Buttonwood Bay Club

Located Bayside in Key Largo, the diving capital of the world at mile marker 96. Buttonwood Bay is a 280 unit condominium community on a lush 40-acre tropical hammock that fronts Florida Bay to the West for spectacular sunsets every night. The community was thoughtfully designed to surround a magnificent protected coral rock harbor with boat slips for every unit.

Vacationing seems always to have been the intended answer to a dream. At least that is so throughout my lifetime.  When I was younger and working, a vacation was a reward from my obligations, a chance to fulfill my native persuasions and indulgences, a moment of unrestrained distraction from vanilla reality. Usually a vacation was anticipated with a combination of want and imagination. Even after retirement when we altered our prospective to “wintering” at a vacation spot, where the primary concern was directed more to the ambient temperature than to anything else, it was still a mesmerizing ambition.

For the first time in our winter sojourns of ten years we have contracted to return to the same place next year.  Certainly we have spent more than one year in a specific area (Hilton Head Island and Longboat Key) but this is the first time we’ll be in the identical unit in the same place (Key Largo). It provokes an odd sensation. The domestic recurring quality changes the entire outlook.

Earlier today I wished a family “Bon Voyage!” as they prepare to return home to Indiana tomorrow morning after a two-month sojourn here.  They had intended to stay another month but momentary complications arose which necessitate their return home.  But they informed me today they’re already booked to come back next year and I know already we shall then gleefully reunite.

Meanwhile on the other side of the “hammock” at the island pool I said “Au revoir” to a couple from Missouri who are en route to St. Pete’s north of Sarasota to join friends for another prolonged visit there. They too intend to return here next year but more particularly because their daughter and son-in-law are the proprietors of one of the townhouses at Buttonwood Bay.

Whether one is a renter or an owner, Buttonwood Bay has a familial nature about it.  It may be too that the condominium association has what I believe is a minimum one-month stay requirement of renters which naturally reduces the frequency of casual interlopers; and commensurately affords those who linger longer a more established experience. Certainly in our case it has taken a full three months to adjust to the community sufficiently that we feel a part of it rather than mere intruders.  This has meant building relationships not only with other vacationers but also with local staff (many of whom one sees regularly) and local merchants and personal service technicians. Each thread of acquaintance progressively builds the supporting net that surrounds and maintains the whole.

The downside, if indeed it is one, is that the familiarity which enhances the homelike nature of the environment also taints it with a degree of normalcy.  If one is seeking a vacation resort which promises unending diversity, blending in with the wallpaper is hardly the preferred choice. For our part, at our age, the conversancy with local matters only diminishes the undesirable learning curve. Not having to re-acquaint oneself with the trifling daily details of a place is clearly an advantage.

Many of the inhabitants of Buttonwood Bay have, so I have learned, been here repeatedly, some renters going back as many as 13 years. Those people rejoice in reliving the so-called missed opportunity of purchasing a unit for the paltry sum of US$250,000 compared to current prices in excess of US$850,000 – 1,000,000 or perhaps more. These retrospective real estate quandaries are however nothing but a reminder to me, especially in light of the current atmospheric escalation of condominium fees to cover the latest infrastructure repairs, that domestic real estate investment is nothing but a money pit. We’re quite prepared to assume the fugacious indignity of tenure!

Finally, in my undisguised assessment of Buttonwood Bay, I only wish to reaffirm that obvious qualification that no one place anywhere on the face of the earth is perfect. Everywhere has its so-called imperfections or qualifications. If it isn’t the heat then it’s the bugs; or the difficulty of travel to and from; or the lack of local amenities; or the language differences; or the annual natural accommodations; etc. In that respect a vacation on Key Largo at Buttonwood Bay will never fulfill the ambition of a vacation dream. But, allowing for that intellectually acute observation that a good traveler is one who learns to adjust, there is very little if anything about which I feel inclined to dismay about either Key Largo or Buttonwood Bay. Nor will I allow myself to succumb to the trap of disparaging any of the other places we’ve been privileged to visit. At this time of our lives we’ve found the ideal fit!