Key West’s small downtown is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, perhaps best characterized by The Marker, a new hotel opening in early 2015 that straddles the line between iconic and forward-thinking.
The wrapping is classic Key West—lofty ceilings, expansive porches, an abundance of white—as are the paneled wood walls and glazed windows. Located right on the edge of the marina, The Marker also draws inspiration from the historic harbor. The lobby was imagined as a contemporary take on the 19th-century homes of Key West’s wealthy merchant sailors (the island was once one of the wealthiest in the U.S.), and accented with mahogany chairs and traditional cane sofas from the West Indies. Creative Director Ann Johnston continued the sea-faring theme in each of the 96 rooms, complete with wave-patterned rugs, and in many, soaking tubs and waterfront views.
The modern touches? A cut-out take on a grandfather clock in the lobby, sculptures from local artist John Martini that highlight the Keys’ fragile ecosystem, and a Cal-Mex restaurant that’s more recent CIA grad than retiree. Oh, yes, and the complimentary WiFi.
For those who love to ditch the car, The Marker makes it easy to stick to two legs. Old Town and all its pleasures is just a short walk away, as is the marina and its wealth of activities, from parasailing to stand-up paddle boarding.
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The Marker rests in the historic waterfront district (read: it’s in a slightly more quiet part of town), but Old Town, that kooky mix of bar crawlers and history, is just minutes away. There’s no shortage of places to eat, from the Schooner Wharf Bar (oysters and bubbly near the harbor) to a Caribbean restaurant owned by actress Kelly McGillis to Blue Heaven (home of the island’s best key lime pie). Use The Marker’s sweet illustrated map for a choose-your-own-adventure crawl that starts at the 2¢ Restaurant and Pub (during happy hour, a pair of dice determines the price of your cocktail) and ends at the Lazy Gecko, where most nights last until 4 a.m.
Need to Know
Rooms: 96, from $162. Dining options: Food is simple and straightforward. The open-air Cero Bodega offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all with a West Coast spin on Latin dishes (sweet chili duck nachos, a chicken, goat cheese, and plantain wrap). Craft cocktails, añejo tequilas, and Spanish wines are served at the 32-seat poolside bar. Spa and gym details: There’s no spa, but the fitness center contains all the usual suspects (cardio equipment, weight machines) and you can hop between the three pools—one of which is adults-only.
Who it’s for: Key West diehards, splurgers, wannabe captains Our favorite rooms: We love the marina rooms, most of which have their own private deck overlooking the harbor. At 450-square-feet (and with an equally large deck), the Captain’s Quarter is as expansive and stately as it sounds. Getting around: Stay here and there’s no need to get behind the wheel. Duval Street—the main Old Town drag—is just a few blocks away.