St. Augustine, FL (Sept. 9, 2022) …. St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida are experiencing great growth in visitor experiences. Northeast Florida has long been a destination for visitors to experience the unique history, beautiful beaches, epic golf, fantastic dining and so much more.
Since the 2020 pandemic shut down, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches quickly bounced back to the business of hosting visitors and continues to thrive. In fact, according to Richard Goldman, CEO of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, “The recovery of our local tourism industry is three years ahead of the predicted 2024 recovery for the U.S. For the fiscal year 2022 to date, hotel occupancy on Florida’s Historic Coast is up 13% and strong demand for overnight stays has resulted in a 16% increase in hotel rates.”
This increase in visitor demand has resulted in new businesses and services. Here are some of the great additions and changes that join in making Florida’s Historic Coast a great place to visit throughout the year.
New hotels and renovated properties:
In 2021 two new hotels opened in historic St. Augustine, the Renaissance St. Augustine Historic Downtown Hotel and the Homewood Suites. The new Hilton Garden Inn St. Augustine Historic District opened last week and the Hyatt Place Vilano Beach, featuring classic Florida Vernacular architecture with Art Deco complements, is expected to open in early 2023. The three-story hotel features 120 guest rooms, the opening of Chef Michael Lugo’s restaurant Pesca, and a rooftop bar with incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean, Matanzas Bay, and the impressive St. Augustine skyline.
Winner of the “Hospitality & Entertainment” Award from the Urban Land Institute of North Florida, the Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort recently added 42 ocean-view rooms; and The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club just unveiled 64 beautifully renovated luxurious beachfront guest rooms in the Summer House and St. Johns House.
More Great Eats:
One of St. Augustine’s hottest dining experiences is expanding! Asado Life and Lena Asada have been discreetly providing pop-up live-fire dining experiences along St. Augustine’s waterfront for years. These experiences, featuring some of the area’s most renowned chefs, are becoming more available to everyone. Starting in early October, Asado Life will open at a permanent location accessible to the public. Still located along the San Sebastian River in St. Augustine with the shrimp boats and salt marshes in the background, the new Asado Life Restaurant will feature multiple dining areas, each with seating where guests can watch the culinary team in action and taste the inspiring flavors of true Argentine-style wood-fired cooking at its best.
Chef Barry Honan, former sous chef at 3 -Star Michelin Le Bernardin in NYC will be opening his long-awaited restaurant Lotus Noodle Bar in early December. Chef Barry has a noted career where his skills have been mastered and his focus is Japanese-influenced ramen-style cooking. In recent years Chef Honan has been operating a series of pop-up dining experiences that have gotten the attention of the St. Augustine dining scene.
Nationally known waffle master and artisanal ice cream shop The Dolly Llama recently is opening the chain’s first Florida location at Ponte Vedra Beach! The shop will open on September 10, offering the same great flavors enjoyed by patrons in California and Nevada. The Dolly Llama is located at 830 A1A North #16, Ponte Vedra Beach. www.thedollyllamaus.com
New events celebrating local flavors:
The Ponte Vedra Wine Festival features unlimited samples of wines and champagnes from around the world, along with cheese, chocolate, and charcuterie. This elegant event takes place on October 8, at the Ponte Vedra Croquet Club.
Also new this fall season on Florida’s Historic Coast is the November 4-6, Whiskey, Wine, and Wildlife Festival (tickets are now on sale). This exciting weekend celebration will benefit Vilano Beach Main Street and the GTM Reserve. Guests will savor renowned whiskeys, spirits, wines, and beers; indulge in some of the finest cuisines by the best chefs in Northeast Florida; and top it off with a unique opportunity to experience coastal wildlife up-close.
St. Augustine Seafood Music & Art Festival and St. Augustine Wine & Spirits Festival have combined for a fun day of food, fashion, fine wines, and more at St. Augustine’s Francis Field on November 5. Not only will festival goers get to experience exceptional local seafood, but there will also be an art fair with dozens of fine arts and crafts, and live music. And there will be over 100 wines from 10 countries plus craft beer and craft spirits to sample.
