Key West has that certain mystical draw to it, it is quite unlike anywhere else that I have been. I guess you either love it or hate it, but I love it and have visited it 6 times over the last 10 years.
Key West is an island at the tip of the Florida Keys, accessed by the wonderful overseas highway that is Route 1. Whilst the island is only about 5 miles by 1.5 miles, there is a great deal packed into this small space. Most of the main attractions are to be found in, or near, the historic old town, the main artery of which is Duval Street. Within a block or two of Duval Street you will find Mallory Square, famous for the daily sunset ceremony, the Historic Docks area and the Truman Annex where you will find the Little White House. At the other end of Duval Street is Hemmingway’s house, the lighthouse and the Southernmost point in the United States. Most of the well-known bars and restaurants are also on or close to Duval Street.
This is an important consideration when you select where to stay in Key West. Many of the branded hotels and resorts are not located in the Historic old town, but rather are scattered along either the Gulf or Atlantic shore line along North or South Roosevelt Boulevards respectively. If you stay in these areas you are likely to need a shuttle, a taxi or a car to get into the Historic Old Town and parking there is not easy. But there is a simple solution, stay in one of the many Bed and Breakfast or boutique hotels in the Historic Old Town so that you can easily walk to almost everywhere you will want to go. I developed this simple strategy after having had experience of staying at the other end of the island.
A few years ago I came across The Marquesa Hotel which is ideally located on the corner of Simonton and Fleming Streets, one block north and about a third of the way along Duval Street. The Marquesa is an intimate full service hotel with just 27 deluxe rooms and suites, some of which are located in the original house (which is on the National Register of Historic Places) with the others being located around the tropical patio which includes two swimming pools. The hotel, the service and the attention to every little detail make this a little slice of Heaven in the heart of Key West.
The rooms are light and airy and many have a terrace overlooking one of the pools and the patio which is beautifully planted and tended to create a lovely area to relax and take in the sun after a hectic day’s sight-seeing or sampling the refreshment and music in one of the many bars. Whether during the day or in the evening, when you step through the door of the Marquesa you leave the noise and frenetic activity of Key West behind you and step into a world of relaxation and luxury. The bathrooms are well equipped and there is an ample supply of towels and bath supplies which are replaced when necessary whether during the daily room service or the evening turn-down.
I have enjoyed a number of stays at the Marquesa, and it is difficult to remember all of the little things that make it so special. Is it the glass of wine that is brought for you when you arrive to provide refreshment after the drive down the Keys, or maybe it is the fresh coffee that is waiting for you beside the pool every morning, nothing is too much trouble from parking your car to making restaurant and attraction reservations or booking a taxi? The hotel also offers a very good wash and fold laundry service for a very reasonable price to help you travel as light as possible.
The hotel does not have a bar but the adjacent Café Marquesa serves diner. The hotel offers a range of continental breakfast options which they deliver to your room, but there are many alternatives within easy reach. Just along Simonton Street is Sarabeths, one of the best places for breakfast in Key West.
The Café Marquesa one of the top rated restaurants in Key West so it is a good option for one night, but I prefer to have dinner at one of the many restaurants with a view of the sunset. For the extra special dinner try Latitude on Sunset Key or Hot Tin Roof at 0 Duval Street. For other drinks and snacks pay a visit to Fausto’s, a Key West legend that is only a few yards from the Marquesa along Flemington Street. This is a wonderful grocery / delicatessen with a great selection of beers and wines and they make fabulous sandwiches to order from the vast range of deli meats and cheeses.
There is so much to keep you busy in Key West. The Conch Train provides a great orientation tour so that you can decide where you would like to spend your time. Something you will not see on the Conch Train is the Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson. This is located some 70 miles west of Key West and is accessed via a high speed boat or for something very different try the sea plane from Key West airport. The sunset celebration on Mallory Square is not to be missed, but for me, the best view of the sunset is from one of the traditional sailing schooners that leave from the Historic Docks (book to avoid disappointment).
All too soon my stay at The Marquesa draws to a close and it is time to bid the team farewell and head back along route 1 to the “real world” again, but at least that means that it is time to start planning my next visit to Key West and the Marquesa.