FLORIDA KEYS — With a welcome resurgence of summer family travel, the Florida Keys & Key West continue to be in demand as a top bucket-list destination that’s known for wide open spaces, a variety of outdoor activities and scenic vistas of sea and sky.
Summer is set to bring new nonstop flights into Key West International Airport. In June, six airlines — Allegiant, American, Delta, Silver, JetBlue and United — are to operate 24 routes to Key West International Airport, which experienced a record high passenger count earlier this year.
Allegiant Air is adding twice-weekly nonstop service to Key West in June from three cities: Nashville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and greater Cincinnati, Ohio.
To make accommodations bookings easy for consumers visiting the destination’s website, the Monroe County Tourist Development Council has launched an online reservation system for stays at licensed properties that collect the county resort tax.
Keys businesses may require facial coverings at venues such as resorts, indoor attractions, museums, restaurants, grocery stores, galleries or retail shops.
The Florida Keys’ Monroe County Tourist Development Council has launched an online reservation system through the destination’s website, fla-keys.com, providing seamless accommodations bookings for consumers using the site to plan Keys vacations. Within the reservation system, lodging facilities’ room categories and rates are segmented, and an “Inside Scoop” section highlights each property's unique amenities. The new service is managed by Key West–based Two Oceans Digital in conjunction with RootRez, a contracted third-party provider. “This is the last piece of the puzzle designed to offer potential visitors to the Keys a convenient, complete vacation planning resource on our website,” said TDC Director Stacey Mitchell. Visit https://lodging.fla-keys.com/.
Key West International Airport is undergoing an approximate $80 million expansion, targeted for completion in October 2024, with a new concourse that is to include a new security checkpoint, gates, holding room for departing passengers, concessions, baggage claim area and glass-enclosed jet bridge to connect planes with the facility. Since December 2020, the airport has employed a coronavirus-fighting robot — one of the first in the U.S. to be used at an airport — that emits high-intensity ultraviolet-C wavelength light to kill harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces. Visit eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.
Allegiant Air is adding twice-weekly nonstop service to Key West International Airport on Airbus A319 aircraft from three cities: beginning June 2 from Nashville International Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays; on June 3 from Pittsburgh International Airport on Thursdays and Sundays; and beginning June 9 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Allegiant chose Key West as a gateway city known for outdoor recreation. Visit allegiantair.com or call 702-505-8888.
United Airlines’ daily nonstop service between Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Key West has been extended to run through Sept. 7 on 70-passenger Embraer E175 aircraft. United also has daily nonstop flights from Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty international airports and Dulles International Airport in greater Washington, D.C. Visit united.com or call 800-864-8331.
In Key Largo, Playa Largo Resort, an Autograph Collection Hotel, has unveiled four oceanfront residences — the Playa Largo Ocean Residences — for overnight stays with access to resort amenities. The open living–style homes feature a grand foyer, master suites with soaking tub, laundry room and private parking. They range from 3,300 to 3,800 square feet and are three-bedroom, 2.5-bath and four-bedroom, 4.5-bath homes. Each offers outdoor living with summer kitchens, front porches and private terraces and are priced from $1,800 per night with two-night minimum stays required. The homes are on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Overseas Highway in Key Largo. Visit oceanresidencesvacations.com, email email@example.com or call 888-425-0535.
In Everglades National Park’s Flamingo area on mainland Monroe County, a new Flamingo Lodge & Restaurant facility is scheduled to open by this winter. Concessionaire Flamingo Adventures plans to unveil a four-building, 24-unit lodge with one- and two-bedroom units. Both the lodge and restaurant are to be built from shipping containers, above the ground on cement pillars and connected by a boardwalk. In addition, the Flamingo Visitor Center is to be remodeled. Everglades National Park is currently planning its 75th anniversary, slated to kick off this winter. Flamingo is about a 40-minute drive from the park's entrance. Visit flamingoeverglades.com or call 855-708-2207.
In the Middle Keys, an expansion of Grassy Flats Resort & Beach Club, located at mile marker 58 on Grassy Key, is underway with 28 newly built oceanfront guest rooms set to open for occupancy during Thanksgiving week. The Wrecker’s House is to feature rooms including two queens, a king and three king suites with private wraparound balconies. The Humidor House, steps from the Atlantic Ocean, is to include four king suites with four-poster mahogany beds and private balconies. The on-site Barrel & Bale restaurant is scheduled to open Christmas week with 152 seats and a rooftop bar. The resort is to reopen June 6 with limited availability for two- and three-bedroom units with full kitchens and living rooms. Visit grassyflats.com or call 305-998-4590.
