The day my husband Paul and I drove to Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, located in Hollywood just south of Fort Lauderdale, the world was bustling, noisy, and humming with distractions.
Billboards and signs vied for attention, highrises towered overhead, and the road was busy with traffic, brake lights and horns. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry, and everyone seemed to have a cell phone attached to an ear.
But as soon as we rolled down the drive to the park, everything changed.
A smiling ranger gave us a map. We discovered a boat ramp.
A trail, dappled in sunlight, disappeared into a canopy of palms, hardwoods and mangroves.
I gazed from atop a bridge at a manatee silently meandering through a canal. A family was grilling something that smelled delicious by the beach, and they all waved and posed when I aimed my camera at them.
And when I ditched my sandals and headed out to the beach, I had to laugh aloud at the empty sweeps of latte-hued sand.
“I needed this,” Paul said.
He took the words right out of my mouth. If you could use a little soul-soothing, too, read on. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park (formerly known as John Lloyd Beach State Park) boasts temptations for your whole gang—and it might be exactly the medicine you need.
Picnic at the Park
It doesn’t get any better than relaxing in the shade and reconnecting with family and friends while enjoying an outside feast. The park offers seven picnic pavilions, all with water, electricity, picnic tables and barbecue areas, and six of them are within 200 yards of the beach.
The seventh pavilion overlooks Port Everglades so you can watch cruise ships and barges arrive and depart. The ships are so huge they look like moving buildings, only a breath away from anglers on the jetty. Watching them is a must-do at the park, whether or not you opt for a picnic.
Dive into Adventure
If you like Scuba or snorkeling, this park has your flippers written all over it. It boasts a simple shore dive on a reef teeming with sea life that includes tropical and sport fish, sharks and Florida lobster.
Make Concessions to Fun
At the Loggerhead Café, you can enjoy a leisurely lunch or grab a quick snack. And the toys at the concession are delicious, too: you can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, sailboats, pontoon boats, gazebos, barbecue grills, and volleyballs.
Ramp up the Experience
Lloyd Beach offers two boat ramps with easy access to the ocean through Port Everglades Inlet. You can beach your craft along the northern end of Whiskey Creek, a manatee sanctuary, and enjoy a swim or a picnic on its shores.
Another option is paddling the waters in a canoe or kayak. Make sure to bring your binoculars for better views of the birds and wildlife.
Get Down on the Beach
If you want nothing more than to escape, bury your toes in the sand and throw your cares to the sea breeze, the park is happy to oblige.
The wide, long beach is made for indulgence, and you’re likely to have a stretch of it to yourself.
The park also boasts superb fishing.
You can enjoy a 45-minute self-guided nature walk through a subtropical coastal hammock.
Everywhere, nature abounds.
No doubt, the park offers a wealth of activities. But for me, the most special was the most simple: a chance to escape the city and enjoy the sound of the surf.
If you go:
Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park
6503 N. Ocean Drive, Dania Beach, FL 33004
Phone: 954- 923-2833
Photos by Lauren Tjaden for VISIT FLORIDA