The State of the Florida Keys Tourism Industry After Hurricane Irma

Colorful cottages in Key West, Florida
Photo by Vladone/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images.

Overview

The Florida Keys & Key West have been open to visitors since October 1, 2017, just three weeks after Hurricane Irma. Today, almost 80 percent of lodging units throughout the destination are open for business. Key Largo and Key West were least impacted by the hurricane, which struck the Keys September 10, 2017, as were most hotels and businesses on the bayside, or gulf side, in Islamorada and Marathon.

On the Atlantic Ocean side of the Islamorada and Marathon regions, some hotels had significant storm surge impacts. A number of properties have reopened, while several others are slated to reopen in March. A few resorts undergoing recovery are projected to reopen this fall. Additionally, the collection of land debris along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway is mostly complete.

Transportation

At Key West International Airport, where commercial air service resumed September 20, 2017, American Airlines is scheduled to begin new summer seasonal, nonstop service June 9 between Key West and Dallas–Fort Worth international airports. The once-weekly Saturday commercial service is to run until August 25 on E175 regional jets.

The Florida Keys Overseas Highway was designated safe for driving within five days after Hurricane Irma.

Lodging

The Florida Keys tourism council reports that almost 80 percent of all Keys lodging units are back online, with 76 percent in Key Largo, 53 percent in Islamorada, 63 percent in Marathon and 48 percent between the west end of the Seven Mile Bridge and Big Coppitt Key. In Key West and nearby Stock Island, 92 percent of all properties are open.
 
Key Largo
 
Ocean Pointe Suites is scheduled to reopen in stages beginning March 30.

The Keys’ first adults-only, all-inclusive resort is to be unveiled this spring. The new Bungalows Key Largo is planning to open in April with 135 units, two pools and several restaurants and bars.

The former Hilton Key Largo is undergoing renovations to become the new 200-room Baker’s Cay Resort, a Curio Collection by Hilton, to open in the fall.

Islamorada

Islamorada Resort Co.’s 63-unit Pelican Cove Resort is to be fully open by March 1; it reopened February 16 with 30 units. Islamorada Resort Co.’s La Siesta Resort & Marina is to open March 31, although its five-bedroom house remains under renovation.

Additionally, Islamorada Resort Co.’s 145-unit Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina is scheduled to begin a phased reopening in April with Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen & Bar and the resort’s full-service Marina. Shortly after, the property will re-open its guest rooms, suites and seaside cottages, Tiki Bar, oceanfront Raw Bar and more than 130,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event and meeting space stretching along the oceanfront.

By the Easter holiday weekend, nearly 270 renovated units – including 214 at Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa and 54 at La Siesta Resort & Marina – are to reopen.

The 27-acre oceanfront Cheeca Lodge is to have a new look including a rebuilt 525-foot-long wooden fishing pier, new meeting and function space, a redesigned spa and a re-designed nine-hole golf course. Dining venues are to include Mia Cucina, a new pizza and pasta bistro. A new oceanfront pool is to open in May.

Chesapeake Resort has reopened 20 garden-view units and one pool. Its remaining 45 units and resort amenities, including beach accessibility, are scheduled to reopen by spring 2019. Guests have complimentary access to Islamorada’s Founders Park, open except for its athletic fields and golf range.

Islander Resort’s Bayside Townhomes are open. Its iconic oceanside resort is closed until fall.

Marathon

On Duck Key, Hawks Cay Resort is to reopen March 16 with a limited number of villas along with its Calm Waters Spa, sunset pool, Coral Cay kids’ activities center and Angler and Ale restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The main hotel, with 177 guestrooms, is to reopen this summer.

Other hotels in Marathon, including Banana Bay Resort & Marina and Skipjack Resort, are open. A new Hampton Inn Marathon is under development.

In Key Colony Beach, the Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort reopened December 21 with 50 units. A poolside bar is open, and its on-site Havana Jack’s Oceanside Restaurant and Bar is to reopen in mid-March.

Lower Keys

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge is open. Off Little Torch Key, Little Palm Island is to remain closed until early 2019. On Little Torch Key, Parmer’s Resort has 43 (including 14 waterfront) units open, with only one unit under reconstruction. The four-unit Deer Run Bed & Breakfast plans to reopen by late summer.

Key West

In Key West, all properties except three are open. Havana Cabana Key West Hotel, the former Inn at Key West, is scheduled to open in April. Parrot Key Resort is to reopen by June 1. Key West Bayside Inn & Suites is scheduled to open this summer. The Southernmost Beach Resort fully reopened in late December.

Attractions

All major Florida Keys attractions are open.
 
In Islamorada, Theater of the Sea, one of the world’s oldest marine mammal facilities, is open. Its beach area and gift shop are to reopen by March 1 and its stingray program is scheduled for spring. Its shark area is undergoing repairs.
 
Ferry tours to the historic 5-acre Pigeon Key have resumed with a new gateway in Marathon, departing from the Hyatt Place’s marina at the Faro Blanco Lighthouse. On Pigeon Key, visitors can tour a former section gang quarters, former paint foreman’s dorm and historical museum.
 
Almost all fishing and dive charters are operating.

National Parks, Refuges

Dry Tortugas National Park is open, with the Yankee Freedom III ferry service and Key West Seaplane Adventures air service running full schedules.
 
Some sections of Everglades National Park, including 41 camping sites at Flamingo Campground Loop T, are open. Flamingo Visitor Center is open with minimal services; canoes and kayaks can be rented.

Three national wildlife refuges, including the National Key Deer Refuge, Great White Heron and Key West national wildlife refuges, are open. A fourth, the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Key Largo, is, as usual, accessible only through organized volunteer activities and guided walks.

On Big Pine Key, a new Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center, currently under construction, is to open this fall. It is to showcase the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges with 1,500 square feet of exhibit space, near mile marker 30.5.

Florida State Parks

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, reopened its Visitor Center January 19. Snorkeling tours operate daily, weather permitting. Snacks and drinks are available, with concessions operations expected to reopen fully by late March. Pennekamp’s dive excursions also are expected to resume by late March.

In the Lower Keys, Calusa Beach on Bahia Honda State Park’s northwest side is open. Two nearby campgrounds — Buttonwood, with 43 sites, and Bayside, with eight — reopened for overnight camping January 1. A gift shop with beach gear rentals reopened February 11. The park’s six cabins are open.

Bahia Honda’s Loggerhead and Sandspur beaches remain closed. The park’s concession offers limited drink and snack service. Snorkel boat tours are expected to resume by late March. The park’s boat ramp is open; a date has not yet been set for its marina reopening.

Campgrounds

Many Keys campgrounds have reopened for recreational vehicles and tent camping.
 
Of the Keys’ RV resorts, the 28-acre Fiesta Key RV Resort & Marina on Long Key is fully open. Sunshine Key on the Lower Keys’ Big Pine Key is targeting a reopening in late spring. Other Keys campgrounds, including Boyd’s Key West Campground, are open.
 
Sugarloaf KOA /Key West KOA is closed until fall.

Special Events

Major events throughout the Keys are taking place as scheduled. The Florida Keys & Key West calendar of events can be viewed at fla-keys.com/calendar/.

Utilities

Power, water and communications utility restoration for almost all customers in the Keys is complete.

For more, visit www.fla-keys.com.

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