Sun-Soaked Beaches of Greater Fort Lauderdale
Few resort destinations can compete with the sun-soaked beaches of Greater Fort Lauderdale, a 23-mile collection of golden, palm-fringed sands hugging the Atlantic Ocean. Upscale hotels and spas, water sports, chic boutiques and lively nightlife are all within each reach of the best sunbathing spots. The toughest decision you'll face is which of the area's eight beautiful beaches to choose.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach places visitors in the heart of the city's action. Thanks to a $25-million renovation project launched in the 1990s, it's been transformed from a spring break hangout into a bustling resort mecca of open-air shops, seaside cafes, decadent spas and high-end accommodations. A white wave wall, two miles long, flanks the beachfront promenade, creating an iconic backdrop for strolling, skating and people watching. Yet, even with the upgrades, it's still blissfully attitude-free and suitable for all budgets.
Fun fact: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Lauderdale Beach's Bonnet House Museum and Gardens encompasses a 1920 plantation-style home still filled with its owners' artwork and 35 acres of pristine barrier island landscape.
Only swaying palms and sea grass separate the sands of Hollywood Beach from its 2.5-mile brick-paved promenade, creating a car-free fun zone for all ages. The retro-cool beach is not only a popular spot for biking and rollerblading, but it also has an abundance of open-air cafes, an organic market, a child-friendly park and a 500-seat beachfront theater that hosts live bands and dancing under the stars.
Fun fact: Four-legged family members can frolic off-leash at the Dog Beach of Hollywood, between Pershing and Custer streets. It's near the spot where Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and a team of Labradors filmed the 2008 big-screen hit “Marley and Me.”
Pack a rod and reel when heading north of Fort Lauderdale to 3.5-mile Pompano Beach, which takes its name from the saltwater fish found in abundance in the area. Prefer to focus on eating the local catch? The Pompano Beach Seafood Festival, held in late April each year, overflows with tasty treats.
Fun fact: A 143-pound yellowfin tuna landed in 1987 tops the hefty list of record holders caught during the annual Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo.
There's great boating and fishing in Deerfield Beach, where king mackerel are the top catch of the day. The county's northernmost beach is also conveniently positioned for accessing excellent offshore dive sites. Back on land, open-air eateries, beach volleyball and the nearby Ski Rixen cable water ski park set the stage for family fun.
Fun fact: Cameron Diaz filmed scenes for the 2005 feature In Her Shoes at the Deerfield Beach fishing pier.
Lauderdale by the Sea
The half-mile-wide village of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is known as the "Shore Dive Capital of South Florida." Divers and snorkelers can splash into the Atlantic from the beach just south of Anglin's Pier at Commercial Boulevard and easily swim to coral reefs populated with colorful tropical fish, nurse sharks and rays.
Fun fact: On May 26, 1900, the SS Copenhagen, a 325-foot cargo steamer, sank in the waters off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Now a popular scuba site, it's one of only 11 underwater archeological preserves in Florida.
When the need for tranquility strikes, head off the beaten path to Hillsboro Beach at the northern point of Florida's coral reef system. This sliver of a peninsula north of Pompano Beach is home to only 1,500 residents and provides a quiet sanctuary for nesting sea turtles.
Fun fact: The most powerful lighthouse on the eastern seaboard stands sentinel at Hillsboro Beach. Completed in 1907, its beacon is visible for 28 miles.
Greater Fort Lauderdale's southernmost sunbathing spot, Hallandale Beach, is also home to two top South Florida gaming facilities. Thoroughbred horseracing takes place at Gulfstream Park from January through April, and slot machines whirl year-round. Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming Center, which has lively poker tables and slots, showcases greyhound races November through June.
Fun fact: Prior to its establishment as a farming community in the early 1900s, Seminole Indians used the area now known as Hallandale Beach for hunting and collecting starchy cootie root to make dough.
A natural, wildlife-rich oasis, Dania Beach combines scenic sea oat-lined dunes with the mangrove-lined tidal waterway of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the park, carrying visitors close to wading birds and possibly even an endangered manatee in the Whiskey Creek sanctuary.
Fun fact: John U. Lloyd Beach State Park provides a key haven for sea turtles; its sands shelter some 300 nests containing 80 to 120 eggs each.
QUIZ: Find your own beach style at www.sunny.org/beach-quiz.
This article is brought to you by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. To plan your own beach getaway to Greater Fort Lauderdale, visit www.sunny.org.