Each year, media conglomerate Condé Nast puts together a list of the best hotels, restaurants and resorts from around the world. The Moorings Village on Upper Matecumbe Key has been named among those top-notch businesses for the most recent, 2022 list.
The resort earned a glowing review from Condé Nast Traveler’s editors.
“There’s an odd feeling of calmness that can overcome a guest at The Moorings Village — though it’s located on an 18-acre stretch of waterfront land, there are only 19 private villas, which truly makes it feel like you’ve got the place to yourself,” wrote travel writer Jennifer M. Wood, who reviewed the resort for the magazine.
The resort contains 19 villas and cottages of varying shapes and sizes. Wood emphasized a guest’s ability to find solitude and privacy while staying in the Maroni Villa, which measures about 1,000 square feet. She praised everything from the large, king-size bed to the staff’s prompt room cleaning and the strong wi-fi connection.
The resort was also given a reader’s choice award by the magazine in 2017, ’18 and ’19. Located on the ocean side of the island, the resort is tucked in an area with a number of other luxury destinations including the Islander Resort and Cheeca Lodge and Spa.
A resort representative said all the cottages are unique, open-air structures with full kitchens. There’s no room service available, but since they are located in the heart of Islamorada, there’s fresh fish within walking distance.
The Moorings Village is also one of the most exclusive and expensive resorts around. Prices for a stay range between $680 to $5,000 a night and staff recommend reserving six to eight months in advance. A representative said there is some availability in the next few months, but not much, since the resort is small. The property also features a private beach and boat dock.
The resort has long been owned by South Florida real estate mogul Hubert Baudoin. He came into ownership of the property in late 1987, according to files with the Florida Division of Corporations. A resort representative said when he acquired the business, he wanted to build around the existing landscape, “enhancing the nature that was already provided and keep that natural feel.”
One of the resort’s structures served as a set for the filming of the Netflix series “Bloodline,” which takes place in Islamorada and was shot on location. This created some headaches for the resort, Baudoin said, since so many fans of the show began turning up to take pictures that it began to encroach on his guest’s privacy.
Baudoin grew up in the Ivory Coast nation of West Africa and went to college in Texas. He first came to the Florida Keys in the 1980s for the pristine windsurfing conditions. Moorings fell into his possession through serendipity, he said. A writer had inherited the property, which at the time was only four somewhat rustic cottages by the water, and was looking to sell. Baudoin said when he first bought the property, the cottages were populated with furniture that you might find in a college dorm room, which didn’t seem to bother the windsurfers, but wasn’t fitting for a quaint island hotel. He described it as “kitschy” and “not very Keys-y.” He slowly began to shape the resort into what it is today.
Part of the ability to do that was a boom in fashion photography at the time when Baudoin was starting to renovate. He said Islamorada has “a unique light that is very prized by photographers,” which led to many crews wanting to come and use The Moorings as a backdrop. These days, he’s cut down on the number of photos crews allowed on the property at one time, to make sure the guests are not inconvenienced. But the financial boost from the photography allowed him to build more cottages, he said.
In 2020, Baudoin sold both Morada Bay Café and Pierre’s restaurant to the nearby Cheeca Lodge. After Hurricane Irma “really destroyed the whole resort,” he decided to scale back. He said this creates a buffer between Moorings and the bulk of Cheeca Lodge.
Baudoin has a history of purchasing once-rustic properties in the Keys and turning them into luxurious destinations. A spokesperson told the Free Press in August 2000 that the property that is now Morada Bay was previously used as a trailer park and car dump. Baudoin said Pierre’s was a defunct body shop that was “a bit of an eyesore.”
He said the accolade from Condé Nast was a big deal for them, and one that Moorings could probably only win when the editors are picking winners.
“Most places do a reader poll and there’s no way that a small place with seven houses can compete with a place with 2,000 guests,” he said.