Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2018, which included this trip to Florida in July. Want to explore Florida with me? Be sure to nab one of the last few spots to our Wander Women Key Largo: A Sustainability Dive + Yoga Retreat rescheduled for July 15-18, 2021.
I’ve been dreaming of going to Key West for years, so I knew just a few days for my friend Ashlee’s mermaid themed bachelorette party wasn’t going to be enough. When my fellow mermaids left shore for home, I swam up to a new home for the next few days of adventure: The Gates Hotel.
I already left high praise for this hotel and all the fun I got up to while I was there in my Wanderland Dive Guide to the Florida Keys overview post — but needless to say, it all deserves a deeper dive (will that joke ever get old?)
Key West is known for many things — accommodation that is both stylish and modern and affordable is not one of them. But The Gates Hotel is an exception. Rooms start at just $165 a night, a veritable bargain in one of the US’s most popular tropical destinations.
The hotel is bright and modern, and I swooned when I walked in and found an assortment of Grey Malin coffee table books spread around the lobby.
I was quickly shown to my room, a spacious suite done up in a chic take on nautical, with plenty of room to spread out and really make yourself right at home. The Gates is in the converted motel style that’s so popular these days, with mine opening right out into the pool area.
The pool was huge, and a nice perk since Key West is not a huge beach destination, contrary to popular belief! While there are certainly some great ones worth seeking out, I wasn’t complaining about having a big blue pool to submerge in right at my doorstep.
Part of what makes The Gates so reasonably priced is also a nice perk, in some ways — it’s a bit out of the hustle and bustle of Duval Street. But it makes the hotel into a bit of an oasis, and getting into downtown is as easy as hopping on one of the complimentary push bikes or taking one of the regular shuttles to Mallory Square and back.
Plus, there’s ample parking — a rarity in Key West and nice if you’re arriving by car or planning to make day trips around the other Keys.
And you won’t have to go far to find great eats. At the onsite Blind Pig food truck, you can nab breakfast, lunch or dinner — and with a pun-filled menu that includes breakfast tacos, cuban egg presses and grilled pear and goat cheese sandwiches and a chocolate dipped key lime pie stick for dessert, you really can’t go wrong.
And at Rum Row, the onsite poolside bar and restaurant, I fueled up on The Mermaid Salad — summer greens, mandarin oranges, avocado, dried cranberries, candied pecans and raspberry vinaigrette — and, of course, a cocktail.
And I only sampled a few of the onsite offerings — “Rooster Row,” as its known, is the collection of four hotels that The Gates is a part of, and includes four pools, six bars, three restaurants, and a Starbucks. No going hungry here.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better value — and overall set of amenities packaged up in such a stylish way — in all of Key West!
I was at The Gates primarily to get a taste of Florida’s Wreck Trek, nine shipwrecks stretching from Key West to Key Largo. Many divers seek to catch ’em all — logging them in a souvenir ‘Official Florida Keys Wreck Trek’ dive logbook, and earning a complimentary collage print when booking a wreck dive charter with participating dive operators.
I set off with PADI five star dive center Captain’s Corner for a two-tank dive of the Wreck of the Vanderberg. Read all about it in my Wanderland Dive Guide to the Florida Keys! Captain’s Corner dives Key West wrecks every morning and reefs every afternoon. Trips start at $65, and go up to $115 with full rental gear.
But that wasn’t my only aquatic adventure. Right across the bridge from The Gates on Stock Island, I found myself at a SUP yoga class with Lazy Dog Yoga. Florida’s mangroves are one of the most beautiful natural features of the state, and we paddled through them, eventually stopping and dropping our board anchors for a fantastic vinyasa practice led by our lovely instructor Kayla.
The classes are two hours to allow for time to paddle out and back and have an entire full hour yoga class on the board. SUP yoga, Paddle Fit classes and SUP and kayaking tours are offered throughout the week, with this class in particular priced at a very reasonable $30.
However, my favorite activity and memory from my time at The Gates was a simple and spontaneous one — taking out one of the complimentary push bikes and doing a full lap around the fourteen mile circumference of the island, taking in gorgeous views of sunset along the way.
I have to admit, even after five nights in Key West, I felt I was leaving with only the briefest taste of this quirky and unique destination. However, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of each other yet.
Key West, I’ll be back. Till then, stay weird and beautiful.
Next stop, Islamorada! Readers, have you been to Key West?
I was hosted by The Gates Hotel in order to write the Wanderland Guide to the Florida Keys in partnership with PADI. All activities in this post were hosted. As always, you receive my original thoughts and honest opinions no matter what.