Explore Ft. Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale: A Golden Beach Paradise

Although there’s much to see and do along the Gold Coast, you haven’t truly been here until you’ve slathered on tanning lotion and laid out a towel on the miles of beaches. From Palm Beach down to Miami-Dade, there are miles and miles of soft sand that have lured both residents and tourists to take a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, stretching from Deerfield Beach down south to Hollywood, there are 23 miles of beaches and plenty of affordable places for families or Spring Break partygoers to enjoy the sun. With so many activities, it’s a one-stop shop for a day of fun: tanning, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, wave-running and more. The beaches are also a walk away from a litany of restaurants and bars, so anyone could truly spend their entire day here.

Mr. Flagler’s Florida
One of the major pioneers to call South Florida home was Henry Flagler. The oil tycoon originally visited St. Augustine and Jacksonville with his ill wife in 1878, as suggested by her doctor. Unfortunately, she passed away, but Flagler was enamored by the possibilities that Florida held. He made his way down to what is now Palm Beach County and created a railway system that forever changed travel in the state, eventually ending in Key West in 1912. For his investments in the state, Flagler is considered the man who invented modern Florida. Miami was originally going to be named after him, in fact, but he insisted on using the American Indian name instead.

Fort Lauderdale, A Spring Break Destination
In March 2011, Fort Lauderdale celebrated its 100th birthday, and its history is intertwined with pioneers, building development and Spring Break. Although settlers first started moving into the New River Settlement in the mid 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the area became known as a vacation and real estate hot spot. From this time on, college students have flooded the city every Spring Break to lounge in the sun and hit up the bars and clubs. In 1960, this annual mecca was documented in the musical comedy “Where the Boys Are.” Four college girls make their way to Fort Lauderdale beach and discover themselves and what they believe about sex and relationships. The movie was released in the winter, and the following spring, about 50,000 college students converged on Fort Lauderdale. By 1985, this number skyrocketed to 300,000 students.

Getting Closer To Nature
For nature enthusiasts, another annual mecca to the beaches is the hoards of sea turtles making their way to the shore for nesting season. From March to October every year, turtles swim to their home beaches to lay their eggs. The streetlights along the beach are partially covered during this time as artificial light might turn away the females, and the hatchlings use light to find their way back to the ocean. Nests are roped off—and sometimes even relocated—to prevent beachgoers from trampling over them unknowingly. There are three turtle walks available for those that want to watch nature in action. The Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale leads nighttime turtle walks three days a week in June and July. Participants will learn more about the different kinds of turtles, then head to the beach to walk 1 to 2 miles to search for turtles laying eggs. However, it’s never a sure thing that one will get to see a turtle on these walks. Two other locations that offer turtle walks are the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach, which conducts walks twice a week in June and July, and the Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood, which offers them twice a week in July and August.

Eat, Drink And Be Merry
There is absolutely no shortage of food, drink and shopping to be had at the beach. Drive or walk down A1A and you’re sure to find something to satisfy your craving. There are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from in the area, with a variety of options to please anyone’s culinary taste buds or wallet. On Fort Lauderdale Beach is the towering Beach Place, which in the spring is taken over by college students. It features affordable, open-air bars and restaurants like Lulu’s Bait Shack, Hooters, Fat Tuesday, Da Big Kahuna and Soprano’s Dueling Pianos. Whether you need a quick place to eat and scope out the best spot on the beach, or a nighttime hangout, this is a popular place to be. Along the beach are also stand-alone restaurants that have become staples to residents and visitors alike: Primanti Brothers Pizza Grill, McSorley’s Beach Pub, The Deck, Casablanca Café and more. For those wanting to treat themselves to the high-end beach-dining experience, there are hotels and resorts lining the beach with their own flagship restaurants. The Atlantic Hotel features Trina; grab a seat outside to observe the parade of cars and to people-watch. At the W Fort Lauderdale, its restaurant Steak 954 provides a chic, trendy place to dress up and spend the evening eating foods created by New York restaurateurs. Another steak option is Shula’s on the Beach Fort Lauderdale, one of many steakhouses created by the football family in South Florida.

Shopping 101
Tourists come from all around the world to shop in South Florida, where malls are landmarks. If you’re not willing to travel all across the county for shopping, the beaches in Fort Lauderdale will not disappoint. The Galleria Mall is just a walk, or water taxi ride, from the beach and features the three major department stores: Macy’s, Dillard’s and Nordstrom. There are also must-have shopping stores within the mall, including Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Pac Sun, Apple, Williams Sonoma, Coach and more. To set the mall apart from others, there is the Red Door Spa by Elizabeth Arden, a fine-dining food court and such restaurants and bars as Blue Martini, P.F. Changs, Truluck’s, Seasons 52 and The Capital Grille. Known as the “style mile,” Las Olas Boulevard features blocks and blocks of shopping, cafés, restaurants and art galleries. Shoppers will find brand-name stores and restaurants, like Cheesecake Factory and Tommy Bahama, but can also discover local boutiques, where you can purchase items you’ll find nowhere else. So, buy a cup of gelato or chocolate at the style mile and window-shop till you drop. Of course, just walking along the beach, shoppers will find stores to purchase bathing suits, sun-block lotion (the Florida sun is stronger here!), towels and souvenirs.

Something For Everyone
Whether you’re a college student vowing to not sleep a wink through this year’s Spring Break or a young family wanting to relax together, the beaches have everything a visitor here could want. In this region built on tourism, every restaurant, bar and hotel welcomes its visitors with open arms and will give insider details on the best places to shop, eat and play. So, grab your beach bag, because the beaches are waiting!