The 184-room Barbary Beach House Key West is to transform into Margaritaville Beach House Key West this fall, offering poolside entertainment, daily refreshments, a 24-hour fitness center, activities for kids, lawn games, lounging hammocks throughout resort grounds and Hobie catamarans, paddleboards and kayaks. Barbary Beach House, the former Sheraton Suites Key West, opened in June 2020 after undergoing an $18 million renovation. The resort is at 2001 S. Roosevelt Blvd., located across a half-mile shoreline stretch of Smathers Beach and about a mile from Key West International Airport. Visit barbarybeachhouse.com or call 855-235-3914. For Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts details, visit margaritavilleresorts.com.
In Islamorada, the History of Diving Museum has unveiled an exhibit titled “Diving In Pop Culture.” On display through Dec. 31, the exhibition contains representations of diving in literature, advertising, television, games, music, attractions and collectibles. Homage is paid to famed diver Jacques Cousteau and includes ties to the museum’s permanent exhibit celebrating Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” There’s also a working helmet made and based on the novel’s description. Located at mile marker 83, the museum is dedicated to telling the story of humans’ quest to explore, understand and venture under the sea. Visit divingmuseum.org or call 305-664-9737.
The Florida Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada is soon to have a new permanent exhibit featuring the tombstone of the notorious early 19th-century Keys wrecker John Jacob Housman, whose remains were believed to be buried on Indian Key off Islamorada. The new exhibit is to include a series of free-standing interpretive panels and historical stories about Indian, Lignumvitae, Windley and Tea Table keys. Housman’s tombstone, once stored at Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, is on long-term loan to the Discovery Center, located on-site at the oceanside Islander Resort at mile marker 82. Visit keysdiscovery.com or call 305-922-2237.
In Marathon, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters has a new Mangrove Terrapin Exhibit, home to two adult mangrove terrapins, in the attraction’s Everglades area. Found almost exclusively in the Florida Keys, the terrapins resemble freshwater turtles but inhabit brackish and salt water and are a subspecies of diamondback terrapins found across the southern United States. The aquarium also has a new coral restoration display that provides details about restoration efforts throughout the Keys. In addition, the facility offers “be a marine biologist for a day” camps for youths ages 10-14, 14-18 and 19 and older through July. Camps run Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 pm., for one to three days. Sessions are priced at $150 per day or $400 for three days. Visit floridakeysaquariumencounters.com or call 305-407-3262.
The new Island Farm, a Florida Agritourism Association member, is a private 50-acre farm and apiary (where hives of honeybees are kept) on Stock Island. Activities such as paddling and kayaking, eco-tours and farm-to-table, celebratory and special events are offered. Attractions also include ticketed “fire+honey” sunset celebrations and bonfires and s’mores at its Lost Beach. The farm is located at 7000 5th St. and its first farmers’ market is scheduled June 18. Visit islandfarmhoney.com or call 305-600-7823.
A new Key West outdoor space fronting the historic Fort East Martello Museum, managed by the Key West Art & Historical Society, is to open this summer as an outdoor venue for up to 3,500. The venue, the former East Martello Park, has been reconfigured for outdoor events, educational programs, concerts and weddings. It’s near Key West International Airport at 3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd. Visit kwahs.org or call 305-296-3913.
Key West's 8,200-square-foot Hemingway Rum Co. Distillery at 201 Simonton St. plans to open a 2,400-square-foot center for hosting events this summer. The distillery also offers private "Papa's Cocktail Classes" with a tour, tasting, mixology class and cocktail glass for a maximum of 10 participants on Tuesdays through Sundays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Formerly a tobacco warehouse, the venue houses the Papa's Pilar Rum production facility, an experience center, tasting room and trading post. Reservations are required for the experience. Visit papaspilar.com or call 305-414-8754.
