Robert Silk
Robert Silk

Two weeks ago Hurricane Matthew skirted the northeast Florida coastline, bringing winds of more than 90 mph to Daytona Beach and delivering a storm surge that was powerful enough to fill the usually dry moat bed at the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

But already destinations in the region are telling tourists that they need not change vacation plans.

"We've come a long way," Kate Holcomb, communications director for the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Monday. "There is still some cleanup to do, but we are definitely open. We hosted Biketoberfest last weekend and seem to have done that successfully."

The event typically attracts 120,000 to 150,000 people but likely had its lowest attendance since the early 1990s, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Hurricane Matthew filled the usually dry moat at the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine, harkening back to the structure's 17th century origins.
Hurricane Matthew filled the usually dry moat at the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine, harkening back to the structure's 17th century origins.

Holcomb said the impact Matthew had on Georgia and the Carolinas, from where Biketoberfest draws many attendees, helped depress turnout. But attendance was also tamped down by the closure of some area hotels. The convention bureau estimated that 2,000 of the area's 12,000 rooms remained closed last weekend. Among the hotels that have been shut for repairs is the 744-room Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, which began accepting reservations again on Wednesday but for only a portion of its rooms.

Hotel closures were less prevalent in other northeast Florida tourism hot spots by late last week and early this week, according to officials.

In St. Augustine, Matthew's storm surge brought enough water into the historical old town to cause minor damage to some attractions, including the electrical system of the Oldest House museum complex.

But the 17th Century museum reopened to visitors this past weekend, said Barbara Golden, a spokeswoman for the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & the Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Golden said that as of Monday only the Edgewater Inn, the Casablanca Inn and the Bayfront Marin Lodge were closed among local hotels and they would each be back up within six weeks.

In addition, the waterfront Fountain of Youth Park opened Sunday after a week of clearing debris and downed trees.

"I would say 97% of our businesses are up and running," Golden said.

In Jacksonville, all attractions were open as of late last week with the exception of the beachfront Huguenot Memorial Park, Visit Jacksonville and the Beaches spokeswoman Patty Jimenez said. The park was to remain closed indefinitely due to adjacent road damage.

Jimenez said all hotels were open within five days of the storm.

Still, sun worshipers will notice some differences along Jacksonville Beach as a result of Matthew. The fishing pier sustained damage from the storm, and the storm surge washed away beach dunes.

Similar damage was sustained at other northeast Florida beaches. In Daytona, for example, some of the wooden ramps that lead to the beach sustained damage. And St. Augustine beach experienced erosion from the storm.

Golf courses throughout northeast Florida have mostly reopened, tourism officials said.

Notably, the World Golf Village in St. Augustine said it opened its two courses, the King & Bear and the Slammer & Squire, last weekend.

Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra is also open. However, its more famous sister, the Players Stadium Course, is closed until Nov. 15 for renovation. The closure began in May and is not storm related.

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