You might have heard about the damage Hurricane Irma did to the Florida Keys. The brutal storms certainly took their toll. But now one of the most beautiful and entertaining places to visit in the country has bounced back in a big way, and if you're looking to channel your inner Ernest Hemingway there's no better time to head across the Overseas Highway.
The Keys are a coral cay archipelago encompassing more than 1,700 islands, but only the largest are connected by bridges which make for one of the most scenic drives in America. Key West lies at country's the southernmost point and in between you'll find Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, and other must-sees.
Baker’s Cay Resort recently opened in Key Largo on a former pineapple plantation that had been home to the Key Largo Hilton, which fell victim to the storms. Now a totally redesigned upscale beach resort that's part of the posh Curio Collection, it's focused on "barefoot luxury," which means not only plenty of beach time but lots of rum, great food, and sport fishing right from its private dock.
It features 200 spacious and well-decorated rooms and suites with water views, sited on 13-acres of lush tropical groves that feels like a secluded part of the Caribbean yet is close to all of the rum-soaked attractions the Keys has to offer.
There's little need to leave the property however with its two swimming pools separated by a cascading waterfall grotto; four dining options including Calusa, an indoor/outdoor Caribbean Creole restaurant with panoramic bay views; Dry Rocks, a beachside Mexican joint with a well-stocked library of tequilas and its own barrels of Patron; and a postcard-perfect tiki bar on a white-sand beach. Plus, the hotel has a uniquely pet-friendly policy, you can even bring your dog along for the fun.
And while it's tempting to lie in a hammock sipping Planter's Punch all day, its hard to pass up the impressive array of activities on offer including parasailing, diving, and fishing boat charters — the Keys has some of the best sport fishing in the world on both the bay and ocean sides, and Baker's Cay has a dock that can accommodate any kind of craft you care to venture out on.
The resort's talented chef can even serve up your catch. And at day's end the resort's world class spa can restore you to your former glory.
A trip to Key West, which Hemingway called home for several years, is de rigeur. We recommend stopping over at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa, one of Florida’s most famous retreats, located just off Mallory Square in historic Old Town Key West at the end of legendary Duval Street. The boutique hotel’s 100 rooms and suites, with stunning views overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, are some of the most coveted accommodations in town.
Islamorada is our other favorite Keys destination. Be sure to stop in for lunch on the beach at Morada Bay, and if you have time for an overnighter, book a room at the nearby Amara Cay Resort. Travel + Leisure calls it "the perfect example of laid back elegance" with a vintage beach vibe that's always in style, along with access to world-class fishing and other luxe amenities.
Wherever you end up in the Keys it'll be something to write home, or even a novel, about.
Growing a Hemingway-esque beard is optional, but having a damned good time is not.