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Summer 2007 | Key West Travel Guide Part 3

Summer 2007 | Key West Travel Guide Part 3

Authors of Key West (725 White St.; 800-898-6909 or 305-294-7381;; $80-$150) This charming and friendly guesthouse is pretty far from the scene and that's OK with the owners, who wish to cultivate a quiet, mature clientele. Authors has loyal followings both gay and straight, although it has become far more straight in recent years. There is a small but lovely pool area. Each room is named after an author associated with Key West. The Hemingway room even displays one of the legendary author's typewriters. Some rooms (and some very 1950s bathrooms) could use renovation, but this remains a solid, reasonably priced choice within easy bicycling distance from Duval. (Location: North; rooms: 10; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 90% straight; meals: CB/WC)

Coconut Grove (815 Fleming St.; 800-262-6055 or 305-296-5107, fax 350-296-9171;; $99-$245) This resort offers comfortable, clean rooms and very friendly, engaging service. The gardens are beautifully maintained and there is a very nice pool, Jacuzzi and nude rooftop sunning area. Some of the staff has been here for up to 15 years, ensuring consistent service. The resort has cultivated a loyal following, in particular among Europeans. As one of the tallest buildings in the area, Coconut Grove provides great views from the rooftop decks. Bring your binoculars to get a peek at the several clothing-optional inns in the area. Attention workaholics: Rooms are not equipped with phones. The Oasis and Coral Tree Inn purchased the Coconut Grove guesthouse in July 2003, making it the largest male guesthouse on the island. Having been gutted by a fire, Coconut Grove reopened in late 2006 after a $1.5 million renovation that included all new furnishings. As the property was still a building site when we visited, we cannot say whether the resort will merit an upgrade to Four Palm status. (Location: Convenient; rooms: 16; nude sunbathing: yes; sexual temperature: high; clientele: EG/100%M; meals: CB/C)

Curry House (806 Fleming St.; 800-633-7439 or 305-294-6777;; $109-239) Built in the 1880s, this Victorian mansion has been lovingly restored and features period touches such as lots of exposed Dade County pine and charming pitched-ceiling third-floor rooms. Comfortable, shady porches feature white wicker furniture (great for Fleming Street people-watching) and a very inviting hammock. Rooms are attractively furnished and meticulously clean. This charming nine-room house has a free-form, wood-decked pool, which at 7 feet is one of the deepest in Key West. The garden is not lush, but it's well landscaped. One of the best values in town. In April 2003, a straight couple from Minnesota purchased the Curry House and turned the resort into "all welcome." (Location: Convenient; rooms: nine; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 90% straight; meals: FB/C)

Cypress House (601 Caroline St.; 800-525-2488 or 305-294-6969, fax 305-296-1174;; $145-400) Large rooms and a 40-foot lap pool are two of the inviting features of this prettily restored 19th-century Grand Conch mansion. The exposed-wood, two-floor facade is particularly lovely. The deck area around the pool is small and covered in shade at times during the day. For the most part, guests are young (30-50) and professional; kids aren't allowed. The Cypress House took over Anthony House/Ramon Navarro Guest Suites three doors up the street, adding ten Cypress House Studios. The four two-room suites and two bedrooms share all the amenities of the main house, as do the resident cats and dogs. (Location: Gulf; rooms: 22 nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 80% straight; meals: CB/C)

Knowles House (1004 Eaton St.; 800-352-4414 or 305-296-8132, fax 305-296-2093;; $99-$279) Knowles' owners make their guests feel at home with attentive service, scrumptious homemade breakfasts and beautifully decorated and meticulously clean rooms. The pool is tiny but cute and there is a Jacuzzi. The clientele is mostly straight and quiet. Note: This end of Eaton Street can be quite noisy. (Location: North; rooms: eight; nude sunbathing: limited; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 70% straight; meals: ECB)

Lighthouse Court (902 Whitehead St.; 877-294-9588 or 305-294-9588;; $95-$569) Big changes in 2005 for this formerly cruisy all-gay property: Now it's open to everyone, the straight crowd is in the majority and clothing is required. However, Lighthouse Court was the site of the Welcome Party for Womenfest 2006 and is lesbian-popular year-round. All the bathrooms have been completely rebuilt, with new tiles, fixtures, glass-block showers and lots of mirrors, but rooms don't meet the same standards. Rooms are basic, clean and some (in particular, the suites) are quite large, but many resemble dorm-like cubicles. Furniture is minimal and strictly utilitarian. Suite porches feature white wicker furniture. There is a seasonal café, Jacuzzi and gym on premises. Unlike many Key West properties, children are allowed and families are actively welcomed. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 43; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 80% straight; meals: none, but there is a café/bar)

New Orleans House (724 Duval St. (upstairs from the Bourbon Street Pub); 888-293-9893 or 305-293-9800, fax 305-293-9870;; $95-255) New Orleans House has experienced significant improvements since it was taken over by gay management, and more upgrades were planned for 2006 that we haven't seen yet. The guesthouse is located on the gayest block of Duval Street, so if you want to be in the thick of gay nightlife, this is a good option. In-house room service is available from the hotel's restaurant, Magnolia Cafe. The new bar has been completed. The Jacuzzi accommodates 15 men, the waterfall pool is heated, and the poolside bar offers tall frozen daiquiris and margaritas. The pool and garden bar are men only until 6 p.m. daily. Management targets gay upscale visitors. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 10; nude sunbathing: clothing optional on second-level sundeck; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 100% men; meals: CB, two free drink coupons per day)

Alexander Palms Court (715 South St.; 800-858-1943 or 305-296-6413, fax 305-292-3975;; $90-$300) Napping in a sleepy corner of the quiet Atlantic side of the island, this mini-motel-style property offers privacy in a very relaxed setting. The tiny deck area surrounds a small but inviting scallop-shaped pool. The vegetation is pretty but annoyingly overgrown in some walkways and around the pool. The rooms are frumpy but clean and feature standard amenities (TV and phones) but limited bathroom toiletries. The sum of these parts is a 1950s-1960s atmosphere. You half expect to see Lucy and Ethel concocting a zany plot by the pool. Service is very nice and relaxed. The majority of gays (evenly divided male/female) who visit here are couples. (Location: Atlantic; rooms: 12; nude sunbathing: limited; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 70% straight/ 50%/50% gay/lesbian; meals: CB)

Ambrosia House and Ambrosia Too (622 Fleming St.; 800-535-9838 or 305-296-9838;; $139-$379, cottages $349-$549) Ambrosia is a pretty and romantic property. Some of the rooms seem designed for newlyweds, with over-the-top zebra-pattern bedspreads and sexy faux-leopard seat coverings. There is a pool and Jacuzzi in the small but lushly overgrown property. This could be rated three palms; however, questionable service warrants only two. Ambrosia Too across the street is nicer, with two pools, and offers a cute two-bedroom, two-bath cottage great for sharing. (Location: Old Town; rooms: seven; nude sunbathing: limited; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 90% straight; meals: CB)

Atlantic Shores (510 South St.; 305-296-2492 or 800-547-3892, fax 305-294-2753;; $95-$360) Talk of razing Atlantic Shores for a new development continues to swirl, and it could happen as early as summer 2007, but nothing is set in stone. Until then, Atlantic Shores' large motel-style rooms could do with some freshening up, but they are smartly decorated in a postmodern Deco style. Each comes with TV, refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker. Although prices have risen modestly, it's still a stylish choice for the budget-conscious. Warning: All rooms face a courtyard parking lot that seems quite busy even off-season. The inn has an onsite liquor store, a trendy poolside bar and grill that attracts interesting entertainers and a diner (humorously called "Diner Shores") that has become a popular breakfast spot. The oceanfront clothing-optional pool area (with its easy access to the Atlantic) attracts a wide mixture of visitors, both guests and nonguests. Sometimes it's packed with hot men sunning their gym-hardened muscles; at other times it's filled with unappealing-looking men and women (both gay and straight) in a mind-boggling array of sizes and shapes. Management caters to a sort of swinger crowd it calls "adult alternative," comprised of both gay and straight free-thinkers. The Shores hosts a popular poolside T-Dance Sunday evenings, and the Thursday night outdoor movies are a big hit: Drag out a beach chair, order cocktails, sit back and enjoy the show under the stars. (Location: Atlantic; rooms: 73; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: moderate; clientele: 50%-75% gay (mostly gay men but increasing lesbian presence); meals: none; onsite restaurant serves breakfast and lunch.

Chelsea House Pool and Gardens (707 and 709 Truman Ave.; 800-845-8859 or 305-296-2211; fax 305-296-4822;; $99-$359) Located on a busy street (Route 1 -- the main entry point into Key West), the Chelsea House is nonetheless a charming 130-year-old guesthouse. Rooms are clean with contemporary furnishings. The property was taken over by new owners in 2005 and is being renovated, on a room by room basis. Upgrades include new tiles, new bed frames and flat-screen TVs in all rooms. The clientele is largely straight adults. Chelsea is also popular with young couples. Pets are allowed with advance notice for $20 per night per pet. The Chelsea House also incorporates what was the Red Rooster Inn next door. Originally built as a private mansion in 1870, it still feels like a big, gracious home -- albeit one with a clothing optional sundeck. (Location: Convenient; rooms: 33; nude sunbathing: yes; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 75% straight; meals: CB)

Old Town Manor (511 Eaton St.; 800-294-2170 or 305-292-2170; fax 305-292-4018;; $145-305) Three beautifully restored buildings (one, the 1832 William Skelton House, is among the island's oldest) surround a lush tropical oasis complete with a fish pond/fountain and garrulous parrots. Rooms are prettily decorated but can be small. New owners took over in fall 2006 and are sprucing up the place and promoting an "all welcome" environment. Their sister property around the corner, Rose Lane Villas with six condo-style units (, provides guests with access to a pool. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 14; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 75% straight; meals: CB/C)

Tropical Inn (812 Duval St.; 888-611-6510 or 305-294-9977, fax 305-292-1656;; $139-$499) A small property with decent landscaping and a pool, the Tropical Inn caters largely to straight visitors from North America and Europe. The staff is gay-friendly and has welcomed gays in the past but family visits rarely here now. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 11; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 100% straight; meals: ECB)

Avalon (1317 Duval St.; 800-848-1317 or 305-294-8233; fax 305-294-9044;; $89-$289) Restored in a quirky deco style, Avalon provides a clean, simple, inexpensive option to some of the more upscale guesthouses around. Rooms are rather large and furnishings quite comfortable, with big four-poster beds. There is a small pool and a hot tub but disappointing sun decks. The straight management reports fewer gay guests coming here than in years past. The lobby and front porch -- where breakfast is served -- have a real homey feel, adding to the already nice vibe. (Location: Atlantic; rooms: 10; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: ECB)

Garden House (329 Elizabeth St.; 800-695-6453 or 305-296-5368, fax 305-292-1160;; $139-$199) This guesthouse has smallish rooms, an unappealing deck area and tiny pool. It caters to a largely European clientele and allows children 13 and older. Everyone seems to smoke. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 10; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: CB/C)

Heartbreak Hotel (716 Duval St.; 305-296-5558, fax 305-296-5559;; $79-$299) The Web site now touts its location in "the gayest block in Key West" and claims new owners have totally renovated the property, but we haven't visited recently. It had been aptly named. Still no phones and no pool, but rooms do come with fully equipped kitchens and cable TV. Two doors down is the Bourbon Street Pub pool, which is open to everyone. (Location: Old Town; rooms: six; nude sunbathing: n/a; sexual temperature: none; clientele: n/a; meals: none)

Key Lodge Motel (1004 Duval St.; 800-845-8384 or 305-296-9915 or 396-9750;; $69-$289) With decent-size but tired rooms, a pretty big pool and plenty of parking (all rooms have views of the parking lot), this is, yup, a motel all right. Improvements were made to the pool and grounds and the rooms were repainted in April 2002. But we haven't visited since work was completed to verify the owner's prediction that the property would emerge as a "small luxury hotel." (Location: Old Town; rooms: 24; nude sunbathing: none; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 80% straight; meals: CB)

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Christopher Harrity