Driving into Key West on Highway 1, gazing out over the bay, I noticed a string of marker buoys in a riot of colors dotting the water. The end of this line of buoys brings us to the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Sigsbee Road to a gem called Ibis Bay Beach Resort.
Pulling into the driveway, I can’t help but smile at the old-school neon sign welcoming us to Key West’s original 1956 beachfront resort. Is Modern Retro an oxymoron? Because that describes Ibis Bay to a tee. Originally known as the Blue Lagoon, little remains of the rundown motel that once stood in its spot. Renovated and re-imagined as a lively, all-encompassing and family friendly resort, it is now groovy, vibrant and downright hip.
It’s impossible to look anywhere on the resort grounds without feasting your eyes. Bright hammocks hang from every pair of trees, inviting you to stop drop and chill at every opportunity. The beach, 600 feet of meticulously maintained white sand, with swimming docks and abundant lounge chairs is picture postcard perfect.
Rooms at the Ibis range from averaged-sized value rooms, perfect for 2 guests, to larger, more spacious accommodations for families. The beds are all dressed with pristine white linens, accented with multi-hued sarongs, which you’re welcome to use while on the property. If you love them as much as I did, they’re available for sale in the gift shop. The rooms are cheerful, spotless and decorated with funky period art, trompe l’oeil and even artifacts from the original hotel. Most rooms even have a sneaky iguana ingeniously painted somewhere in the space, testing your tolerance for the real looking lizards. I never did find the one in my room, but I know he was there!
While the rooms did not have the ubiquitous in-room coffee machines, free coffee (already brewed for you!) is available for all guests in the lobby of the Stoned Crab Restaurant. As one who rarely uses the coffeemaker in my room, I vastly preferred wandering over to the on-site restaurant to grab my java and enjoy the peaceful quiet and morning sunshine. And then I had breakfast there, which was so good I was back for lunch, then I had to round it out with dinner, which was exquisite. Of all the meals we had in the Keys, the Stoned Crab stands in the top 3 for outright deliciousness, service and ambiance. Don’t leave without trying the eponymous crab. It’s to die for.
I couldn’t help but think that I would never be able to tear my kids away from the hammocks but if I did, I know I’d find them staring at the resident tortoises and macaws, perhaps chasing the iguanas or splashing in the large inviting pool.
The pool area also includes a large outdoor movie screen, reminiscent of a drive in; now what is more 50’s than that? I’d be hard pressed to leave the pool, with its comfy lounge chairs and bar service, so they’d know where to find me if my hammock was empty! But do you know what’s not 1950’s? Wi-Fi. Indeed it’s a 21st century must-have for Canadian travellers hoping to avoid a pesky roaming charge surprise when they get home, and Ibis provides free Wi-Fi to hotel guests.
One of my favorite features was the Life is too Short shuttle bus. The vivid yellow bus, with its rooster mascot proudly standing on top, is thoughtful perk, free for guests who want to experience the hustle and bustle of downtown/Old Town Key West, yet have an easy way to get back to the business of chillaxing at Ibis. Standing with a group of guests downtown one night, the cheeky rooster acted as a beacon for us tired tourists who gave a cheer when we saw him come around the corner to sweep us back home.
Another perk is the Ibis Bay Fun Desk where the staff are exceptionally friendly and enthusiastic about the area. Many are locals who know the best of everything in Key West, and they offer recommendations for events or activities, can suggest the perfect restaurant (assuming you’d ever want go anywhere other than the excellent Stoned Crab) or book an excursion for you.
The Bay itself is rather unique, with clear, shallow waters limiting motor boat access which allows the marine ecosystem to develop virtually undisturbed. Kids especially will be entranced as they wait for a glimpse of the octopus that lies under the dock, watch the ibis flock to their island aviary across the bay, or see lobster and crab scuttle. Ibis has kayaks, (including some extremely cool LED-lit kayaks for night paddling), paddleboards and jet skis available for rent, and recently partnered with Divers Direct to provide lessons on swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and even paddleboard yoga.
If you’re looking for a fun, family friendly place to stay in Key West, with exceptional attention to detail, a vintage vibe and friendly staff, the Ibis Bay is for you! And because it’s not too late to book an escape for spring break, perhaps one of these package deals will tempt you!
Planning a holiday to the fabulous Florida Keys? For more information on accommodations, things to do, maps and attractions, check out www.fla-keys.com