Update: Florida Keys Tourism Rebounds with Fresh New Resorts, New Airlift
Seriously impacted after Hurricane Irma passed through the Florida Keys exactly a year ago – September 10,2017, a major RV resort is formally reopening Monday. Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina on the 75-acre Ohio Key in the Lower Keys has more than 100 sites available, including about 80 RV sites and 20 new travel trailers to rent. All 399 sites are to be open by Oct. 1. Amenities include a renovated marina, refurbished recreation center, completely new RV site hookups and infrastructure and stepladder access to an ocean swimming area from a new sunset pier.
Sunshine Key’s reopening comes on the heels of the grand reopening of Hawks Cay Resort (pictured above) following a $50 million renovation.
Owners of Hawks Cay, situated on Duck Key near Marathon, used the opportunity to enhance the property’s appeal to travelers.
“After Hurricane Irma we didn’t just look at recovering from the storm,” said Hawks Cay Managing Director Sheldon Suga. “That would have been the quickest and easiest way to do this, but it was an opportunity for us to re-imagine Hawks Cay.”
Among enhancements guests can experience are completely renovated rooms, two new restaurants and a new oceanfront, adults-only relaxation area called Oasis Cay with pool, food and beverage facilities.
Return of the resort’s 177 hotel rooms boost the Keys lodging inventory to just over 90 percent operational following the Sept. 10, 2017, tropical cyclone, Keys tourism officials said.
All-new and fully refurbished properties continue to be unveiled throughout the 125-mile-long island chain. Nearly all resorts impacted by Irma are projected to be fully open before the end of 2018.
Beginning Oct. 4, United Airlines is to increase to year-round (from seasonal) daily nonstop service to Key West from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport on 70-seat E170 aircraft. During peak travel season, February through May 2019, United is to add a second flight into Key West from Newark.
Through mid-December, United is to operate Saturday and Sunday nonstop service between Key West and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. From mid-December through May 2019, United is to increase its Key West–Chicago frequency to a daily flight.
On Dec. 24, American Airlines is to resume nonstop winter and spring service into Key West from Dallas–Fort Worth, operating daily flights through April 1, 2019, on 76-passenger E175 regional jets. The service is being continued due to strong performance with its summer seasonal nonstop service on the same route.
The Keys’ first all- or “luxury- inclusive” adults-only resort is to be unveiled later this year. Bungalows Key Largo is to showcase 135 stand-alone units, two pools and several restaurants and bars.
Also in Key Largo, the new 200-room Baker’s Cay Resort, a Curio Collection by Hilton, is scheduled to open by late fall as the Keys’ first Curio property. Attractions include 17,000 square feet of meeting space and amenities for pets.
The 60-acre Ocean Pointe Suites is open with 170 suites sleeping up to four to six guests, a newly restored marina and private beach and a new over-the-water gazebo for intimate weddings and events.
Islamorada Resort Co.’s 145-unit Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina is scheduled to reopen in November with 14 cottages; its Ciao Hound restaurant, Tiki and raw bars and marina are open. The company’s other three Islamorada properties, the 63-unit Pelican Cove Resort, 54-unit La Siesta Resort & Marina and 110-room Amara Cay Resort, are open.
The 27-acre, 214-unit oceanfront Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa is showcasing a $25 million redesign and new Mia Cucina pizzeria and pasta bistro since reopening March 30. A third pool and second Tiki bar, named South 25, are planned.
Cheeca Lodge’s renovation includes a rebuilt 525-foot-long wooden fishing pier, redesign of its main lobby and all rooms, 4,600 square feet of meeting and function space, a 5,700-square-foot spa with seven treatment rooms and a refurbished nine-hole golf course.
Chesapeake Resort is open with 20 garden-view units, one pool and accessibility to its onsite beach. Its remaining 45 units and resort amenities are scheduled to reopen late this year.
Islander Bayside Resort is open with 25 two-story, two-bedroom townhomes. Its sister property, the 25-acre oceanside Islander Resort, is to reopen late this year with an all-new contemporary design, culinary concepts and family splash pad.
The 37-room Hadley House Resort opened Aug. 18 with 21 rooms; another 16 are to reopen in October. Two miles away, the 22-room, 5-acre Fisher Inn Resort & Marina is scheduling a partial opening Oct. 1.
An all-new 80-room, full-service Hampton Inn Marathon with a 24-hour fitness center opened June 21 under the Hilton Portfolio of Brands.
At the Seven Mile Bridge oceanside, the all-new 24-acre, 199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort at mile marker 47 is to offer a 4,000-square-foot spa, five pools, four food and beverage concepts and a marina. The resort, to open in early 2019, is to offer more than 24,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Bocce, croquet, oversized chess, complimentary bicycles, on-site watersports and guided fishing expeditions are to be on-site.
Deer Run Bed & Breakfast on Big Pine is targeting its reopening later this year as a green lodging property with each of four units rebuilt to an elevated oceanfront or ocean view. On Little Torch Key, Parmer’s Resort is fully open with 44 units including two cottages and a new 90-foot-long beach. Off Little Torch Key, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is scheduled to reopen in 2020.
Also in the Lower Keys, Sugarloaf KOA/Key West KOA is to reopen in 2019.
All properties are open in Key West except two.
The 64-suite The Laureate Key West, an all-suite Opal Collection member and the former Key West Bayside Inn & Suites, is scheduled to open Sept. 16. The 148-unit Parrot Key Resort, with four pools and a new food and beverage concept with poolside al fresco dining, is scheduled to reopen Nov. 1.
Florida Keys Attractions
All Florida Keys attractions are open. Fishing, snorkeling and diving charters are operating.
National Parks, Refuges
On Big Pine Key, a new 1,840-square-foot Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center, currently under construction near mile marker 30.5, is to open in late fall showcasing the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges with exhibits, space for interactive events and a nature bookstore operated by the Florida Keys Wildlife Society.
The federally protected National Key Deer Refuge, Great White Heron and Key West national wildlife refuges are open, and Key Largo’s Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge is open as usual for organized volunteer activities and guided walks.
Dry Tortugas National Park is open, with the Yankee Freedom III ferry service and Key West Seaplane Adventures air service running full schedules.
In Everglades National Park, drive-up camping sites at the Flamingo Campground are open. Flamingo Visitor Center is open with ranger-guided programs; canoes and kayaks can be rented. Park waters are open for boating.
Florida State Parks in the Keys
All 10 Keys state parks are open for day use as restoration efforts continue.
In Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the United States, is open for beachgoing, overnight camping at 47 full-facility sites, short hiking and scuba diving. Tours for glass-bottom boats, dive excursions and snorkeling operate several times daily, weather permitting. Docks are repaired and boat slips are available for overnight rentals. Snacks and drinks are available and the park’s Blue Heron Cafe food concession is being rebuilt. The park’s Visitor Center and Aquarium reopened in January.
In the Lower Keys, Loggerhead Beach along the Atlantic Ocean in Bahia Honda State Park is scheduled to reopen in late September. Calusa Beach on the park’s northwest side is open. Its Buttonwood and Bayside campgrounds currently offer 48 RV and 10 tent campsites and six cabins. The park’s concession is open with food, snorkel and boat tours and beach gear rentals and souvenirs. The park’s boat ramp and marina are open.
Bahia Honda’s oceanfront Sandspur Beach and campground are scheduled to reopen by late 2019.
The Florida Keys & Key West calendar of events can be viewed at fla-keys.com/calendar/.
Florida Keys & Key West, www.fla-keys.com