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Restoring Laid Back Luxury to Key West at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Key West is one of the most unique destinations in the United States, a place where heritage, history, geography and culture combine in a place that is continually thriving yet in no danger of becoming a mere caricature of itself; unlike other locations with such marketable mythology surrounding them. Towering over the iconic island city is, of course, one Ernest Hemingway, with Harry Truman looming close behind from the Winter White House, while Fidel Castro and Cuba make their presence continually felt from a little more than 90 miles away. Key West is of course the southernmost point in the (contiguous) United States, and lies at the end of the legendary U.S. Route 1, the longest north-south road in the country. 

Ocean Key Resort & Spa

It’s home to Key West International Airport, though many choose to make the 110-mile drive from Miami across the iconic Overseas Highway, which encompasses some of the most scenic roadways in the U.S. and crosses 42 bridges along the way. Which is what we did on our most recent visit to the legendary locale, having rented a brand new BMW 7 Series sedan from Turo – sort of like Uber except you get to drive. Our destination was the renowned Ocean Key Resort & Spa, one of Florida’s most famous retreats, located just off Mallory Square in historic Old Town Key West at Zero Duval Street, and embodying the laid back luxury of the place. 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. 

Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Key West was, of course, hit pretty hard by Hurricane Irma in 2017, and one of the main landmarks affected by the storm was Ocean Key’s famed Sunset Pier, which dates to the late 1830’s shortly after Key West was founded. It took nearly 16 months to restore the historic structure, where awe-inspiring sunsets are celebrated every evening with cocktails, live music, local seafood and more. The property is also home to the must-visit Hot Tin Roof, a AAA Four-Diamond Award restaurant offering waterfront dining and featuring Cuban-inspired dishes; and the world-class SpaTerre, which offers everything from Balinese spa treatments and Thai body rituals in an utterly relaxing, intimate environment. The decor of the hotel pays homage to the unique tropical aesthetic of the Keys with an element of South Beach style as befits its prominent position in the town. 

Ocean Key Resort & Spa

The property is part of the top-tier Noble House Hotels & Resorts portfolio, whose philosophy emphasizes “location, distinction and soul,” an ideology perfectly suited to Key West. Each of its 18 properties evokes Noble House’s “dedication to create and manage unique, quality properties that reflect and make profound contributions to their communities, staying true to the local history, culture and ambiance that defines each region,” the brand notes, and Ocean Key is certainly all of these things and more. In 1998 when Noble House Resorts acquired Ocean Key, “a commitment was made to transform the entire property into Key West’s top destination for accommodations, libations, food and fun,” and over the past 20 years the focus has been to “constantly evolve as the islands top luxury resort, while maintaining a careful nod to all that makes Key West unique.”

Ocean Key Resort & Spa

For the most elevated experience at Ocean Key, opt for one of the attractive and spacious suites with a balcony overlooking Mallory Square and the Gulf of Mexico. These luxe accommodations feature local art, rich wooden hand-painted furnishings, and an eclectic mix of fabrics, colors and textures that are just tropical enough without becoming kitschy. The Oceanfront Boutique Suites, located in the premier wing of the resort, are particularly appealing with open floor plans, handcrafted tile floors and luxurious marble bathrooms. But no matter what room you’re staying in, your welcome upon arrival at the resort is always effusive in the best way. A recent renovation added a small rum bar off the lobby where a refreshing drink – their signature rum punch – awaits as soon as you’ve checked in. 

 

Ocean Key Resort & Spa
Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Hot Tin Roof is an experience not to be missed. The decor is British Colonial with a Floridian twist, and the name pays homage to Tennessee Williams, a frequent Key West visitor. Teak woodwork, hand-painted murals, white leather seating and an array of vintage-inspired artwork welcome you from the moment you walk through the door. With cozy banquettes inside and tables on the extensive porch overlooking Sunset Pier your only difficulty will be in deciding which to choose. The house culinary style courtesy of Executive Chef Scott Maurer is called "conch-fusion," a “mélange of tastes and fragrances, combining traditional Florida with Caribbean influences,” and it really works. Standout menu items include a warm water lobster cocktail with avocado, aji amarillo, and micro cilantro; seared black grouper with chorizo-coconut curry and boniato mash; and exotic spice-rubbed bone-in New York strip steak with yukon gold potato gratin, charred broccolini, and cabernet butter. And don’t even think of leaving without trying the key lime pie. 

Ocean Key Resort & Spa
Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Jared Paul Stern

Jared Paul Stern, JustLuxe's Editor-at-Large, is the Executive Editor-at-Large at Maxim magazine and has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the New York Times' T magazine, GQ, WWD, Vogue, New York magazine, Details, Hamptons magazine, Playboy, BlackBook, the New York Post, Man of the World, and Bergdorf Goodman magazine among others. The founding editor of the Page Six magazine, ...(Read More)

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