Dog Days at Ocean’s Edge

What’s it Like to Bring Your Dog to Key West? First, Pick a Canine-Friendly Resort. Then Go There Off Season

September 2019

If you are like most travelers to Key West, the idea of bringing your dog seems problematic. After all, the Keys are all about letting go of things like responsibility. On the other hand, if you are a dog lover, you miss your little buddy, and the guilt from leaving him (or her) behind can be haunting.

Fortunately, there are places like Ocean’s Edge, a dog-friendly resort on the edge of both the Atlantic and Key West. It faces south on Stock Island, the last major island before Key West.

Stock Island is an authentic marine community where people still make their living from the ocean. Whereas Key West is gentrified, Stock Island is still real and raw. This makes Ocean’s Edge even more surprising, anchoring as it does a long bumpy road (currently being resurfaced) that goes past working marinas, local hangouts, even a trailer park. Ocean’s Edge, contrariwise, is a handsome, lushly landscaped compound that wraps around a pleasure-craft marina, its buildings fashioned in Key West vernacular: white clapboard walls, tin roofs, balconies, wooden railings, and white picket fences.

As lovely as the architecture and views are, however, we booked because Ocean’s Edge is dog-friendly, which means your dog can stay in your room, and they have a dog park and a series of strategically placed “Dogitpot” receptacles with disposal bag dispensers. Plus, your dog gets a packet of dog biscuits on arrival.

The beauty of Ocean’s Edge is that it’s just off the beaten path – you can be in festive Key West in less than 10 minutes while staying in a peaceful, calm place. The resort is laid out in two wings with pool decks that form an L around the marina. It has just enough bustle in the marina and the pools below the three-stories of rooms to keep you entertained, but not enough to annoy. Because much of the clientele comes from Europe (we ran into people from France, Spain, and Ireland), the families are a little more subdued than typical U.S. broods.

One of the six pools nestled between the resort rooms and the marina

The views are to the south over the Florida Straits toward Cuba, or to the west over an inlet to a tanker farm on another part of this working island; sunset over tanks and containers has more romantic appeal than you’d think, and feels authentic. As do the roosters that live in the underbrush of Ocean Edge’s heavy landscaping. You can walk your dog along the marina’s teak deck or around the buildings to the dog park, or outside the compound’s gate to a nearby industrial marina. Or you can do as we did, which is to drive your dog to Old Key West.

Every room has oceanfront views and waterfront porches

Key West, by the way, is not really a dog town. This is cat country. Its most celebrated house is that of Ernest Hemingway, where scores of the descendants from his six-toed cats live. Key West cats, in general, are fierce felines. Having said that, Key West is so innately laid back that most anything is accepted, dogs included. We had no problem finding places to eat where dogs are welcome; it just had to have outdoor seating, where a dog can curl up under the table.

September and October are the Dog Days of the South Florida summer, some of the slowest months in the Keys. It means prices are down, sometimes half off. It also means it’s easier to find a parking space in the residential areas of Old Town, a few blocks from restaurants and bars. And the walk itself, with pooch on a leash, is why you came here in the first place.

Our first night we went to Hog Fish Grill, right on Stock Island, a local place with good seafood and live music. They let us sit with our dog outside on the water (they are next to a dock). A very pleasant evening, even when a fearless Keys cat strolled past along a catwalk (yes). The next day we ate in downtown Key West at a haunt called Bo’s Food Truck, which it once was – before extending its footprint with makeshift tin roofs. It’s a mostly open place, with rough wood benches and license plates nailed to the wall, serving only fish. A great lunch until our beast lunged at one of the roosters living next to Bo’s.

Hog Fish Grill offers casual island cooking

We made numerous forays into Key West with our canine, partly because the resort does not want you to leave your dog alone in your room. We solved this by taking a two-bedroom suite (surprisingly inexpensive off season) and bringing a third adult along. One could stay behind while the other two went off bike riding or kayaking. But the real fun was spending time traveling with our best friend, the dog.