Five months after Hurricane Irma, how are the Keys doing?

Traffic rolls on the Seven Mile Bridge near Marathon, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

It’s been almost five months since the Keys were struck by the eye of Hurricane Irma on September 10, 2017. While Key West and Key Largo were largely spared the worst of the storm’s damage, other areas in the Lower Keys and Islamorada are still rebuilding.

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The Keys officially reopened to visitors on Oct. 1, just three weeks after the hurricane hit. All 42 bridges of the scenic Overseas Highway were deemed safe for driving within five days of the storm. Key West International Airport and the Port of Key West are operating as usual.

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If you haven’t made a trip down to the Keys since Irma, it’s high time as most resorts, attractions, bars and restaurants have rebounded and are open for business.

All 10 Keys state parks, from Bahia Honda to John Pennekamp, are open while restoration efforts continue, and most fishing, diving and snorkeling charters have resumed operation.

Here’s the latest on the recovery efforts Key by Key with details on what’s open and what’s still a work in progress.

Key West

It’s mostly business as usual in Key West, so feel free to visit the Southernmost Point.Florida Keys News Bureau via AP Rob O'Neal

Overall, 77 percent of lodging units are back online throughout the Keys with almost all hotels in Key West open for business, except for Parrot Key (scheduled to reopen June 1), Key West Bayside Inn & Suites (closed indefinitely) and the Inn at Key West, which will reopen as the Havana Cabana Key West Hotel in April.

The original Marquesa Hotel on Fleming Street opened a second guesthouse just down the street in October.

Marquesa 4-1-4, located on Simonton Street in Old Town, is the newest hotel on the island. The chic 14-room guesthouse with a central courtyard pool opened on Oct. 20 as an addendum to the classic 27-room Marquesa Hotel on Fleming Street.

The kitchen of popular restaurant 2 Cents was destroyed by a fallen tree and is still rebuilding. However, its sister restaurants and bars are open for business: The Porch, The Other Side, Kojin Noodle Bar, Mary Ellen’s and The Roost.

Dry Tortugas National Park is open with both Yankee Freedom III ferry service and Key West Seaplane Adventures air service operating on regular schedules.

Boyd’s Key West Campground in Stock Island is open.

Lower Keys

The Lower Keys took the brunt of the storm when Irma’s eye made landfall on Cudjoe Key at Mile Marker 20. This area has the longest road to recovery and many of the most popular resorts are still closed for business.

Check into Marathon’s Banana Bay Resort & Marina open for business.

However, Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge, Skipjack Resort & Marina, Banana Bay Resort & Marina and others are open. A brand new Hampton Inn in Marathon is also under development and will open soon.

Little Palm Island, famously one of the Keys’ most exclusive and luxurious resorts located on a private island off Little Torch Key, will be closed through early 2019.

Hawks Cay Resort & Marina located on Duck Key in Marathon will reopen in stages beginning in the second quarter of 2018 and continue throughout the summer.

Ferry tours to the five-acre Pigeon Key have resumed operation departing from Marathon’s Hyatt Places marina. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is also open with new feedings for Mobula rays.

Calusa Beach at Bahia Honda State Park’s northwest side is open, while Loggerhead and Sandspur Beach are closed. Snorkel boat tours should resume in February. Nearby, Buttonwood and Bayside campgrounds reopened on January 1 for overnight camping.

The 28-acre Fiesta Key RV Resort & Marina on Long Key is open with limited services. Sunshine Key RV resort in Big Pine should reopen in the spring and Sugarloaf KOA is closed through October.

Islamorada

A room inside The Moorings Plantation Grand Villa.

The Atlantic Ocean side of Islamorada was hit particularly hard by storm surge. However, the area’s sought-after resorts are beginning to reopen. The exclusive Moorings Village officially reopened on Jan. 15 and is as peaceful and idyllic as it ever was. Popular nearby restaurants including Chef Michael’s, Pierre’s, Morada Bay and Bad Boy Burrito are all open for business.

Next door to The Moorings, Cheeca Lodge Resort & Spa is set to reopen March 30.

Islamorada Resort Co.’s four resorts are in various stages of recovery. Amara Cay reopened on Dec. 15. Pelican Cove Resort is set to reopen in early February and La Siesta Resort & Marina will reopen in March. Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina will reopen in phases starting in March with two buildings, 14 new cottages, Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen & Bar and their beloved Tiki Bar.

Theater of the Sea is open with its beach scheduled to reopen in February, its stingray program in the spring and its shark program to be determined at a later date.

Key Largo

An aerial shot of Playa Largo’s 15 acre property on the Florida Bay.

Seventy-six percent of Key Largo’s lodging units are open for business including the two-bedroom Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the only submerged recreational hotel in the country, as well as Playa Largo Resort, Kona Kai Resort and others.

Key Largo also welcomes two new hotels this year including the recently opened six villa Dolphin Point Villas and the forthcoming Bungalows Key Largo, which will be the Keys’ first all-inclusive resort slated to open in April.

The Hilton Key Largo is undergoing renovations and will reopen as the 200-room Baker’s Cay Resort, a Curio Collection by Hilton in the fall.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is open to beachgoers, overnight campers, hikers and snorkelers with its glass bottom boat and snorkel boats operating daily.

How You Can Help

While visiting the Keys and your tourism dollars is a great way to help the local economy, there are still residents in dire need who are rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Irma. Local grassroots group Nourishing the Lower Keys prepares and delivers fresh, home made meals to residents in need. Consider donating: gofundme.com/nourishFLkeys.

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