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- 24 September 2014 /
FLORIDA KEYS - The Florida Keys & Key West offer a variety of new and enhanced accommodations, intriguing museum exhibits, adrenaline-pumping adventures and outdoor activities to tempt visitors ranging from adventurers to relaxation seekers. Explore the highlights here.
The Marker Waterfront Resort, located in Key West's Historic Seaport in the renowned Old Town district, is to open in late 2014 as a premier independent luxury hotel. In addition to The Marker's 96 guest rooms, the property boasts an eclectic dining concept, lush tropical landscaping, multiple swimming pools and poolside cocktail service as well as on-site parking and breathtaking waterfront views. Named in honor of the highway mile markers that lead to Key West, the southernmost island city in the continental United States, the resort combines a modern and timeless aesthetic with the free spirit and tropical nature of the Key West community. Starting rates for The Marker Key West Resort will be $329. For more information, visit themarkerkeywest.com.
The Gates Hotel Key West, a new independent hotel with 100 rooms, is set to open in late fall 2014. The boutique hotel is to blend refined luxury, minimalist design, artwork, food and music into a chic and comfortable lodging experience reminiscent of "old school Key West." Among the hotel's features is Rum Row, a contemporary rum bar, serving signature cocktails and tapas-style entrees for both lunch and dinner, along with entertainment daily. The property's large pool will also feature cabanas and day beds. The Gates' common areas and guest rooms will showcase original photography by award-winning local photographer Jorge de la Torriente of De La Gallery. The Gates is located at the entrance to Key West on North Roosevelt Boulevard. Rates start at $249. For more information, visit gateshotelkeywest.com.
Visitors to America's southernmost city can receive special values on museum and attractions admissions, watersports adventures and more by purchasing a Key West Vacation Pass from the Key West Attractions Association. The $49 pass booklet contains 22 offers from many of Key West's popular attractions and can be used through Dec. 19. Values are featured on tickets for historic and museum attractions, snorkeling excursions, kayaking and eco-tours, visits to nature facilities, fishing charters, food and beverages, sunset cruises and even a flyboard adventure. Visitors must purchase passes online at keywestvacationpass.com before traveling to Key West, and should receive them within seven days of ordering. Some blackout dates apply, and there is a $6 shipping and handling fee. For information, visit keywestattractions.org.
Several renovations and restorations are complete at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier. In 2013, the FKWBC purchased a property at 92080 Overseas Highway that has become a rehabilitation and education center. The center is equipped with an operating room, X-ray capability, a triage unit, isolation area and separate recovery areas for small and large birds along with an outdoor pelican enclosure. Officially opened in August 2014, the center is expected to be fully operational by October 2014. The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured birds in the Upper Keys area, and their release whenever possible. As well as the rehabilitation center, the facility operates a visitor center and a sanctuary that houses rehabilitated birds that can no longer survive in the wild. For more information visit fkwbc.org.
SEAduction, a Blue Star-recognized dive and snorkel charter service, has recently reopened at 90507 Old Highway in Tavernier. The new company is the first Florida Keys charter to operate U.S. Coast Guard-inspected vessels powered by biodiesel, or biodegradable fuel. SEAduction has a 46-foot boat that can accommodate 22 passengers and a smaller 27-foot vessel that can hold 10 divers. As a Blue Star charter, SEAduction is committed to educating customers about the coral reef ecosystem and diving and snorkeling etiquette. SEAduction participates in many other practices to help promote and sustain a healthy environment. In addition, SEAduction is one of the Upper Keys dive companies that participates in the official Florida Keys Wreck Trek program. The company leads trips to four of the nine sunken vessels or artificial reefs that divers must explore to become a Florida Keys Wreck Trekker. Visit floridadivingcharters.com for more information.
Key West's Sebago Watersports has recently added a new vessel to its fleet. The 60-foot Sebago Flyer offers Power Adventure day trips and romantic evening sunset cruises daily. The Power Adventure, a six-hour day excursion, includes sailing, snorkeling the Florida Keys' living coral barrier reef, parasailing, jet skiing, paddleboarding and kayaking — as well as use of Sebago's banana boat, water trampoline, water slide and water mat. The trip includes breakfast, full buffet lunch and beverages. Each evening, passengers can enjoy a two-hour luxury sunset sail that includes champagne, beer, wine, soft drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Although the boat can accommodate 68 passengers, Sebago limits its tours to fewer passengers to maximize their enjoyment. The sunset sail is limited to just 30 passengers. For information including departure locations and booking, visit keywestsebago.com.
Visitors driving into Key West have a smooth new roadway to travel following the completion of a $41.5 million reconstruction and enhancement of North Roosevelt Boulevard, a primary route for motorists arriving and departing the island city. The project incorporated almost 3 miles of the boulevard from the U.S. Highway 1 triangle at the island's entrance to Eisenhower Drive at the start of Truman Avenue and the city's historic district. The majority of the new roadway, which required 59,000 tons of asphalt, features five traffic lanes: two each for northbound and southbound travel and a center turn lane. Elements of the comprehensive project included rebuilding, repaving and re-striping the roadway; installing crosswalks, 69 new street lights and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks; replacing existing traffic signals with hurricane-resistant signals and installing a new signal in a high-traffic area; adding extensive landscaping including 157 mature coconut palms; and rebuilding and expanding the seawall and promenade along the waterfront for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Just in time for new exhibits and programming, the Custom House Museum, located at 281 Front St. in Key West, has completed a series of renovations. In addition to refinishing wood floors throughout the museum, windows have been upgraded and equipped with ultraviolet-resistant film on the windowpanes, which will help protect the museum's artifacts against sunlight and severe weather. Currently on display in the Custom House's Bryan Gallery is the show "Suzie de Poo: The Art of Hand Printing." The exhibit explores the influence of artist Suzie de Poo on the landmark Key West Hand Print Factory during the late 20th century. The exhibit will remain open until Jan. 2, 2015. Opening Oct. 10 and running through Feb. 5, 2015, is "Ronny Bailey: Visions of Key West." Bailey, a fifth generation Key West native, re-creates city landmarks from locally salvaged materials and adds whimsical details to bring Old Key West to life. Ongoing exhibits at the museum include "Flagler's Speedway to Sunshine," which showcases the construction, heyday and 1935 demise of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. The railroad, lauded upon its completion as the world's most unique, connected the Florida Keys with each other and mainland Florida for the first time in 1912. Custom House Museum admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children age 6 and up. Visit kwahs.com for details.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Posted On: September 23, 2014