One Florida-based travel writer heads to Key West to find that the newly revamped Southernmost Beach Resort is a perfect escape on this four-mile-long island.
Stepping off the plane, the warm ocean breeze, abundant sunshine, and siren call of the local roosters welcomed me to Key West, Florida. The island known for pirates, Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats, and Jimmy Buffet has a lot more to offer — like Florida’s only presidential museum, lush mangroves teeming with marine life, and Judy Blume’s bookstore, Books & Books. Summer is the most popular time to visit, but if you’re looking for lighter crowds and less traffic, the best time is the quieter seasons (i.e., fall and winter, which is when I went).
A short, 10-minute Lyft ride through streets dotted with Easter egg–colored houses delivered me to Southernmost Beach Resort — my home for the next few days. The wide porch and white rocking chairs made this Southern girl feel right at home.
Eager to check out the resort's recent $11-million renovation, I met up with innkeeper Ophelia Brown, who ushered me to the La Mer Guest House, one of four Guest Houses on property. The graceful wraparound porch has rattan rockers with creamsicle-colored cushions and the exterior sea-blue paint matches the ocean behind the Guest House. A garden path snaked around the side porch where a brilliantly plumed rooster was waiting to greet me.
Southernmost Beach Resort
The resort is versatile enough to accommodate families vacationing together or adults looking to get away on their own.
There are multiple swimming pools, including an adults-only pool surrounded by tropical foliage and palm trees.
The bevy of on-site activities open to locals and guests, like trivia night, make it feel like guests are “living like a local” while on vacation.
Sitting at the end of Duval Street, activities like the Key West Butterfly Museum, the Hemingway House, and the Southernmost Point Buoy are just a short walk away.
The spacious rooms all complement each other with their sunset color palette, luxury tile and marble, and wide-planked floors.
Once I settled in, I beelined for La Grignote, a European bakery and cafe just one block away on Duval Street. Ophelia raved about their flaky chocolate croissants and robust coffee, perfect for weary travelers like me. Sated, I returned to the resort and settled in to lounge by the Pineapple Pool, surrounded by tropical foliage. I sipped my key lime colada and enjoyed the live music from the guitarist. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
“Southernmost Beach Resort has a long history in Key West. We host events year-round not just for our guests but for the community at large," Laurayne Croke, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, told me when she stopped by for a poolside drink. "We want our guests to feel at home and experience things ‘like a local’ — and what better way than being a place where the locals feel at home?”
Over the four days I spent here, I saw how much the resort is a part of the Key West community and how much each person on this little island supports each other. Here, my review of Southernmost Beach Resort and why it’s the perfect home base in Key West.
There are eight main buildings and four Guest Houses at the hotel, for a total of 296 rooms. Extending from the Pineapple Pool to the beach, the rooms in the main buildings wrap around the outside of the property, some with nearby parking spaces or balconies overlooking a swathe of private beach. These rooms are family-friendly, but the 52 rooms within the four Guest Houses are for adults only. The Guest Houses are tucked farther into the resort, and therefore feel more secluded, in contrast to some of the family-friendly rooms along Duval Street. When I stayed at La Mer Guest House, a handcrafted tote bag filled with pool towels sat by the door, with a note encouraging me to use the towels during my stay. Each of the 52 Guest House rooms have the same spa-like bathrooms, king-size beds, and sweeping ceiling-height windows.
Food and Drink
As a Guest House resident, I enjoyed complimentary breakfast at the Dewey House next door every morning. Dewey House's ample patio overlooks the Shores Pool and a sliver of public beach studded with loungers, corn-hole boards, palm trees, and chickens.
Fresh-squeezed orange juice, lemon-lime-scented water, a selection of hot teas, and the nectar of the gods (coffee) drew me in. Roosters and chickens wandered among the terracotta tiled floors as Ophelia chased them away from the diners seated at banquettes lined with sunset-colored cushions and marble-topped tables. A selection of pastries, fresh fruit, jams and jellies accompanied the hot eggs, potatoes, and sausages in the chafing dishes.
Just down the sand sits Southernmost Beach Cafe. The open-air restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all guests. The conch fritters with key lime mustard and black cherry apple salad with grilled Key West shrimp slaked my Floribbean food cravings at lunch. Dinner ramps up with local spiny lobster, macadamia-crusted catch of the day, and crispy whole snapper doused in salsa verde.
Experiences and Amenities
I loved the three glistening pools, especially the one for adults only; complimentary beach yoga available to guests five days a week; and the specially priced butterfly tours available to guests on Wednesdays at the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. But the real shining star of this resort is the local activities they plug guests into.
I was visiting in December, so the hotel helped me book a holiday light tour (in a golf cart, because this is Key West) with Amy Andrade of Island Tales. Andrade, who also gives ghost and history tours, bubbled with holiday cheer. She’s lived in Key West for 10 years and steered me through the off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods like a pro, stopping to say hello to neighbors and friends.
The next day, I spent the afternoon kayaking the mangroves with Lazy Dog Adventures (another recommendation from the hotel). I saw shy nurse sharks, Cassiopeia jellyfish that I could hold in my hands, and lots of nesting birds. Our guide navigated us to hurricane holes where wildlife ride out the storms, nesting grounds for various marine life, and even dove into the water to bring up a starfish for us to see up close.
Back at the resort, a lively local musician serenaded the sunbathers and swimmers at the Shores Pool. I enjoyed the music before heading to trivia on the Dewey House deck. Trivia is open to the public and held every Wednesday night. I grabbed a seat among the tables filled with locals and guests and our crew came up with a team name, the Cassiopeias after the cool jellyfish I saw on my trip through the mangroves. As our host led us through five rounds of boisterous trivia, we snacked on smoked fish dip, Key West pink peel-n-eat shrimp, and cracked conch.
My adventures continued the next day on the bike I borrowed from the hotel (it's complimentary). With a trusty basket to hold all the books I bought at Books & Books, I made my way to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys. I finished the day with a sunset sail booked with Fury Watersports through the concierge and popped into Kermit’s for a final slice of key lime pie on my way back to the resort.
Southernmost Beach Resort has a spa and an on-site gym. The cozy spa, which smells entirely of lavender, offers facials, pedicures, and massages either in the open-air beach cabana or inside. I opted to stay indoors, so the masseuse led me to a room bathed in soft light for a deep-tissue massage. The table warmer provided welcome heat as she worked out all the knots I'd built up while kayaking furiously through mangroves.
Accessibility and Sustainability
Ramps are abundant around the resort, but there is only one ADA-compliant room in the Guesthouses and another five throughout the resort. There are elevators, pool lifts, accessible entrances, and accessible restaurants on the property. Service animals are also welcome.
About three miles from the Key West airport and situated along the quieter southern side of popular Duval Street, you won't need to rent a car to enjoy the area. Shuttles, taxis, and Uber/Lyft options are abundant to get you to and from the resort. Once checked in, you can grab a bike from the concierge to cycle to Mallory Square, but most Key West attractions are in walking distance. The entire island is only four miles long and full of trolleys, hop-on/hop-off tours, bikes, and scooters if you get tired of walking. The hotel's concierge can also arrange for tours to pick you up at the resort.
How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay
The most affordable accommodations at Southernmost Beach Resort are the rooms and suites in the eight main buildings. The entry-level room is called a Cozy Queen, starting from $199 per night in the low season (read: not the summer). At the Guest Houses, rates start at $439 per night, but the stays come with complimentary breakfast at Dewey House and a beach tote with towels to use on property.
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