Fly to Miami, get in a ragtop rental, and head south 150 miles to the Florida Keys
When the Spring Breakers head home, checking their eye-bags and hangovers in carry-on, the Florida Keys clear out, the hotel rooms open, the rates drop, and the weather there is a slice of balmy, calm heaven, from Islamorada to Marathon’s little cays to Key West.
In the Middle Key of Islamorada, there’s no other choice but The Moorings Village, an off-season-reasonable, palm-tree acre’d jungle paradise spilling out onto a white-sandy beach, where free kayaks await. The series of Cracker-vernacular and Bermuda-style cottages–big and small–are clapboard and quaint, all with working kitchens, lovely bedding, and windows opening all around. The staff is invisible until you need them. The pool is Olympic-sized, welcome, as most Keys beaches aren’t really swimmable, with muckety bottoms.
Heading to the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States, Key West has its mix of OK places to stay in the frey, but none have the upscale, local-vibe of the blissful Gardens Hotel, which NatGeo lists as one of the places you must go before you die. We did, and concur. A rambling, impeccably-kept old guest house and couple of cottages, with none of that B&B prissiness, Sunday cocktail hour means well-dressed locals mix with the hotel guests, listening to a live jazz band in the turtle-and-parrot-housing garden, where perfect margaritas are served at an al-fresco bar. Ask for Billy the B., the turtle caretaker who used to train circus elephants and his ex-snake-charming mom. Then ask for Kate, the bawdy-lovely proprietor who is, as they say, “a hoot.” Gracious place, all tropicali, and a nice swimming pool.
While in Key West, if you want to avoid the tourist spots, try the one-year-old Flaming Buoy Filet Co., about five blocks off Bourbon Street-impersonator Duvall Street. Owned by two young ex-snowbirds, the former 1940’s grocery store-turned-chic bungalow new-island cafe serves fresh “new island” cuisine, from yummy fish dishes to the best black bean soup we’ve ever had. And the outdoor porches are the place to just chill, and watch how the locals do it. Ask for a slice of avocado-cream-cheese pie: amazing. And lighter than you’d think. Avocados, unlike some famously-indigenous citrus, still grow there in bulk.
Wish you were here.