Romantic Getaways: Sunset Key, Florida
By Sarah Crosland
Key West, with its busy shopping district and energetic nightlife, has long been a destination for honeymooners. While the twenty-seven-acre island of Sunset Key, only a fifteen-minute ferry ride away, offers easy access to the town’s activities, it also provides a sense of privacy and tranquility you’re unlikely to find on the other side of the water. The secluded island includes charming homes and the seven-acre Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort (cottages from $665 per night, westinsunsetkeycottages.com). This means that you and your new spouse can enjoy interruption-free days luxuriating in your private waterfront, pastel-colored bungalow or relaxing in one of the rocking chairs on the cottages’ wide wrap-around verandas. Although, you’re more likely to want to spend an afternoon swaying in one of the hammocks strung between palms on the island’s white beaches or enjoying something fruity and frozen next to the resort’s pool. Sunset Key’s picturesque setting has long drawn couples for honeymoons and weddings (the resort even recently began allowing couples to buy out the island for their special day). But regardless of whether you’re there to be married or celebrate your new marriage, this tiny island is full of big possibilities for romance.
Hop on Sunset Key’s private ferry and head over to Key West, where the island’s historic district is filled with small streets lined by gorgeous Caribbean-style homes in bright colors and often covered in tropical flowers. The best way to explore these quiet, narrow streets is on two wheels. Rent a Vespa for two and hold on, or enjoy a bit of exercise as you take in the sights on bicycles from Key West Pirate Rentals (piratescooterrentals.com).
For an educational twist on your island tour, stop in at the home where Ernest Hemingway (hemingwayhome.com) lived during his time in the Keys. There are references to the famous author throughout the island (most of them having something to do with where he ate and drank), but his former residence provides the most historically accurate version of his time in the Keys. Lush gardens surrounding a grand home full of intricate treasures left by Hemingway makes this an enjoyable spot to explore.
Just down the street from Hemingway’s house you’ll find the colorful marker for the Southernmost Point of the United States (southernmostpointusa.com). Yes, it’s a little cheesy. And yes, during the busy months you’ll likely have to wait in line to have your photo taken with the marker. But if you’re looking for a fun photo op—and gorgeous ocean views—this is a good stop on your ride.
While Sunset Key offers plenty of private beach access, for a real taste of Key West’s local beach scene, head to Salute! On the Beach (saluteonthebeach.com), a casual Caribbean-influenced restaurant facing Higgs Beach on the southeast portion of the island. It’s a friendly spot for a light lunch with tasty seafood options like a shrimp salad with basil, red pepper, onions, and capers or a chilled gazpacho soup. Locals and tourists alike pull up seats on the restaurant’s casual patio with its views of the always-busy beach.
After a day of adventure on Key West, nothing will feel as decadent or as soothing for sore muscles as a trip to Sunset Key’s Spa (westinsunsetkeycottages.com/spa). Schedule an aromatherapy couple’s massage and unwind together as fragrant essential oils are expertly massaged into your skin. After the treatment in a private suite, slip over to the secluded patio together to sip chilled fruit-infused water and continue to relax. Or, for the ultimate in relaxation—and possibly the best way to watch the sunset—schedule the Sunset Romance Package, which includes two eighty-minute massages followed by dinner and champagne, all in your own private beachside cabana.
Latitudes restaurant offers famous sunset views. Cool off in Sunset Key’s luxe pool.
Sunset Key’s restaurant, Latitudes (westinsunsetkeycottages.com/latitudes), is so popular that the island’s ferry fills up in the evenings with dinner guests arriving from Key West to catch the famed sunset over cocktails. While the view may steal your attention, the food is noteworthy as well. Fresh seafood is the menu’s focus, with items like a perfectly seared yellow fin tuna topped with a spicy sweet mango aioli, or light and citrusy pan-roasted salmon served in a blood orange beurre blanc. Tiki torches and candles light the dining area as the night goes on, so you’ll want to enjoy the romantic atmosphere and linger over one of the rich, house-made desserts late into the evening.
While it’s tempting to stay on Sunset Key, where each cottage includes its own kitchen and Latitude’s tasty menu offers enough variety for multiple trips, plan to spend at least one sunset in the famous Mallory Square (mallorysquare.com). Each night, this waterfront square fills with people to watch—and celebrate—the sunset. Vendors offer a full selection of beer, wine, or cocktails as well as snacks, while street performers entertain crowds between sunset views.
The serene quiet of Sunset Key juxtaposes nicely with the bustling chaos of Duval Street (duvalstreet.net). Known for its late-night bar scene and rowdy crowds, this historic street in the heart of Key West is worth a visit—for its people-watching potential, if nothing else. Its carnival-like atmosphere means that on any night you’re likely to find patios spilling over with parties and busy tourist shops open late. Stop in some of the street’s famous bars, such as Sloppy Joe’s (sloppyjoes.com) for a drink or to catch live music many nights.