In the Lower Keys, Mote Marine Laboratory’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration (IC2R3), based on Summerland Key, and Captain Hook’s Dive Center on Big Pine Key have unveiled the reef experience “Mote on the Boat” with leading coral science experts. On Tuesdays, a Mote scientist comes aboard a Captain Hook’s Looe Key Snorkel and Dive trip to discuss coral restoration and conservation efforts. Looe Key, located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is one of “Seven Iconic Reefs” — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coral restoration project, billed as the world’s largest such effort. Virtual public tours of Mote's facility are scheduled 10 a.m. on Tuesdays with reservations, and private on-site group tours can be arranged. Visit mote.org or call 305-745-2729. For "Mote on the Boat" trips, contact Captain Hook’s at 305-872-9863.
Florida Keys–based Florida Yachts Charters, a boutique company specializing in bareboat and crewed charters, has a new partnership with the Moorings, offering the Keys as its newest charter destination. The Moorings is Florida’s globally recognized charter company based in Clearwater. New Keys yacht vacations are launched from Oceans Edge Resort & Marina and Stock Island Marina Village on monohulls, sailing catamarans and power yachts. Trips — a minimum of five days — can be captained and crewed or self-chartered and include itineraries to Dry Tortugas National Park and to Marathon and beyond. Private American Sailing Association certification courses can be included. Rates range from $5,400 weekly for a minimum of two people, with total number of guests based on yacht capacity. Visit floridayachtscharters.com or call 800-650-6940.
Fury Water Adventures Key West has a new Ultimate Adventure H2.0, with a catamaran trip to Florida's only certified and largest ocean water park — over 3,500 square feet of inflatable waterpark — offering parasailing, reef snorkeling, jet skis and banana boats. The six-hour adventure is priced from $184.95 for those 11 and older and from $134.95 for children ages 4 to 10. Breakfast, lunch and unlimited beverages are included. Visit furykeywest.com or call 800-683-7371.
Key West’s Honest Eco, featuring dolphin watching, kayaking and snorkeling trips, has acquired Blu Q Sailing Adventures, providing gay all-male snorkel, sandbar and kayak tours since 1996. Blu Q is to continue nightly sunset sails open to all adults. Honest Eco’s catamaran Squid, based at the Key West Historic Seaport, is one of the first lithium-ion battery–powered passenger vessels in the United States. Visit bluqkeywest.com or call 305-923-7245.
LGBT Charters’ 55-foot yacht Bottoms Up can be chartered for up to 10 people for dolphin watching, kayaking and water activities off Key West. The company is owned by Joseph Schroeder, who also owns Bourbon St. Pub Entertainment Complex, New Orleans House and the 801 Bourbon Bar on Key West’s Duval St. The vessel is based at Conch Harbor Marina at 951 Caroline St. Six-hour trips are priced from $2,500. Visit LGBTcharters.com or call 305-747-0343.
Did you know? Booking charters with Blue Star dive and fishing operators — professional guides who educate clients about sustainable best practices and conserving the unique Florida Keys ecosystem — help support shared adventures for generations to come. The program, under the guidance of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other organizations, currently includes 27 dive and 19 fishing charter boat operators. Visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/bluestar/operators.html.
Seeking a unique souvenir or gift as a remembrance of your Key West trip? Preorder a new Key West Monopoly game, conceptualized by local resident Casey Arnold, owner of companies Key West Team Building LLC and the Southernmost Scavenger Hunt. Monopoly tokens include a conch shell, lobster boat, Kino sandal, Key lime pie with pie-maker Kermit, manatee and rooster. The color-coded board features well-known Key West houses, mansions, inns, resorts and hotels; family-named businesses, restaurants and attractions. A percentage of sales is to be earmarked to local charities Reef Relief and the Florida Keys SPCA. Visit keywestmonopoly.com or call 305-292-9994.
Foodies can sample tasty temptations and savor the subtropical flavors of Key West through “Taste of Key West 2021 Reimagined.” The pocket-size dining cards are priced at $100 each plus tax and valued at more than $500 each, with only 350 to be sold, and are valid until April 17, 2022. The cards are ideal for visitors seeking value-added dining or a unique gift. Participating restaurants include Alonzo’s Oyster Bar, La Trattoria, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar, New York Pasta Garden and others. Cards can be mailed or purchased at We’ve Got the Keys, 922 Caroline St. Visit ahi.ticketleap.com/taste-of-key-west---2021-dining-card/ or call 305-296-6196 or 305-295-9112.
Andy Newman/Carol Shaughnessy