Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort

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“Our all-cottage accommodations with multiple bedroom and private bathroom configurations provide great flexibility…. A family could book a 2- or 3-bedroom cottage and everyone would have ample space, and the 4-bedroom cottages are ideal for multi-generational families or families traveling with a nanny.”

The resort as a whole, too, is dreamy, with lush tropical vegetation that, Schmidt says, “…is designed to create beautiful barriers of sorts.” The most charming part of the resort is the feeling of seclusion that permeates throughout, even when you go to the designated beach area, the low-key, zero-entry pool, the oceanfront, award-winning restaurant—it’s always a feeling that you are completely isolated, in a good way, from the rest of the world. In fact, because there are no cars (only service golf carts) and the island is in the middle of “nowhere,” parents feel safe with their older kids running around the resort on their own. There’s a feeling that you can leave your door open and nothing will happen.

“I think that is one of the unique advantages of being an island resort, especially an all-cottage island resort,” points out Schmidt. “You can’t help but feel secluded when you are surrounded by water, and having your own expansive living space—not having guests up, down, or across the hall from you, adds to that feeling of seclusion. Even when the resort is full to capacity, we’re still hosting a relatively small number of people.”

Whether or not clients are staying in the 4-bedroom cottage with private pool, a must is hanging at the beach area (let parents know there is no lifeguard on duty), with cushy chairs and cabanas, as well as beachside service should clients want lunch or drinks. And the best part is the lack of people—it’s as if one had their own private beach (and in essence, you do). Of course, clients should also take time out to have breakfast, lunch or dinner at Latitudes, perched on Sunset Key’s sandy shoreline with casual island cuisine, including local fish, fresh produce, a kids’ menu, and sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Another “to do” is an afternoon at the spa (where even the little girls in the family can get a mani/pedi with mom). “Our [petit] spa—opened just last year—is an extremely popular amenity among mothers and daughters…and even fathers and sons,” says Schmidt, adding that other must-do’s include “watersports, of course, which are a primary draw to the Florida Keys. Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayak excursions, jet ski tours are all arranged off our shores, and we are able to launch sportfishing vessels, pleasure boats and sunset sails from our sister property’s marina just across the waterway. There is something for everyone here,” she continues, “whether you want a quiet respite, an active vacation, time with the kids.”

For the adventurous family, suggest they try the 3-hour Fury Water Adventure, which includes parasailing, and a dolphin watch/snorkel trip. The excursion departs from the Key West marina, at Sunset Key’s sister property, The Westin Key West Resort & Marina, where Sunset Key clients will, incidentally, be able to grab the launch that departs every half hour to the island (it departs the island itself every half-hour as well). In fact, guests register and, if need be, park the car at The Westin Key West Resort & Marina.

Rates at Sunset Key Guest Cottages start at $795 per night for a 2-bedroom Gardenview cottage during 2012 high-season and at $645 during 2012 low-season.

family-friendly key west

And while on the mainland, there’s lots to with the kids, including:

  • Key West Aquarium—which opened during the Great Depression and was Key West’s first attraction;
  • Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center—full of native plants and animals of the Keys, both on land and underwater;
  • Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory—home to hundreds of butterflies and exotic colorful birds from around the world;
  • Key West Toy Factory—with hundreds of nostalgic toys, wooden trucks and cars, games, puzzles, books and crafts, plus a magic shop and an Imagineering workshop;
  • Mel Fisher’s Maritime Heritage Museum—one of our favorites (and because of its current exhibit, one kids will relish). Its permanent exhibit features the richest single collection of 17th century maritime and shipwreck antiques in the Western Hemisphere, including treasures and artifacts from the Atocha and Santa Margarita. But the very fun, tongue-in-cheek, “Pirates: Menace & Mayhem” exhibit is a must. It offers up a collection of never-before-seen pirate artifacts recovered from an actual 18th century pirate ship. Through this exhibit, guests will visit a notorious buccaneer pub, hear the saga of Blackbeard’s last fight and even meet swashbuckling female pirates. It’s a delight and will be running through June 2012.

“What I appreciate about these attractions,” says Schmidt, “is that they use amazing interactive exhibits to help educate travelers on how to enjoy the destination’s natural assets responsibly, which I think is especially important when catering to children.”