The Florida Keys continue to unveil new eco-friendly resorts, attractions and tours incorporating initiatives that can motivate visitors to connect with and take action to protect the sub-tropical island chain’s environment, both underwater and on land.
Grassy Key: The oceanfront all-suite Grassy Flats Resort & Beach Club is due to open in early April with 15 units on Grassy Key in the Middle Keys. With units featuring private verandas and full kitchens, and guest facilities including a Tiki bar and two pools, the property expects to be fully open with 33 total one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom suites by summer 2020. The eco-friendly property promotes sustainability through several initiatives: a ban on single-use plastics, use of plant-based cleaning products, water catchment and cistern for landscape irrigation using reclaimed storm water and a five-year solar investment to offset resort consumption. It also added 1,500 square feet to a turtle-friendly nesting and beach restoration area. Housekeeping, landscaping and building practices are dedicated to sustainability.
Islamorada: The 25-acre oceanfront, 114-room Islander Resort has been completely refurbished and has now re-opened as a greenhotels.com member. New facilities and offerings include renovated cottage-style units, a family splash pad, the Tides Beachside Bar & Grill, two oceanfront pools, screened-in lanais – and in late April, Elements Lounge & Restaurant is set to launch. Earth-friendly aspects include energy efficient air conditioning systems in guestrooms and suites, energy-saving windows throughout the resort, solar panels on numerous buildings, use of paper and biodegradable containers in restaurants and bars, and water ‘filling stations’ to reduce the use of plastic bottles. The Islander also offers 25 two-story, two-bedroom bayside town homes for a total of 139 units.
Big Pine Key: In the Lower Keys, the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center is scheduled to open by early April. With 1,500 square feet of exhibition space, it showcases the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges: National Key Deer, Great White Heron, Key West and Crocodile Lake. The National Key Deer Refuge, established in 1957 to protect and preserve the diminutive Key deer and other Keys wildlife resources, celebrated its 60th anniversary in December 2017.
Keys Eco Tours
Marathon: In the Middle Keys, the 64-acre Crane Point Museum & Nature Trail offers new guided daily sunset kayak and paddleboard tours by Natural Paths Paddle Adventures. Crane Point has also acquired a light-blue 900-square-foot wooden house dating back to the 1920s and a historic red railroad car that was previously located at Knight’s Key. The area’s rich history includes the George Adderley house, built of tabby concrete incorporating burnt seashells, where Adderley and wife Olivia lived from 1903 until 1949. It also features a butterfly garden, museum, wild bird rehabilitation centre, gift shop and several walking tours.
Key West: Visitors taking a dolphin watch and snorkel tour with Honest Eco Sustainable Nature Tours have a new eco-friendly option: SQUID, Key West’s first electric-powered charter boat. SQUID is a battery-powered hybrid charter boat with electric motors for four-hour dolphin watching and snorkelling tours. The solar-powered boat’s electricity stores can be recharged at shore through solar panels or, when necessary, a diesel generator.
Key West: Until 27 April, the city of Key West is piloting a weekend programme on its iconic Duval Street aimed at encouraging walking, cycling and family-friendly open-air interaction. ‘Mall on Duval’ transforms the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Duval Street into a pedestrian-only promenade from 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Visitors can experience seven live music venues, outdoor seated dining, shopping and browsing at 37 retail stores, 12 specialty shops and 13 galleries.
Key West: Also in Key West, The Green Room eco-bar, billed as a ‘local hub and eco pub,’ is now serving up unique frozen cocktails and full bar drinks ‘executed with environmental sustainability and efficiency.’ Sales of branded merchandise, printed with eco-friendly ink, benefit Keys environmental organisations such as the Turtle Hospital and Reef Relief. The Green Room recycles glass, cardboard, plastic and cigarette butts. Most of the bar is covered in reclaimed wood from a large tropical almond tree that fell in 2014. The Green Room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. and can be found at 501 Greene St.