Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Key West
Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Key West.
I’m Emily and I am a writer and travel blogger sharing my glampacking tips on my blog Luxury Backpack. In January I decided to leave the stress and bustle of London behind, quit my amazing job as an event manager, and moved to the Florida Keys to write full time. Life here is pretty great – sometimes I can’t believe that I actually get to live in such an incredible place, and I am head over heels in love with the eclectic, unique, stunning town that is Key West!
What makes Key West a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Key West is hands down the prettiest town I have ever been too – from the stunning ocean views to the candy coloured houses, boutiques and cocktail bars. My favorite thing to do is spend an hour wandering the back streets, popping into a few of the lovely boutiques, and deciding which luxury beach house I want for myself!
There is just so much on offer here – whether you want to just enjoy the gorgeous weather from one of the many luxurious resorts, or submerge yourself in the quirky island way of life. There is something new to experience around every corner.
What 5 star hotel is the best in Key West?
You are really rather spoilt for choice in Key West, with so many fabulous hotels and beach resorts. I would say The Southernmost Beach Resort can’t be beaten for location, and the rooms and amenities are stunning! Click here for rates and availability.
What about boutique hotels in Key West? Of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
The Paradise Inn is my absolute favourite. With private cottages, light and airy rooms, a pool courtyard and Jacuzzi, you really can’t beat this hotel for a luxurious getaway. Plus it is adult only, so really is a peaceful place.
For vacationers with children I recommend the Eden House. It is the oldest hotel in Key West, has so much charm and history, and is utterly stunning! It is certainly the place to stay to be surrounded by some of that Key West quirky charm.
Are there any fun luxury activities for the adventurous traveler in Key West?
Being on an Island, the water is the best place to be! Chartering a boat is easy as there are so many companies that offer this. Take your picks from activities such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing, fishing and kayaking!
My favourite day trip is taking a tour over to the island of Fort Jefferson, an abandoned fort on an Island in the Dry Tortugas – an national park archipelago about 70 miles offshore. Beautiful!
Where are the best hang outs during the day in Key West?
The best beach around is in the Fort Myers national park, which is just outside the main town. It is idyllic, and perfect for a day trip. Strangely the cemetery is actually one of my favourite places to take a stroll through. It is so peaceful, and the views from up there are beautiful. Plus there are some funny infamous gravestones to look out for!
For drinks, I love the Date and Thyme café for hanging out and drinking matcha lattes, and there are so many happy hour spots dotted around Key West (I won’t even begin naming them all!) it is always time for a cocktail!
What are your picks of the tourist spots?
You can’t miss visiting Hemmingway’s house and museum. Firstly, the house is a great example of the charming architecture in the town, but it is also really interesting to visit the place where this famous writer found his inspiration.
There are also lots of interesting places hidden amongst the bars and shops – such as the oldest house in Key West, which you can just wander in and out of at your leisure.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Key West and what are their best dishes?
Louie’s Backyard is the most romantic restaurant for a date night, and perfect for trying beautifully prepared seafood. My pick is the Florida Lobster braised in Truffle Butter – delicious! The SHOR American Seafood Grill is a good choice for their stunning sunset view, and once you have seen the sunset in Key West you might never want to leave!
And if seafood isn’t your thing, Antonia’s serves the best Italian around. And who doesn’t love Italian for a date night?
Let’s talk desserts – what place makes the best?
Better Than Sex is a dessert restaurant, open from 6pm-midnight, serving sexy cocktails and decadent desserts. You get a booth in the boudoir-styled interior and order off the extensive yummy dessert menu. My idea of heaven!
Tell us all the hot shopping spots in Key West: who’s carrying the trendy local designers?
There are lots of great boutiques amongst the tourist shops, and many stock local designers and handmade items. I love The Green Pineapple, a gorgeous boutique, yoga studio and health food café that stocks beautiful clothing and accessories. Date and Thyme is a great place to go for all things yummy and healthy, and I buy natural skincare products there. I really like Indigo boutique for clothing and jewellery and Artisans Key West for something a little bit different.
If you are a book lover, there are a couple of great book stores, including Key West Island Books which stocks a selection of local authors, so even with your poolside read you can be fully submerged in your surroundings!
Lastly, Key West has a really great creative scene, and you will find so many independent art galleries and studios dotted around. The perfect souvenir is something beautiful to hang in your home! I absolutely love the DE LA Gallery, which houses the work of Miami/Key West based photographer Jorge De La Torriente. His work is incredible!
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Key West?
My favourite spa is Anahara spa on Duvval Street which is just beautiful and offers gorgeous treatments including massage, reflexology, mud wraps, and amazing facials. For nails I would recommend Nailtini, which offers everything from shellac to acrylics, and you can get a last minute wax there too!
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
Mallory square actually has a sunset party every night, with street performers, musicians, food carts, and crafts. If you just fancy a nice spot to have a drink and enjoy the view, I recommend the Sunset Tiki Bar & Grille located at the Galleon Resort, and like many of the resorts, you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the bar!
Just outside Key West, about an hour drive north, is the seven-mile bridge which is my absolute favourite spot to watch the sunset in the Keys. Park your car or bike, and take a wander down the old pedestrian-only bridge. Below you often see turtles and sharks in the clear water, and the sunset is incredible. If you fly to Key West from Miami, this is a great place to stop on the drive back up North.
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
There are so many great spots for drinking, but I really love the Porch, which is a craft beer and wine bar and is just stunning. I also really like Kelly’s, which has a gorgeous outdoor courtyard. For tequila lovers, Agave 308 Tequila Bar is perfect for margaritas!
If you end the night at a fancy club in Key West, which one do you head towards?
VIP clubs and long lines don’t really fit in to the Key West laid back style, so you won’t find swanky night clubs here. It is, however, full of lively bars and dancing – so you will have a good night that’s for sure. If it is a lounge style bar with live music that is your thing, Little Room Jazz Club is a great spot. Otherwise, get ready to have fun and head to one of the lively gay clubs, such as Aqua or 801 Bourbon Bar which has nightly drag shows! It is all part of the Key West eclectic island style – and one that you will soon fall in love with!
Emily is a writer and travel blogger from the UK who is now based in sunny Florida. She has travelled for most of her adult life, living everywhere from Mallorca to LA to on board a luxury yacht. Her travel blog Luxury Backpack focuses on travelling in luxury on a backpackers budget. When she isn’t traveling or writing about it, she spends her days working on her first novel, trying a new cocktail bar, or exploring the Keys on her bike. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and twitter.
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Such cute little houses!!
I think I’m in love with that gorgeous pink house! Lovely piece showing all of Key West’s hidden gems xx
Love this! I’m moving to South Florida later this month and the Keys are definitely where I plan to take my first long weekend trip! This just made me so much more excited.
Awesome, what an exciting move! Florida is so beautiful!