Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Review 537: Conch Key Cottages, The Coquina
cottages in the Keys, Florida
April 12-19, 2003, 1 week
Conch Key Cottages are on a tiny island just north of Duck Key. The resort is Oceanside at mile marker 62.3. We drove from Miami (about 2 hours south).
You must drive to Marathon for a decent selection of grocery stores (15 minute drive south). The village of Duck Key and the Hawk Key resort have a few deli-style options available, but we didn't try any. There are some great places to buy fresh seafood to prepare at home, or to grab a quick, affordable bite out. I recommend Keys Fisheries for fresh seafood - we bought stone crab claws there twice - and Marathon Liquor and Deli reportedly has a great selection. We bought bakery items from Marathon Bakery and a fabulous key lime pie from the Bonde Giraffe - all within 15-20 minute drive from the cottage. There's a well-stocked Publix market in Marathon with good prices on fresh seafood.
Key West is appx 1 1/2 hours south of Conch Key Cottages.
This small resort features cottages built in the 40's or 50's in the old "conch" style: tin roofs, gingerbread trim, tropical colors. My 15 year-old daugher thought the style was very cool! Our cottage was paneled floor-to-ceiling in Dade county pine. We found the unit to be in good shape. There is central air, ceiling fans in every room and cable tv's in the living room and 1 bedroom.
The houses do not have phones, though there is a pay phone outside the office, as well as a separate building with coin-operated washers and dryers.
There is a semi-private (fenced on 3 sides) yard with deck, dining table, grill and spa. One end of the yard is "fenced" with tropical vegetation. There is a heated pool within the complex, though it is small and very popular with the families of young children. I did not try the pool.
The grounds of the resort really are nice. I noticed several coconut palms and banana trees (complete with fruit) as well as frangipani (a fragrant flower) and many others I don't know the names of.
The furniture, though a tad worn, was certainly acceptable and in keeping with a beach house feel: rattan, wichcker, glass topped tables. The kitchen and living room both featured glass-topped dining tables and ample seating for our family of four.
The cottage was clean, though there was a slight sugar-ant problem. Bugs in the keys are a fact of life!
The king-sized beds were quite comfortable, though I am spoiled by sleeping on all cotton sheets and the cotton-poly ones at Conch Key were not the greatest. But it's the beach, right?
We loved the bathroom - small but really charming as it too was paneled (walls, floors and ceiling) in dade county pine. There is only a shower, and it is small, but neatly and completely tiled.
The kitchen was certainly functional, though I thought the web sites description of "gourmet" was incorrect. There is a full-sized refrigerator, a gas range, dishwasher, microwave, toaster and the electric blender for those pina coladas!
We found all the implements we needed to make simple meals. The resort has an ice machine that is free to guests, so there is ample ice for beverages or to load up the ice chest for a day on the boat.
Problems or Bonuses
The spa worked, but it had a slow leak which required us to refill each day if we wanted to use the spa. Feeling a bit guilty about the excess use of precious water, we scaled back on that.
We found the snorkeling right from the resort to be surprisingly good. Though there are not beautiful coral formations, we saw plenty of marine life, from barracudas and spotted rays to moray eels and spiney lobsters!
Each unit gets free use of a kayak for the stay, and we used ours often. The manager arranged for a second kayak for us at no extra charge.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The folks who run Conch Key are laid back but helpful. I have no complaints.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I actually would stay here again. This is NOT a luxury resort and reviews I read on the internet about Conch Key showed people either love it or hate it here. I loved it! You have to like a laid back, relaxed atmosphere. The term "resort" is a bit misleading - Conch Key Cottages is no resort.
Things to do in this area
The keys are one of our favorite places to visit. We hired a fishing guide one day and went on two snorkeling trips: one to Looe Key Reef from Bahia Honda State Park, and another to the Dry Tortugas from Key West. Other days were spent kayaking and snorkeling off the dock.
Don't go to the keys if you want to lay around on the beach and be served drinks. The beaches here are mostly imported, with the exception of Bahia Honda, which has a beautiful albeit narrow beach. If you like to fish, snorkel and relax in a chickee (a hut) gazing out over turquoise water, you will love the keys.
If you're there between October and May, you must try stone crab claws. Lobster season runs in the summer. Fishing is GREAT.
Key West is it's own world with a large gay population living side-by-side with Boca Chica Naval Air Station. Sunsets are famous, as is the daily sunset celebration. There are several good restaurants in Key West from low-key to pricey. Make sure to try B.O.'s Fish Wagon for a great fried or grilled fish sandwich.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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