First vacation since November 2019 – bliss. We remained in the US because #Covid19, however we opted to go as far south as possible with island vibes. That, friends, would be Key West. Which, I hear is a royal pain to get to…so, thank you, direct flight from O’Hare. And thank you, United, for the upgrade on the return flight home. I didn’t truly enjoy it because I excel at sleeping on planes, however the snack box was much appreciated!
We didn’t quite manage a week away, but we were gone for 5 nights. And if you know anything about Key West, you probably know there’s a large bar scene. Most of which is outdoors or some kind of indoor-outdoor hybrid. Same goes for restaurants. I could’ve stayed a day or so longer, but it also felt like the right amount of time.
Not known for their beaches, we were sure to choose a resort with a pool that also included ocean views. I did quite a bit of island walking/running, and I imagine we had the best spot for that at Ocean Key Resort and Spa. I really can’t say a bad thing about the place — everything from an easy breezy check-in to the most prime location room (room #312 if you’re interested) on the resort. We had phenomenal views of both Sunset Pier, which came alive at night with live music and people, as well as the ocean and views of Sunset Key. We propped open our French doors to the balcony and enjoyed the views throughout our stay, even at night, when Sunset Pier gets super quiet.
The resort is right next to Mallory Square which is basically a music and entertainment center in the pre-sunset to sunset hours, and a place to walk around in sunshine during the day. The only sit-down meal we had on-resort at Hot Tin Roof was breakfast one morning. The smoked salmon bagel with capers was delicious and Mark’s bagel sandwich looked amazing. The coffee and views did not disappoint and I get the sense that other than for Sunday brunch, it’s not an issue to get a table for breakfast. The resort is a mere 100 rooms, which is great. The food at the pool was both delicious and convenient, as were the cocktails. The pinã colada with a rum floater was a personal favorite — this, coming from the one who doesn’t love rum. The 3 cabanas are first-come, first-serve and turned over several times every day…unless I got to one in which case I helped myself to an afternoon nap and/or an extensive reading session.
Located at 0 Duval, the resort sits at one end of the ever-happening Duval street where you’ll find endless options of food, ice cream, booze, live music, and souvenir shopping. Everything has an outdoor option and there’s about every cuisine you could want. Lots and lots of seafood!
Our first night was probably our favorite dinner meal, at A&B Lobster House. Great balcony seating with views of all the yachts coming in to dock. Be sure to sit outdoors! We tried the grilled octopus (good, but not my favorite thing – Mark’s pick), wedge salad (solid), and the Caribbean Lobster “Oscar” — a lobster tail topped with lump crab and finished with hollandaise. SO good. Also, hollandaise is a favorite on Key West and I’m pretty okay with it!
Our first night was also our wild night where Mark completed the scorpion tequila shot challenge at Lucy’s on Duval — a fun little joint in the heart of Duval’s party scene, right across from the strip club, Teasers. The people watching is world-class, no doubt.
The next morning, I arrived at Cuban Coffee Queen in Mallory Square, not a moment too soon. Their cold brew is amazing and made with coffee ice cubes. They have great smoothies and some Cuban breakfast options that were thoroughly enjoyed. If anything is missing on Key West, it’s more coffee options. This one is a bit hidden and aside from one Starbucks on Duval, the options for stand-alone coffee joints were few and far between.
Sunday evening we ate at Nine One Five at 915 Duval 🙂 The Pear and Goat Cheese Salad were great, the brussels sprouts were solid (but nothing memorable), however, both of our entrees were great — the Lobster Ravioli was good, and Mark’s Seafood Curry was sooooooo good! If you love coconut. I was in heaven.
