencing a lively spring, with new accommodations properties opening around the destination — including the Keys’ first all-inclusive adults-only resort. In addition, new adventures, environmental activities, art galleries and culinary and libation offerings are available to tempt visitors. Explore the highlights here.
In Key Largo, the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo, a 12-acre 135-unit property billing itself as “luxury inclusive,” is targeting an opening in May as the first all-inclusive resort in the Florida Keys. Most rooms are to average about 800 square feet and include private outdoor plunge pools or tubs. The resort is to offer two in-ground pools, five indoor and outdoor restaurants, four bars, 1,000 feet of shoreline, three piers to accommodate boats up to 40 feet long, a “Florida Keys chic” design and 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Rates will include lodging, food and premium beverages, hotel amenities, activities and water toys. The palm-lined bungalow resort is under development by Johnson Resort Properties Inc., owned by Jerry Johnson, who also developed Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada. The resort is located at 99010 Overseas Highway at mile marker 99 bayside. Visit BungalowsKeyLargo.com or call 866-801-0195.
This fall, Curio Collection by Hilton is set to unveil Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo upon completion of a multimillion-dollar reimagination. The 13-acre, 200-room resort is to offer 17,000 square feet of meeting space with executive boardrooms, outdoor sanctuaries, a grand lawn and two expansive ballrooms. Pet amenities include dog Tiki huts and cooled water bowls. A beachside tequila and taco venue is to include house-made hot sauces crafted from peppers grown on the property. The property also is to include two swimming pools with a waterfall grotto, a winding nature trail lined with hidden beaches, boat dock and Aveda salon. Baker’s Cay Resort is located at 97000 Overseas Highway at mile marker 97 bayside. Visit bakerscayresort.com or call 305-852-5553.
On Big Pine Key, a new 1,840-square-foot Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center, currently under construction near mile marker 30.5, is to open this fall showcasing the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges. The center also is to include a “friends group” nature and book store, outdoor public restrooms and an accessible ramp. Future expansion plans are to include new indoor and outdoor exhibits and a nature trail boardwalk. “The new Nature Center will be as much of an asset to the local community as it is to visitors,” said Kristie Killam, ranger and outreach coordinator at the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex. The organization, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, includes the National Key Deer, Key West, Great White Heron and Crocodile Lake national wildlife refuges. The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center is located at 30587 Overseas Highway. Visit fws.gov/refuge/National_Key_Deer_Refuge/ or call 305-872-0774.
The Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower recently restored and enhanced its free-admission outdoor attraction that offers a peaceful respite for visitors. The gardens at West Martello Tower, a historic site dating back to 1864 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were previously shaded but now are primarily sun-filled. A colorful restored butterfly garden offers a diversity of plants that attract caterpillars and butterflies including monarchs, malachites, zebra long wings and skippers. A white perfume garden filled with fragrant jasmine, gardenias, sweet almond and Chinese perfume plants offers a scenic contrast against the fort’s historic red bricks. Also newly added is a “Jurassic dinosaur” garden with sculptural cycads and hardy dioon plants. The ADA-accessible Key West Garden Club is located at West Martello Tower at 1100 Atlantic Blvd., adjacent to Higgs Beach. It’s open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit keywestgardenclub.com or call 305-294-3210.
In Islamorada, the new Studio Sesh Arts is a contemporary studio and gallery with art instruction and exhibitions. Owner Sandra Attales has dedicated the space to cultivating creativity and promoting emerging and established artists with disciplines that include painting, drawing, mixed media and sculpture. Studio Sesh Arts, open Wednesday through Saturday, is located at 151 Morada Way in Islamorada’s arts district. Visit studiosesharts.com or call 305-240-5484.
In the Lower Keys, The Perry Hotel Key West has unveiled a new 250-square-foot gallery, SALT at The Perry, offering guests a curated collection of local sea salts, salt scrub, local honey, art, jewelry, pottery and sundries. The gallery is SALT’s second location in the Keys; its original gallery is located at 830 Fleming St. with a larger collection of Keys-crafted goods and artwork. The Perry Hotel Key West is located at 7001 Shrimp Road on Stock Island. Visit perrykeywest.com/things-to-do/salt-at-the-perry/ or call 305-517-6088.
In Islamorada, Florida Keys Brewing Co. has opened a new 1,100-square-foot tap room with two brewing systems, each showcasing and dispensing 10 brews. It also has a beer garden. Celebrating its third anniversary and located at the corner of the Old Highway and Morada Way, the brewery infuses its brews with flavors from Key limes, citrus and local honey, and opened in March 2015. Draft beers include names such as Iguana Bait Honey and Hibiscus Kolsch. It also serves mead from Keys’ Meads, the Keys’ only meadery based in Key Largo, and draft kombucha. Florida Keys Brewing Co. is located at 81611 Overseas Highway. Visit floridakeysbrewingco.com or call 305-916-5206.
