WEST OCEAN CITY – To motorists passing by on Route 50, the Francis Scott Key Family Resort looks just as it has for years.
The picturesque red lodge sits back among a copse of trees within sight of the busy highway. What passersby don’t realize is that behind the familiar red building the expansive property is now home to several pools, a collection of cabins, a pond, a picnic pavilion and just about everything else a family on vacation could want.
“People are always shocked when they come in the driveway,” said Annemarie Dickerson, who operates the resort with her husband, Jim. “They think we’re just one building but we’re 14 acres.”
The 232-room resort unveiled yet another attraction this spring — a 2,000-square-foot pirate ship. Labeled Shipwreck Cove, the enormous stamped concrete structure houses a bar and sunbathing deck alongside a pool and nine-hole miniature golf course. Dickerson said the ship, which was built this past winter, was the culmination of years of planning. The Francis Scott Key’s recreational facilities have been gradually revamped during the past decade, beginning with the indoor pool in 2005 and the installation of a splash pad in 2009.
Shipwreck Cove opened Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s been really exciting,” Dickerson said. “We’ve had guests coming here for 30 years and this has been the greatest reaction. It’s an anchor to our property.”
She said her husband came up with the idea of building a pirate ship since the property’s indoor pool and splash ground already featured a Caribbean theme. The couple attended a trade show in Florida to get ideas and eventually settled on a design.
The finished product is a life-size ship, complete with tattered sails, ropes and cannons. It acts as a backdrop for a miniature golf course on one side and a palm tree-lined pool — complete with a whirlpool in the shape of a dinghy — on the other side. Adult patrons can enjoy a drink inside at the bar or can visit the upper deck for sunbathing. The adjacent pool and splash area is popular with both children and adults while those looking for a bite to eat can visit the nearby pizza and rib shack. Dickerson says the area was designed to truly make guests feel as if they were in the Caribbean.
“The attention to detail is second to none,” Dickerson said. “I’m still finding things I think are unique.”
The construction of the pirate ship is just the latest effort the Dickersons have made to create a resort atmosphere for their patrons. From Francis Scott Key’s 1950s style diner to the family movie room, she says they’ve tried to think of everything. A shuttle takes patrons into Ocean City while the property’s backyard pond (complete with fish), picnic area and volleyball net entertain guests who don’t want to make the trip.
“You don’t have to leave the property,” Dickerson said, “but we acknowledge we’re surrounded by all these great restaurants.”
Now that the outdoor pool area has been rebuilt, the next project at the resort will be the addition of eight more cottages. The 14 existing cottages are never available. Dickerson says they’re booked by the same families, many of whom have been coming to Francis Scott Key since her family took over in 1972, year after year.
That, though, is what Dickerson believes shows that the facility is a true family resort.
“Every week is like seeing a different family reunion,” she said.