PART 4: SUNSET KEY: KEY WEST'S HIDDEN GEM
BY JANET STEINBERG
Sailing some 172 nautical miles from the port of Ft. Lauderdale on the first day of my 8-day Caribbean cruise aboard Silversea’s Silver Spirit, we arrived at Key West, Florida at eight o’clock in the morning.
|SILVER SPIRIT DOCKED IN KEY WEST|
This was it! This was the day…the only day on the cruise that I was going to leave the ship. And that was because I wanted to have lunch at Latitudes, a divine waterfront restaurant on nearby Sunset Key. Years ago I had enjoyed a sunset dinner at Latitudes, but never had time to explore the island. This time I would both look and lunch.
Sunset Key is a secluded island escape just minutes from the activities and vibrant energy of Key West. This 27-acre island is just 500 yards off the coast of Florida’s cool and eclectic Key West. Transportation to and from Sunset Key is aboard Lil Princess, the resort’s 24-hour launch that docks at Sunset Key’s sister property The Westin Key West Resort & Marina. Guests with cars can arrive and park at The Westin Key West Resort & Marina, which is just across the waterway from Sunset Key. Then they are escorted to the resort boat launch for the seven-minute ferry ride to Sunset Key.
|LIL PRINCESS SHUTTLES GUESTS FROM KEY WEST IN SEVEN MINUTES|
Upon arriving at Sunset Key, guests who are vacationing on the island are greeted by an island ambassador and escorted to their cottage. Since we were just off our Silver Shadow cruise for the day, we headed straight to Latitudes for lunch.
Perched on Sunset Key’s sandy shoreline, Latitudes restaurant and lounge offers casual island fare with a Caribbean flair. You can dine in the Ernest Hemingway Room, where photos of the author, fisherman and former Key West resident adorn the walls or you can choose outdoor dining overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
|THE ERNEST HEMINGWAY ROOM|
Included in the price of every meal are sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico. If you choose to dine there in the evening, as I did on a previous visit, you’ll enjoy the tiki torches that illuminate the night sky magnifying the glorious Sunset Key sunsets.
|LATITUDES’ TIKI TORCHES AND MOTHER NATURES SUNSET ILLUMINATE THE SKY|
Seated at a round café-style table overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, we sipped a Key Lime Colada. Latitudes’ secret recipe for the drink is blended with Bacardi Superior Rum and Keke Beach Key Lime Liqueur. The glass is topped with a Graham Cracker Rim. It tasted as good as it looked.
|KEY LME COLADAS|
Latitude’s innovative, yet unintimidating, seasonal menu features local fish, fresh produce, and a variety of island classics. One of the fresh features when I was there was the Stone Crab Claws.
BEST STONE CRAB CLAWS EVER
Also seeming to scream out “taste me ” were the Lobster Quesadillas, an irresistible combo of sweet lobster, jack cheese, caramelized onions, basil fresh tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, salsa, guacamole, and chipotle crème. Unable to decide what I wanted to try, I did the only sensible thing I could think of. I ordered both items and divided them between my husband and me.
|LOBSTER QUESADILLAS SCREAMED “TASTE ME"|
If you suffer from a sweet tooth, as I do, at 3 PM you can satiate your craving at the resort's newest complimentary service: the Conch Cruiser ice cream cycle that delivers free frozen treats daily. Listen for Carnagie Lee ringing his bell as he pedals his bright blue Eaton icicle tricycle equipped with a custom icebox full of gourmet gelato and sorbet along the resort's footpaths. (There are no motor vehicles allowed on the island). Flag down the Conch Cruiser and choose your favorite flavor. It makes for a sweet day on Sunset Key.
CARNEGIE LEE ON THE CONCH CRUISER
And that’s not all. If you are a guest staying on the island, there are more daily treats in store! Every afternoon between 4:30-5:00 P.M. guests revive the Royal Navy sailors’ long-ago tradition of savoring a daily ration of rum at the outside bar known as Up Spirits! This ritual is a complimentary tasting of Latitudes’ own white or golden raw rum…straight up like the sailors did, or mixed in the Up Spirits cocktail du jour. Up Spirits daily ration will often read like this: Monday: Flavored Mojito; Tuesday: Rum Runner; Wednesday: Havana Daiquiri; Thursday: Hurricane; Friday: Dark & Stormy; Saturday: Planter’s Punch; Sunday: Key Lime Colada.
In addition to the waterfront dining, drinking and ice-creaming I mentioned above, Sunset Key (named the #1 resort in the Continental U.S. according to Travel + Leisure magazine's 2015 World's Best awards) features 40 custom-designed cottages, a boutique spa with private treatment suites, an exclusive manicured beach, two Har-Tru, lighted tennis courts, and a heated outdoor saltwater swimming pool.
|HEATED SALTWATER SWIMMING POOL|
Shhh! Now that I’ve let you in on Key West’s best little secret tucked away on a paradisiacal islet in the stunning Gulf of Mexico, keep the name Sunset Key under your hat.
|KEEP OUR LITTLE SECRET UNDER YOUR HAT|
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 41 national Travel Writer Awards and a Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Cincinnati/Mariemont Ohio.