The Gardens Hotel, in a quiet, residential section in the heart of Key West's historic district, certainly lives up to its name. The former estate of Peggy Mills, whose life was devoted to gardening, the hotel occupies a walled-in quarter of a city block and is a true botanical oasis of tranquility.
From 1930 until her death in 1979, Mrs. Mills cultivated indigenous and imported exotic plants. Her original West Indian plantation-style home and adjacent carriage house and eyebrow cottage have been meticulously restored, and the compound now includes two new, similarly designed buildings. A canopy of hardwoods, palms, and black bamboo envelops the compound.
Brick paths connect the cottages and the shady gardens. Giant tinajones, ancient clay jugs imported from Cuba, accent the edges of walkways; fountains gurgle at strategic points; and a small free-form pool and whirlpool in a central courtyard invite you to settle into one of the chaises. The hotel, which opened in late 1993, offers just 17 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites, each with a view of the gardens.
What we enjoyed most about The Gardens was the sense of serenity it offered amidst the bustle of Key West. Our reception was most personable, and the concierge was extremely helpful with restaurant, shopping, and excursion recommendations. You can enjoy your generous continental breakfast in the Garden Room or al fresco, as we did, on the adjoining verandah. The Gardens is within walking distance of most everything you might like to see and do in Key West, making it an excellent base for enjoying this town.
Rates: Starting at $155 (1998); about $245 (1998) in high season.