Northeast Florida—also known as Florida’s First Coast—is made up of such dynamic destinations as Jacksonville on the great St. Johns River, the beach community of Ponte Vedra and historic St. Augustine, the oldest continually occupied European settlement in North America.
It’s also home to Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach and the Palm Coast, all of which offer great accommodations, great restaurants and great fun for meeting groups. These days, it’s hard to keep up with all that’s new in these hot spots.
“It’s a really exciting time right now in Jacksonville, especially in downtown, where we are expecting more than 1,100 new hotel rooms in the next 24 months,” said Michael Corrigan, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville. “Also fueling the momentum are new additions such as Daily’s Place, the 5,500-seat outdoor amphitheater next to TIAA Bank Field, and hot, new local restaurants like Cowford Chophouse and Bellwether. All these positive additions are contributing to the growth and appeal of Jacksonville as a premier Florida meetings destination.”
Future builds in Jacksonville include the 312–room Berkman Plaza II, which will include a riverfront entertainment area; the historic 100-room Ambassador Hotel, which will be renovated and become an as-yet-unnamed hotel as well as luxury apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space; Marriott Residence Inn with 135 rooms; a 200-room Marriott AC Hotel located on a 30-acre parcel of land near the Shipyards development; a 145-room Marriott Courtyard that will also feature retail and restaurant space; Hotel Indigo, an 89-room hotel opening in a renovated building, which will include a rooftop restaurant and bar; and Hyatt Place, a planned 128-room hotel.
THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass Resort, Ponte Vedra Beach
The downtown Doro District in the heart of the sports and entertainment district (just two blocks from TIAA Bank Field) aims to become the place for restaurants, cultural and other events in Jacksonville. It is already home to Intuition Ale Works and Manifest Distilling.
The Cowford Chophouse by local restaurateur Jacques Klempf opened last year to rave reviews. The restaurant sits in the downtown Bostwick Building, a century-old brick structure that has undergone a major renovation keeping with its historic importance. The restaurant has several private dining rooms for small groups, including The Ocean Room for 20, the Formal Dining Room for 74 and up to 100 in the Rooftop Lounge.
Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach
North of Jacksonville there are several new, locally owned restaurants on Amelia Island near The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. Lagniappe, with its Southern inspired menu, seats up to 175 and is available for buyouts. Pogo’s Kitchen, with 97 seats, is also available to groups.
In downtown Fernandina Beach, Wicked Bao is a new Asian fusion restaurant with indoor and outdoor deck seating for a total of 80. The casual Salt Life Food Shack with locations in Jacksonville and St. Augustine is slated to open in the fall on Fernandina Beach.
Ponte Vedra Beach/St. Augustine
Florida’s Historic Coast, south of Jacksonville, offers 42 miles of pristine Atlantic Coast and includes St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S. and Ponte Vedra Beach, home to the PGA Tour and THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass Resort.
With more than 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 6,000 guest rooms, Florida’s Historic Coast has facilities to accommodate meetings with 10 to 1,500 or more attendees.
St. Augustine’s award-winning Casa Monica Hotel & Spa has been recognized for its richly appointed ballrooms, a poolside terrace, Poseidon Spa and private dining rooms. The Grand Bohemian Gallery recently expanded and the outdoor gathering space at the Sultan’s Pavilion with its Moroccan tenting provides a beautiful outdoor oasis.
The all-new Guy Harvey Resort St. Augustine Beach is open following a multimillion-dollar renovation. The newly re-branded oceanfront resort features 4,000 square feet of event space, including banquet rooms, meeting space and outdoor event space. The resort also includes a tiki bar and the new Guy Harvey’s Grille & Grog restaurant and lounge with live, beach-inspired entertainment.
The Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort will open in late November. The resort, located right on the beach just minutes from historic downtown St. Augustine, features 175 guest suites and nearly 10,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space, as well as two restaurants. It has more than 500 feet of beachfront access and is nestled between the St. Augustine Beach Pier Park and the 1,600-acre Anastasia State Park, providing opportunities for paddling sports, hiking, nature programs and access to four miles of pristine undeveloped beach.
GUY HARVEY Resort St. Augustine Beach
“Our area has always been known for our seaside resorts from Ponte Vedra Inn & Club at the north and Hammock Beach Resort to our south mixed with historic properties in St. Augustine,” said William McBroom, director of conference sales at the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Now with the opening of the Embassy Suites St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort and the renovations at the Guy Harvey Resort on St. Augustine Beach, seaside offerings for our group and meeting visitors have expanded our offerings to host more groups seeking a special place for meetings.”
Opened in March 2017, The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens in St. Augustine was once home of the Dow Museum of Historic Houses, a beloved St. Augustine landmark dating back to 1790. The Collector is comprised of nine historic buildings and 30 guest rooms that incorporate the rich history and unique architectural elements from the property’s 18th century construction. Lush landscaped pathways lined with artistic statues and soothing water features connect each building. The extensive garden courtyard has an outdoor heated pool, multiple fire pits, an open-air bar and an amphitheater.
South of St. Augustine, the Palm Coast has seen significant dune restoration along the Hammock Beach Resort coastline in the past six months, including the replacement of several boardwalks. This November marks the one-year anniversary of the reopening of the Ocean Course for golfing, which had been closed for 16 months for renovation work. True to its name, the Hammock Beach resort now offers a Hammock Break for groups, where they bring hammocks into the prefunction areas allowing the meeting attendees to relax in between sessions.
Northeast Florida CVB Information
Amelia Island TDC
Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches
St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches VCB