Sunny Treasures of Sand and Sea

By: Ryan Nance

Fort Lauderdale's beaches offer a welcome escape from the everyday.

Following the charts we'd obtained, we set out overland for the east. We'd heard the rumors of a broad, oceanic expanse of blue silk, of golden sands as plentiful as a thousand kings' treasuries. Much as Marco Polo had sought adventure and riches in Xanadu, we sought beauty and relaxation at the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade

When my wife and I got off the Interstate, the afternoon sun shimmered on the canals like roads paved with diamonds. Drawbridges lowered before us. If we were with Marco Polo, the waterways that latticed Fort Lauderdale would surely remind him of his Venice home.

We were tempted to explore, but we first needed to secure lodging. We pulled up to Tropi Rock, our own Xanadu, a small boutique resort with lush foliage, a retro-styled pool, sitting areas under overflowing arbors and hand-painted tiles set in a walking path. The innkeeper met us with a warm smile. This whimsical 1950s motel had been meticulously reinvented with loving and fun touches, from mosaic "welcome mats" set into the floors to wicker chairs overlooking the courtyard.

Our gregarious innkeeper recommended we explore the canals aboard the Water Taxi. We jumped onto the yellow boat at a Water Taxi "bus stop" and settled in along the rail. Stopping in all the major parts of the city, these watercrafts were larger cousins to Venice's gondolas, but instead of an operatic serenade, the driver regaled us with stories of luxury, intrigue and fame as we tooled past multi-million-dollar palatial homes that the Doges of Venice, and Kubla Khan himself, would envy.

We disembarked at the downtown shopping district, Las Olas Boulevard, which tempted us with a fragrant mix of unique shops and boutiques, and cafés, bistros and grills serving foods from the far-flung corners of the Earth. After a stroll in the arts and entertainment district, we jumped back onto the Water Taxi and headed to The Gallery at Beach Place, a shopping and entertainment complex on Fort Lauderdale Beach facing the beaches and ocean beyond. 

In the morning, we walked two blocks from the hotel to the Wave Wall extending along the beach promenade - the riches we'd really come for. All the legends were true: the sapphire water whispered as it slid up upon the resplendent gold sands, the sky was a cosmic canopy of the finest silk. And, like all treasures, the rumors and reports had failed to capture its beauty. The Clean Beaches Council, in fact, has rated this beach as a Blue Wave Beach for its cleanliness and environmental health.

Walking the Broadwalk south of a grand canal, another city lay, twinkling in our imaginations: Hollywood. The next afternoon we headed south to the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, a more laid-back stretch of beach lined with restaurants, shops and cafés. With a clamshell bandstand that hosts live music in the evening during the Broadwalk Friday Fest (held every Friday, depending on the city's budget) at one end and an unbroken string of coconut palms shading the path, the Broadwalk was perfect for our leisurely afternoon.

Hollywood Beach, rated a Blue Wave Beach as well, was also voted "One of the Top Three Most Active Beaches in the United States" by Travelocity. Eager, we cruised the beach on a bicycle built for two. We had a late lunch on the terrace of the Sugar Reef Tropical Grill, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With brightly colored parrots chirping from the tops of nearby palms, we had a delectable taste of Floribbean cuisine.

We leaned our bicycles against a palm trunk and laid our towels and umbrella out on the sand. And then the brightest treasure made its imperial appearance - the streaming light from the clear sun. Like an ancient king and queen, we looked out over our boundless reign.

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