By Valerie Fraser Luesse
florida keys resort tranquility bay
This idyllic Florida resort has a heart—it took great care of first responders, and it will take great care of you.
| Credit: Courtesy of Tranquility Bay Beachfront Hotel & Resort

My husband and I stumbled onto Tranquility Bay Beachfront Hotel & Resort by accident—and what a happy one. We had been driving FOREVER when we finally got to Marathon Key, Florida. And we had arrived in the Florida Keys a day earlier than expected, so the hotel we had booked didn't have any rooms available. They told us we might get lucky at Tranquility Bay resort in Marathon. Exhausted and a tad on the cranky side, we turned off the busy Overseas Highway, pulled into the parking lot, and landed smack dab in hotel heaven.

Y'all. You can't even imagine. It was like one of those commercials, where the family arrives for vacation, bleary-eyed from travel, and one glimpse of the hotel room sends the whole crew into a state of euphoria.

White beach houses and hotel accommodations, which nod to the Conch-style architecture of old-town Key West, are tucked into a tropical landscape with winding pathways, serene pools, and "staff cats." These strays, lovingly adopted by the resort, meander the property, mingle with guests, and cozy up to any kids in need of a four-pawed friend to pet during their vacation.

The resort took a severe hit from Hurricane Irma in September 2017. (FYI, the cats were carefully sheltered and attended to. They're back on the job. We checked.) Tranquility Bay general manager Bob Bauersachs somehow made it back to the Keys when there were almost no people there—also no electricity, internet, or reliable cell service. Soon, a group of first responders—fresh from helping victims of Hurricane Harvey—asked if they could stay at the resort, which showed 110 emergency guests as much hospitality as it could, free of charge, while basic services were restored and roads reopened.

"I got into the hospitality business because I enjoy helping people," said Bauersachs. "But I'm doing that under the best of circumstances. These first responders are helping people in disaster situations, and they dedicate their whole lives to helping communities recover. I'll probably never see them again, but it was incredible to spend that time with them before they had to move on to help somebody else. I wouldn't take anything for that experience."

Grateful for Tranquility Bay's hospitality, some of the first responders helped Bauersachs get the equipment he needed to clear debris and start preparing to reopen. "I'm so thankful for their help—and for our staff," he said. "It took an incredible around-the-clock effort by employees on a mission: We sincerely wanted to open for our hundreds of returning holiday guests and didn't want to let them down. Plus, we couldn't wait to see them again." (The image of the resort was taken after the hurricane.)

Now the resort is welcoming visitors back to enjoy all its lovely Gulf-side amenities—three pools, a Tiki Bar, the Butterfly Café, private beach, and onsite watercraft rentals and activities. Oh, and iguanas. They have iguanas, too.

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