The Key West First Legal Rum Distillery offers complimentary mojito-making classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4:30 p.m. Distillery owner Paul Menta recently sailed aboard the schooner Wolf — the flagship of the Florida Keys’ Conch Republic — to Cuba to explore secrets of an authentic mojito while visiting Havana. Private classes can be booked for five or more people. Key West Legal Rum, which ages rum in salt-cured barrels, is located at 105 Simonton St. Visit keywestlegalrum.com or call 305-294-1441.
American Airlines is scheduled to begin new nonstop service between Key West International Airport and Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport in June. The new commercial service is to offer once-weekly seasonal flights from Saturday, June 9, to Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, on 76-passenger E175 regional jets, said Donald DeGraw, director of airports for the Florida Keys & Key West. “With new jet service to Dallas, our visitors now have more than 100 options for one-stop connections to the United States and abroad,” DeGraw said. “The new service opens up the U.S. West Coast market for Key West.” DeGraw worked with the Key West Chamber of Commerce and Voltaire Aviation to secure the new air capacity.
Air Key West, in collaboration with OurKeyWest Concierge, is offering a Hemingway Literary Day Trip to Havana from Key West International Airport. The experience is offered each Monday and Friday, priced from $995 per person with valid passport. In Key West, passengers have a 7 a.m. check-in for a 50-minute flight to Havana. The trips include airfare and visas, ground transportation and local guide in Havana, all taxes, entry fees and lunch. Passengers return to Havana’s airport at 5 p.m. and arrive back in Key West by 7 p.m. Flights are aboard a nine-passenger Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander twin-engine turboprop aircraft. A 48-hour advance booking is required. Visit OurKeyWest.com, email Havana@OurKeyWest.com or call 305-290-3563.
Sunset Green, a new 12,105-square-foot event venue located between The Gates Hotel Key West and 24 North Hotel near the entrance to the island city, provides entertainment for up to 800 seated or 1,200 standing guests. The lawn is designed to host weddings as well as family-friendly concerts, movie nights, yoga classes and lawn games such as bocce ball, cornhole and Frisbee. The space can be used for public or private events. Visit thekeyscollection.com or call 305-600-1425.
On Stock Island, the 20-acre Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina has a new 575-square-foot conference space for up to 12 people. Oceans Edge also has a partnership with Key West Harbour for use of the marina’s restaurant space to accommodate up to 60. The resort’s 175 suites and rooms range from 382 to 575 square feet. Suites offer a private living room, wet bar, flat-screen TV, local art and custom furnishings. The property offers an on-site marina with 111 wet and 52 dry slips. Oceans Edge is located at 5950 Peninsular Ave. Visit oceansedgekeywest.com or call 305-809-8242.
In Islamorada, Robbie’s Marina recently welcomed Blue Catamaran, which offers two daily snorkel excursions and sunset cruises on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Trips depart at 10 a.m., returning to the marina at 12:30; and at 1:30 p.m., returning at 4 p.m. Sunset cruises depart about 90 minutes before sunset and return 90 minutes to two hours after sunset. Built in South Florida and purpose-designed for Keys excursions, Blue features a catamaran hull providing a fast, stable platform ideal for snorkeling, two outdoor showers and full-sized restroom. Designed for groups, it can accommodate small intimate trips or groups of up to 124 people. Robbie’s is located bayside at mile marker 77.5. Visit robbies.com or sundancewatersports.com or call 305-664-8070 or 305-664-9510.
The Florida Keys Wildlife Society, a group supporting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges, now is offering two-hour Full Moon Kayak excursions. The tours are sponsored by Bill Keogh, owner of Big Pine Kayak Adventures, and depart from its location on Big Pine Key’s Bogey Road. Tours traverse Big Pine’s National Key Deer Refuge, one of four wildlife refuges in the Keys and home to the endangered Key deer, found only in the Keys. Tours are $25 per person and scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29; Friday, April 27; Sunday, May 27; and Tuesday, June 26. Visit floridakeyswildlifesociety.org or call 305-872-7474.
In Key West, Danger Charters is offering the “Sommelier Series — a fine wine tasting at sea,” with a weekly sailing on Tuesdays from 3-5 p.m., through mid-May aboard a Danger 65-foot schooner. The experience includes samplings of six wines. The series launched in February with an “Into the Heart of NAPA Wine Experience” sail with six California wines. The new sailings also include an onboard sommelier and appetizers.Danger Charters is headquartered at the Margaritaville Marina’s Waterfront Shoppes at 255 Front St. Visit DangerCharters.com or call 305-304-7999.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS