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Florida’s Key West

Film, fishing, and frivolity.

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There’s plenty to swoon over in Florida’s Key West, not least of which was the recent Humphrey Bogart Film Festival in the Florida Keys. The festival marked the 66th anniversary of the release of Key Largo, which starred Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall.

The weekend of lectures, panels, and waterfront screenings under the stars attracted both film connoisseurs and Hollywood ingénues. At last year’s Bogart Ball, the dashing Jack Huston connected with gala goers as he received honours at the inaugural festival. The Boardwalk Empire star is the grandson of screen legend John Huston, who cast Bogart in his directorial debut, The Maltese Falcon, and went on to establish a celebrated creative partnership with the leading man. The pair would go on to collaborate on classics including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, and The African Queen. With its continued family ties, this is the kind of festival that gives classic movie lovers a rare glimpse into a bygone age, and in a social setting so intimate it actually feels like a family gathering. For film buffs, this is one to add to the calendar next year.

A prime spot to stay during the festival is Kona Kai Resort, close to all the major venues. It’s also an idyllic getaway year-round—horticulture enthusiasts will marvel at the saturation of fuchsia bougainvilleas and guava trees, along with a botanical garden of rare species and an orchid house with more than 225 plants. This adult hideaway offers relaxed one- and two-bedroom cottages decked out with fresh tropical touches and original local art. At the hotel’s beach, plenty of hammocks abound, circling a pool and hot tub made for watching those infamous Keys sunsets.

You can get up to a lot in the Florida Keys in a single weekend. Spend some time swashbuckling swordfish in Islamorada. Fisherman Richard Stanczyk, owner of the Bud N’ Mary’s Marina since 1978, welcomes newcomers and experts alike into the local culture of sport-fishing. The Marina is home to over 40 of the finest offshore captains and backcountry guides found anywhere in the world, many renowned tournament winners among them. In fact, multiple world records for both spin and fly tackle have been set here.

What makes Bud N’ Mary’s such a draw too, is Stanczyk’s game-changing discovery of a large body of broadbill swordfish off the coast of Islamorada in 2002. Prior to the find, few had ever been caught, and typically were only ever caught at night, leaving anglers in the dark, literally. Now, Islamorada is a top destination for this species and Stanczyk and his team of mavericks have engineered the art of catching swordfish in the daylight.

Islamorada is situated between three distinct bodies of water—Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean—and is in close proximity to the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef and the Everglades. There’s a variety of species to catch, sometimes up to 50 in one season; you won’t find this kind of range in many places on the planet, if at all.

To cap off a Florida Keys itinerary, check into Little Palm Island Resort & Spa for some do-nothing-at-all downtime in the outdoors, minus the mud and the mosquitoes. Nestled between the Florida mainland and Key West, just past the Seven-Mile Bridge, the resort features an intimate grouping of just 30 oceanfront thatched-roof villas, a seaside colony for the soul, situated on its own five-acre island three miles offshore from Little Torch Key. With such Swiss Family Robinson-style villas and all the driftwood and bamboo around, one feels as though they’ve been shipwrecked on an unchartered island settled by crafty Rhode Island School of Design graduates.

The only knee-high budging you may get is from the wild Key deer that swim onto the island at dinner time. Timid and curious, the fawns’ presence is endearing, rather than a nuisance. The site is one in a million—palm fringed tropical vistas, creamy sand beaches, and serene azure waters, like something out of a classic film.


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May 24, 2014