Monday we walked to Fort Zachary National Park which was a bit further than we expected from our resort by the time you got TO the beach (about 1.7 miles each way). At $2.50 per person to get into the park for walkers and bikers, it was a great beach option (and driving an option, too, should you have a vehicle). Plan ahead and get there early enough for a lounge chair and umbrella (additional cost). The sun is fierce and we were not prepared (i.e. Nicole took in too much sun the day before and couldn’t hang all day). A definite must-see on Key West, the beach is beautiful and there’s snorkel gear for rent, food, bathrooms, etc.
After the beach, we were starving and made our way to Waterfront Brewery because…duh. We love breweries. With great people watching and an indoor-outdoor vibe, the beer was solid and the fish and chips were OUT of this world. So much food! Mark also loved the ceviche.
Tuesday morning, we went to Bagatelle for brunch. Located on 100 Duval, the outdoor seating is plentiful for the size and the brunch was absolutely delicious and very reasonable prices for the quality. The Lobster Omelet was divine and again, topped in hollandaise. Mark got the crispy fried French toast which is also a Key West thing – French toast with cornflakes and fried. It was solid! Get a mimosa!
Tuesday’s dinner was my least favorite – Mangoes. We’d heard someone at the resort say the food was impressive, but I must say, I disagree. The Chorizo Empanadas were okay. Mark got the Yellowtail Snapper “Ala Plancha” and I got the Caribbean Lobster Paella. The menu looks amazing – the execution was POOR. The table next to us also left unhappy, so perhaps this is a new problem. Not sure, but can’t recommend this place, sadly.
The one excursion we did was a kayak trip (2 hours) in the mangroves. I would highly recommend! I enjoyed doing something active and it was the right length of time and time of day (10:30am). We saw jellyfish galore, a nurse shark or 2, and a few starfish. It was neat! I would say our one “regret” of the trip was not booking ahead for a sunset cruise or some type of boating excursion. Many of them had full bands on board and looked like a lot of fun (…and also a COVID hotspot). Next time, for sure! If you plan to go, “Fury” seems to be the most popular and well-rated boating excursion option. Jet skiing was wildly popular, however it seemed you went out in groups and followed one another in a line. Doesn’t appeal to me in any way – jet skiing isn’t my thing. Remember when Mark got a jet ski when Shea was a month old? Yeah…
Our last night, we shelved the nice dinners and went with casual, fried fare at Stinkin’ Crawfish on Duval. The live music, location, and service were great and the food was solid! Most of it was fried, but it hit the spot! We had a beer at Hog’s Breath Saloon before turning in and I can’t say I was impressed by any of it. It’s a biker bar with live music, on the night we went anyway.
The morning we left, we finally made it to the ever-popular Blue Heaven. We KNEW it would be a wait, which it was – an hour and fifteen. They have a waiting area across the street, equipped with generous pours of Bloody Mary’s and mimosas. The wait went fast and we were sat at the bar. My only regret was not ordering the benedicts – they looked amazing and our server told us so! The pecan pancakes were wonderful, however, and Mark’s Yellow Submarine of snapper and slaw with mango tartar on baguette was SO good. The hibiscus mimosa (go with the double, a frequent flyer told me) was delicious! There was live music and the outdoor seating options were just awesome. There’s a reason the place is so popular, no doubt!
And…that wraps up Key West. Any day drinking we did was at the resort’s pool and that’s where we spent our days when we weren’t at the beach, kayaking, or running. We loved staying at the pool from 5-8pm when you could enjoy the live music from Sunset Pier, had people watching galore, and had unobstructed views of the sunset while everyone crowded below to see.
It was a lovely trip! Key West is definitely on island time, and your Uber/Lyft drivers are likely to drive as such. Everything is close together and walking or golf cart rental are the preferred transportation methods.
We certainly missed our girls, but they were so excited to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s, I don’t think they missed us a bit! They did some fishing, swimming, park-going, and extended family time. I’d like to think everyone wins 😉 I’m glad to have the recovery over the weekend from the travel and even ended up working half a day (by choice). Is there anything worse than a Monday after vacation? Hoping mine will be far more tolerable after putting in some time today.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!