Life Is a Highway…
I Want to Ride It All Night Long…to a Place Exactly Like Nowhere Else
By Robin Jay
With the radio blasting Tom Cochrane’s roadtrippin’ rock ballad ‘Life Is a Highway’, the family and I loaded into our high-tech, luxuriously appointed weekender test-drive ride – a 2017 Buick Lacrosse – and hit the road toward Mile Marker 97, all while belting out in unison, “If you’re going my way…I want to drive it all night long!…”
When I first read the invitation to test drive a “luxury” Buick, my right eyebrow raised…‘a luxury what?’ Could it be true my grandmother’s favorite automobile brand had really re-invented itself with a lavish offering? With magazine deadlines looming, I was reluctant to find out. Yet, with the Lacrosse equipped with 4G Wi-Fi, Active Noise Cancellation, a Headsup Projection Windshield Display, Apple CarPlay, Buick IntelliLink and supple lumbar-supporting leather seats, making deadlines en route sounded doable. Then, the coupe de ta destination sealed the deal on saying ‘yes’ to the road trip: A seaside bungalow adjacent to 14.5 miles of beach on the site of a former historic pineapple plantation – the new Playa Largo Resort – Key Largo’s first luxury resort in 21 years, with the island’s only full-service spa, water sports galore and dining options that included the Las Olas Ceviche Bar, the only true ceviche restaurant in Florida’s Upper Keys.
With the kids engaged in their streaming iPhone movies and me cozied up with copy to edit on my iPad, my husband shifted gears and glided with road-hugging precision onto the Florida Turnpike southbound. “Remember, my dear Mr. Andretti, this is a state highway, not the Autobahn,” I teased him. Had my grandmother been on board, her jaw would surely have dropped to learn the luxurious 8-speed, beautifully sculpted, modern designed sporty sedan was – indeed – a Buick.
To Playa Largo or Bust
Copy editing completed, I powered down my iPad to enjoy the ride and reminisce about our highly anticipated destination. Before Playa Largo existed, there was Captain Ben Baker and his 160-acre pineapple farm. During the 1860s, Captain Ben homesteaded the prime Key Largo real estate. Using natural fertilizer, he discovered how to plant 6,000 pineapple stalks and grow the nation’s largest and most successful pineapple farm. In a single summer, Captain Ben racked up a supposed $7,000 – equivalent to $100,000 by today’s standards!
Having discovered the secret art form of transporting his crops to the northeastern U.S., Captain Baker was affectionately known as “King of the Florida Wreckers.” Pineapple operations were so successful that historians estimate 85 percent of America’s pineapples were grown in the Florida Keys. (That is, until a 1935 hurricane wreaked havoc on farming in the Keys.)
An Ecological Oasis
The Florida Keys are home to some of the nation’s most exotic plant and animal species. To protect the ecological diversity, before even breaking ground, the Playa Largo team conducted detailed surveys to ensure wildlife wasn’t harmed in the construction process.
Now, Playa Largo is a tropical, indigenous, luxurious resort. Here, with Playa Largo’s underwater weddings, brides have the option to feel like a mermaid by diving with her groom and writing “I do” on slates amongst the shallow-water corals, shipwrecks and hidden treasures of the Florida Keys. To anchor their love, they can sponsor the planting of a coral reef fragment that will remain and continue to grow over the years, just like their marriage.
Tranquil, opulent guest accommodations are reminiscent of a residential beach house with an Ameri-Caribbean aesthetic. Playa Largo offers 177 luxury rooms and suites with sunset Florida Bay views; 10 secluded, two-story bungalows nestled in the rare, natural hammock trees (we stayed in one of these – and adored the home-like comforts); and an exclusive three-bedroom, four-bathroom Beach House with private pool and beach. The executive chef at Playa Largo cooked us a sumptuous private meal at the Beach House with a menu that included local products – like the black mangrove honey that was so delicious we scouted the island for a bottle to buy and take home.
Throughout our visit, the kids enjoyed paddle boarding and a nature hike. I had the pleasure of dozing off during a Reflexology Acupressure Massage at the spa. And we all basked in the beauty of a Key Largo sunset cruise amid the mangroves and azure blue waters.
Exactly like nothing else, Playa Largo is an iconic landmark with remarkable design and best-in-class resort amenities. And getting there in the Buick Lacrosse was the cherry on top of our weekend of Life on the Highway.