by Stephen Jermanok
By car, there’s only one way to the Florida Keys: a drive on Overseas Highway. Make the cruise from Key Largo to Key West and you’ll be treated to glorious water vistas from both sides of the numerous bridges. The ride easily seduces, and you might find it hard to get off the road in the Lower and Middle Keys, thinking there’s not really much here. That would be a big mistake. There are many gems along this stretch of road. You just have to know where to turn off. This is certainly true of Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort in Marathon, a little more than halfway up Overseas Highway at Mile Marker 48.
Park the car in the driveway and stroll the grounds. Two-story white beach houses with requisite white picket fences and small lawns sit under tall palms. Inside that duplex is a full kitchen, large living room, outdoor patio and two bedrooms with a master suite and kid’s room. This resort was built with the family in mind. Yet, there’s so much more, including a large swimming pool, a long stretch of beach — housing the perfect bar for watching the sunset and a watersports area where you can rent any water toy imaginable and Butterfly CafÃ©, and voted the number one restaurant in the region by TripAdvisor contributors. If you booked this resort for your family on the Keys, know that you chose well.
Our Editor Loves
- Spacious, two-story beach houses
- Variety of water sports
- Sunsets on the beach
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
We stayed in one of the two-bedroom beach houses, where natural light pours into the rooms and onto the sky blue- and peach-colored walls, and watercolors of seascapes only enhance the beach house dÃ©cor. Enter the duplex and on the first floor, you'll find a full kitchen, complete with a full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, cupboards full of dishes, a coffee maker and microwave. Walk past the kitchen table and half-bathroom and you'll enter a living room with a large flat-screen TV and large sofa. Beyond the living room is an outdoor patio, shaded by the swaying palms, with views of the swimming pool and beach. Upstairs, you'll find the master suite, featuring a private balcony, full bathroom with a bath and shower, a decent-sized closet and drawers. Down the hallway is a second bathroom with a shower and tub for the children, and the children's bedroom, with two twin beds and a third television. Rollaway beds and cribs are available.
A three-bedroom beach house is also available. The configuration is the same as the two-bedroom beach house, with an additional bedroom that features a queen-sized bed.
Unveiled in late 2013 are 16 single-level guestrooms. More affordable than the beach houses, the rooms feature two queen beds, a mini-fridge, a coffee maker, a bathroom and a flat-screen TV. The 16 rooms surround a new swimming pool.
The accommodations were nice. The front desk people were very friendly and nice. The premises are well kempt. Rooms could have been a little cleaner. The Tiki Bar has a nice location, but the prices are ridiculously expensive.
Only issue was no frying pan, but staff quickly brought us one. Very peaceful and relaxing vacation. We stayed in unit 5, 3 bedroom beachfront house. JP and Steve at the Tiki Bar always made us feel very welcome.
Children ages 5 to 15 can be dropped off at the pool morning or afternoon for Keys Kids' Adventure Camp. The half-day of adventure focuses on snorkeling for the younger kids and scuba diving for the older children. Once they learn the sport, you can schedule a trip from the watersports center for the whole family to snorkel on America's only living reef.
The gradually sloping zero-entry pool, the largest in the Keys, is ideally suited for kids. There is no lifeguard on duty, so supervision of younger children is required. Other activities found at the watersports center include the rental of single and double ocean kayaks, paddleboards, jet skies and fishing boats. Tranquility Bay resides on the much calmer bay side, ideally suited for all these endeavors. The resort also offers yoga on the beach and the increasingly popular trend of partaking in a yoga class atop a paddleboard.
With a long stretch of beach, an oversized swimming pool, watersports and restaurants on property, it might be hard to tear yourself away. But realize that one of the best sites on the Florida Keys is right next door to Tranquility Bay, the Turtle Hospital. At any given time, more than 30 large green, hawksbill, loggerhead and Kemp's Ridley turtles are found within the confines of the facility, a former motel and saltwater pool. The sea turtles are on the mend from boating and fishing accidents. Once healthy, the turtles are released back into the water.
The Keys are known as one of the top locales to go sport fishing. Half-day or full-day fishing charters can easily be arranged if you want to try your hand at angling. Head to the ocean waters to catch swordfish, sailfish, marlin tuna and mahi mahi. Or stay on the bay side, otherwise known as the backcountry, to find the silvery fins of the tarpon.
The beachside cafÃ©, TJ's Tiki Bar, is open daily for lunch and drinks, beginning at 11 a.m. and closing after sunset. Expect to find grilled fish sandwiches, salads, hamburgers, hot dogs and curly fries. Butterfly CafÃ©, located just inside the Main Lobby, offers both indoor and outdoor seating on the wraparound deck. Start with the Butterfly Salad, which includes mixed greens topped with blue cheese, spiced pecans, caramelized onions and mango balsamic vinaigrette. Then opt for the coconut shrimp with apricot dipping sauce or the tender panko crusted grouper. Finish with the award winning key lime pie, made with a chocolate wafer crust. A children's menu includes pizzas, macaroni and cheese, and grilled cheese, and most of the items are available for carryout if you prefer to dine at the kitchen table in your beach house.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Tranquility Bay is a smoke-free property. No smoking is allowed indoors or outdoors. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the resort. The service is excellent, especially the bartenders at the TJ's Tiki Bar, who are a wealth of information on the area.
The Art of Smart Timing
If you're looking for guaranteed warmth during the winter months, February and March are your best bet, but expect Overseas Highway to be crowded with northerners and Europeans on vacation. December and April, the shoulder season months, are a wonderful alternative if you can get away. Roads and restaurants are far less congested. Summer is by far the most affordable time to visit, but be wary of tropical storms and the possibility of a hurricane.
Tranquility Bay is located off Mile Marker 48.5 on the Overseas Highway in Marathon. The resort is approximately 2 hours, 25 minutes from the Miami International Airport, one hour from the airport in Key West.
For Mom and Dad
Tranquility Bay will find a babysitter (most likely, an employee) to come to your beach house, if you need a break. Take advantage of this opportunity to sample the spa services, like a beachside massage. Choices include the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage, a deep tissue massage that also focuses on breath. Also available is a Sacred Stone Massage or a couples massage.