New exceptionally healthy outdoor experiences:
The new Dolphin Bay Scenic Shuttle carries passengers between the Vilano Beach Public Pier and the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. Along with the convenience of not driving a car and searching for a parking space, the water shuttle provides lots of opportunities for seeing dolphins, coastal birds in their natural habitats, and historical sites like the Castillo de San Marcos.
The St. Johns Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve is all about the conservation of rare and endangered species of plants from around the world, as well as natural resources and native plants and animals. This beautiful preserve is located along Deep Creek in rural Hastings, Florida. Open to the public in Spring 2023, visitors can experience guided tours and programs, as well as classes on plant identification, xeriscaping, landscaping, native plants, water conservation, cold protection techniques, fertilizing (or not), planting, transplanting, potting, and so much more.
Earth Kinship is the area’s newest ecotour company offering one of the best kayaking, nature education, and outdoor experiences. Earth Kinship offers a variety of eco experiences, whether kayaking on pristine waterways, hiking into the wild, forest therapy tours, or art, history, and cultural immersion tours, with the experiences designed to be a meaningful adventure for participants.
New entertainment and sports complex venues are here:
The St. Augustine Waterworks has become one of the most sought-after cultural event venues in St. Augustine. Now the home of the St. Johns Cultural Council, the beautifully restored Waterworks hosts many of the area’s cultural events, including the Gamble Rogers “Live from the Waterworks Concert Series”, which celebrates the legendary recording artist Gamble Rogers, whose balladry and storytelling shaped American folk music. The series kicks off with a gala event in early October and continues throughout the year with monthly performances by some of Florida’s best-known folk music performers.
Florida’s Historic Coast is a golf mecca. The PGA Tour is headquartered at Ponte Vedra Beach, and THE PLAYERS® Championship takes place here each year in March at TPC Sawgrass on the world-famous Stadium Course. There are also dozens of championship courses nearby beckoning the most avid golfers to come to play. The Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and The Yards were recognized by Golf Inc. on the list of the best course renovations in 2021. Additional course renovation in the area includes the nine-month, $8-million intensive renovation from 27 to 18 holes at St. Johns Golf Club. This 18-hole Clyde Johnston-designed course has just the right amount of challenge for novice and avid golfers alike and will reopen this fall sporting new greens and bunkers along with the newly renovated clubhouse.
Golf on Florida’s Historic Coast is not all about serious competition. It is still one of America’s favorite relaxing sports. The new Bobby Weed designed Stillwater Golf and Country Club officially opens on September 15. Stillwater’s clever 18 holes can be easily played in three-hole increments, which Weed created for golfers who do not have the time in their schedule to commit to playing the entire course at once. Several other factors were considered by Weed when designing the course to suit players 55 years and older, including where the hazards are placed and plenty of opportunities to run chip shots up on the greens.
“It is challenging, but also very playable,” Weed said. “The two words that I like to have in mind when designing a golf course are fun and interesting.” Stillwater is located off SR 210 in St. Augustine and has various tee boxes present on each green, a built-in way to accommodate golfers of all ages.
Pickleball at The Yards is now open too! As part of their overhaul renovation, The Yards added 12 new courts to accommodate the fastest-growing sport in America.
There is so much more that comes with the growth of a great destination. Check out more at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com.
While planning your refreshing getaway to Florida’s Historic Coast, check out some of the great deals and offers to make your visit just a little cooler!
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Located midway between Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, Florida’s Historic Coast includes historic St. Augustine, the outstanding golf and seaside elegance of Ponte Vedra, and 42 miles of pristine Atlantic beaches. For more information on events, activities, holiday getaways and vacation opportunities in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches, go to the Visitors and Convention Bureau website at www.FloridasHistoricCoast.com, become a fan on Facebook or call 1.800.653.2489.