Florida Keys: Top Attractions
|All at Sea: Unwind in the Keys (courtesy, Visit Florida)|
Cheeca Lodge and Spa (Islamorada)
You'll be seriously pampered at this glitzy place, host to politicians and royalty alike. The upscale quarters (some of which are now condos) tempt with features ranging from marble bathrooms to breezy oceanfront balconies. If you tire of lazing about, take advantage of one of Cheeca's many sporting amenities: an excellent golf course, dive shop, tennis courts, nature trails, bike- and kayak-renting facilities, and a seductive pool. Or sink into a full-body treatment at the new day spa.
Gardens Hotel (Key West)
You needn't check into a massive resort to find high style and superior services. The 17-room mansion-like Gardens Hotel delivers all that, and more, but with a lovely sense of intimacy. Its luxurious quarters blend new and oldclassic Caribbean style punctuated by paddle fans, gleaming wood floors, private verandahs, and flat-screen TVs. Or explore the outside world by wandering among the acre of verdant tropical gardens blooming behind the enclave's walls.
Hawk's Cay Resort (Duck Key)
This upscale, Caribbean-style collection of townhouses sits on its own 60-mile island. Check into your renovated tropical-style room or luxurious private villa, then make a beeline to the massive Indies Spa, offering a eucalyptus steam room and a long list of muscle-plying treatments. Once done with your treatment, choose from a dizzying array of activities that include sailing lessons, scuba instruction, tennis courts, boat rentals, fishing programs, and a pool where you can swim with dolphins.
Little Palm Island Resort and Spa (Little Torch Key)
Escape from it all at this posh and romantic hideaway on Little Torch Key, accessible only by plane or boat. Your reward? Twenty-eight thatched-roof bungalows with high-style interiors, private outdoor showers, and a tropical landscape of lush palm trees and sugar-white sand. The resort also has a phenomenal spa and exquisite restaurant (whose dining room is also open to non-resort guests). Quite simply, it's the swankest option in the Keys.
Key West Symphony Orchestra
At the stately Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, Key West's very own orchestra performs classics by greats including Debussy, Beethoven, and Mendesslohn during its December-through-April season. Highlights include master concerts and children's performances, soloists Zuill Bailey (cello) and Jeffrey Chappell (piano), and conductor Sebrina Maria Alfonso, a Key West local who founded the orchestra in 1997 through a great deal of local support.
Key West Symphony Orchestra: 305.296.1520, www.keywestsymphony.com
Key West Golf Club
The southernmost golf club in the U.S., designed by Rees Jones, offers 18 holes over 200 lush acres of rolling fields, glassy lakes, and swaying palm trees. Its unique challenges include water hazards and a popular "Mangrove Hole." A spiffy new pro shop and break-worthy café sweeten the deal.
Key West Golf Club: 305.294.5232, www.keywestgolf.com
The Dry Tortugas National Park (Key West)
Dry Tortugas National Park, a serene chain of islands 70 miles west of Key West, is the deliciously undeveloped home of sea turtles, tropical birds, the 19th-century Alcatraz-like Fort Jefferson, and shallow reefs perfect for snorkeling. Arrive in a most dramatic way, via a 40-minute seaplane flight. Operators soar down and set you up for an afternoon of snorkeling, bathing, and picnicking in perfect peace.
Dry Tortugas National Park: 305.242.7711, www.nps.gov/drto/
Seaplanes of Key West: 305.294.0709, www.seaplanesofkeywest.com
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Key Largo)
Key Largo's single must-see attraction is Pennekamp, the first underwater park in the U.S. Its fascinating geography covers 75 square miles of ocean containing living coral reef and technicolor marine life, plus 170 acres of land laced with peaceful, shaded walking trails. Water activities abound, including snorkeling trips, sailing tours aboard a 38-foot catamaran, and glass-bottom boat tours for adventurers who don't want to get their hair wet.
John Pennnekamp Coral Reef State Park: 305.451.1202, www.pennekamppark.com
Hemingway House (Key West)
Literary great Ernest Hemingway lived in this stunning Spanish-Colonial house from 1931 to 1940, the period of time that gave birth to such tomes as To Have and Have Not. In addition to putting pen to paper, though, he was busy installing the town's first saltwater swimming pool, which he set in a romantic garden. See it allincluding the slinky descendants of his own six-toed catsduring an elucidating house tour chock-full of amusing anecdotes.
Hemingway House: 305.294.1575, www.hemingwayhome.com
Mallory Square (Key West)
No matter your budget, a trip to Key West is never complete without spending sunset at this waterfront park, teeming with a nightly circus-like energy. You'll either love or hate the frenzied display of craft hawkers, fire eaters, singers, unicyclists, mimes, and other sundry characters, all competing for your tourist dollar. But either way, it'll be an experience you won't soon forget. It's a truly wacky "only in Key West" kind of time.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication