Five of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys
With its vibrant wildlife, eclectic culture and cuisine, the Florida Keys appeal is far wider than just sun, sand and sea — and a stay at any of the archipelago's luxurious accomodation makes for an ideal base.
Palm-fringed beaches, azure-blue waters and laid-back island vibes, the Florida Keys feel more like a tropical Caribbean getaway than part of the USA. Located at the southernmost tip of America, the 125-mile-long archipelago draws in all kinds of visitors with its variety of water sports, nightlife, nature and art. And, while the region is dominated by traditional, landmark hotels, it also offers a plethora of unique and interesting boutique places to stay, from quaint cottages and B&Bs to diving resorts.
1. Kimpton Ella's Cottages
Best for: arts, culture and history
Key West — an island in the straits of southern Florida — is synonymous with the celebrated writer Ernest Hemingway. He was a fan of the region's bohemian charm and resided on the island for over a decade. As a result, art and culture are still abundant here — catch shows at the Waterfront Playhouse and Red Barn Theatre and discover local artists at Key West Art Centre. An intimate retreat in the centre of Old Town Key West, Ella Cottages is ideally situated to explore the region's key attractions, including Hemingway Home, Truman Little White House and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. After a long day of exploring, guests can unwind by the secluded pool or wander through the resorts hidden gardens.
2. The Perry Hotel & Marina Key West
Best for: cuisine
The Keys are known for Caribbean-inspired dishes and fresh seafood. On nearby Stock Island, feast on stone crab claws, conch fritters and the famous key lime pie. The Perry Hotel & Marina Key West is one waterfront oasis offering award-winning dock-to-dish and cook-your-catch fare, from crab beignets to swordfish skewers, while its chic, industrial design is inspired by the area’s boatyards. Nearby, you’ll find plenty of easy going rum bars and open-air restaurants. Try Hogfish Bar & Grill for mimosas, a hot and flaky hogfish sandwich and soulful live music.
3. Deer Run Bed & Breakfast
Best for: nature activities
Home to dense mangroves, wildlife reserves and winding hiking trails, Big Pine Key is the ideal holiday spot for nature lovers. Stay at the Deer Run Bed & Breakfast, a four-room boutique-style eco lodge located in the heart of the Key Deer Refuge, to relax in the sun, launch a kayak or paddleboard through the mangroves, or simply watch the day and the endangered Key deer go by. Be sure to schedule a snorkelling trip to experience the colour and diversity of Florida’s extensive coral reef system. With a variety of coral, a sunken ship and more than 150 species of fish, Looe Key Marine Sanctuary makes an excellent Big Pine Key diving trip.
4. Amoray Dive Resort, Key Largo
Best for: diving
Home to continental America's only living coral reef, Key Largo is the self-proclaimed ‘dive capital of the world.’ There are plenty of colourful reefs, eerie wrecks and abundant marine life for divers to discover, including Molasses Reef, the submerged Christ of the Deep statue and the 500ft USS Spiegel Grove wreck. Hotels and resorts here can help you plan a range of dive trips including deep reef dives, drift diving, wreck diving, and night diving. Amoray Dive Resort is the best budget boutique stay in Key Largo – with two trips a day to dive sites on their private boats and an onsite dive shop with qualified staff. Comfy bedrooms and sunny porch decks offer the perfect space to sit back and relax after long days on the water.
5. Cheeca Lodge & Spa
Best for: fishing
Islamorada — the village of islands — is just a short boat ride away from where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico, and fish are plentiful. It's the premiere sportfishing spot in the Keys where anglers come to reel in spotted sea trout, snapper and grouper and, when conditions are right, swordfish and barracuda. There's a huge variety of fishing opportunities to choose from here, including deep-sea fishing, fly fishing, backcountry fishing and kayak fishing. Cheeca Lodge & Spa is a luxurious stay for serious fishers in Islamorada that’s near numerous charters departing from the historic Bud n'Mary’s marina. Grab your gear, book a boat and find over 500 species of fish within minutes from the shore.
For a self-drive Keys holiday, British airways offer direct flights to Miami from London Heathrow. You can then rent a car at Miami airport and take US Highway 1 down to the Keys.
For more information and to plan your trip, visit fla-keys.co.uk
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