Only a short drive north from the fast pace, busy streets, city fashion and packed beaches of Miami, is a whole other world of peace, tranquillity and long stretches of white-sand beaches with only a few people speckled across the surface. The whole area, from Fort Lauderdale, through Delray and extending to Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, is the place where people go to escape the big city, to relax, to unwind and to live a quieter, more sophisticated life.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale wasn’t always like this, as for many years it was the location of huge Spring Break parties, with loud music, drinking, outdoor parties and wet t-shirt contests on the beaches. That’s all over now though and the former party king has grown up and traded in his beer hat and flip flops for trendy boat shoes and a white wine spritzer! A far more refined and sophisticated imaged has emerged as Fort Lauderdale attracts a more mature clientele, both in visitors and residents, to its still intra-coastal waterways, relaxing beaches, as well as the fine dining establishments and high end shopping along Las Olas Boulevard. With exclusive beachside hotels, a huge yachting scene and one of the busiest leisure cruise ports in the world, Fort Lauderdale is a destination for pristine beaches, fine food, arts and culture and even gondola rides through its extensive canal network.
Things to do in Fort Lauderdale:
Beach – Over 7 miles of white-sand perfection, with water sports, a promenade and multitude of shopping & dining options! There are not a lot of surfing waves to be found along this stretch of coast, but there’s plenty more to make up for it, with water sports such as Catamarans, boat rental, parasailing, Scuba Diving, Sport Fishing, Banana Boats, Paddle Boarding and a local favourite – Skim boarding.
Fort Lauderdale Beach – (Photo – Daniel Dudek-Corrigan)
Las Olas Boulevard – One of the most popular sections of Fort Lauderdale, Las Olas is a mixture of high street shopping, bars, clubs, cafes, boutique shops and art galleries, all interlaced with a network of canals and beautiful waterside homes. Don’t confuse this boutique beauty for quaintness though, Las Olas has an art museum, an art house movie theatre and an IMAX within easy reach.
Fort Lauderdale – Las Olas (Photo – Steve Sutherland)
Explore the Waterways – Venice, Italy is not the only place to experience a romantic gondola ride through picturesque canals, nor do you need endure the chintzy plasticized version in Vegas. In Fort Lauderdale you can take relaxing and romantic gondola tours at a lazy pace through the network of canals, which can be tailored to any type of experience you’re looking for – Family, historic, even a romantic proposal!
Fort Lauderdale – Waterways (Photo – Dennis Bernhard)
Everglades National Park – The Everglades is only a short drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale, where you can find all kind of ways to explore this unique environment, from the quintessential airboat, swamp hikes kayaks and even Everglade campsites.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Everglades National Park
Fort Lauderdale – Everglades (Photo – Graham C99)
Where to Eat in Fort Lauderdale:
We didn’t actually eat in Fort Lauderdale itself as we were some busy and so well taken care of everywhere else we visited. We did however eat in the Acquario restaurant in Lago Mar Resort, which is open daily for dinner between 6 and 10pm and has an incredible of classic dishes with a unique modern twist from Chef Phillip Damien Kahn.
If you’re looking for something else, then we suggest checking out Tripadvisor to find the best food in Fort Lauderdale!
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale:
We spent three nights at the Lago Mar Resort and Spa (compliments of the management), a family-owned and run luxury suite hotel on a quiet corner of Fort Lauderdale beach, close enough to Port Everglades to watch the mountainous cruise ships coming in and out from the balcony of our suite room. Three generations of family care and ownership have created an environment where personality and connection are just as important as luxury. 500 feet of private beach and two swimming pools mean that there is always a quiet spot to relax.
The spa and steam room are perfect for preparing for a skilled massage after a long and taxing day on the beach. On our final night we enjoyed dinner with Debbie, the third generation owner, her two daughters, Dani and Demi, along with family friend Andrew. It was a great way to get to know more about the hotel, how it came to be and the real passion and values that shaped the experience we felt there.
Full Lago Mar Resort story – coming very soon!
Don’t just take our word for it though, check out their reviews on TripAdvisor
Venture a little further north and into Palm Beach County and you’ll find Delray Beach, a small city of about 60,000 people. This is one of the most exclusive destinations in Florida and is famous for having the longest main street in the Sunshine State. Also known as ‘Florida’s Village by the Sea’, Delray Beach is packed with art galleries, fine dining restaurants, boutique shopping and accommodation ranging from small seaside inns to grand beachside hotels. Although before we arrived, we had been told by several people that, ‘Delray is just full of old people,’ that definitely wasn’t the case when we arrived! We were staying at the stunning Delray Sands Resort, the only resort hotel with beachfront access to Highlands Beach, the most exclusive stretch of beach in the area. The average age of the clientele in this particular spot was a little on the high side, but when we strayed out into the heart of down town we saw a sudden and instant change, with partiers of all ages and types filling the street and flowing in and out of restaurants and bars in a steady flow of lively chatter and buzz.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Palm Beach
Things to do in Delray Beach:
Awarded the accolade, ‘The Most Fun Small Town in America,’ by Rand McNally & USA Today, there is something to do here for everyone, from thrills and adventure sports to culinary activities and wine tasting.
Museum and Gallery Hopping – Something that Delray Beach has no shortage of is art galleries and museums. You can bounce from a local contemporary spot like the Arts Garage to the Cornell Museum of Art & American Culture, then grab some lunch before hitting a show in the Delray Beach Playhouse.
Water Sports – A firm favourite activity of locals and visitors to South Florida is Stand Up Paddle Boarding and you can find paddle boards for rent all along the beach front. If you fancy something a little more seated, grab a kayak or a catamaran sail boat. While not one of the best surf spots in the world, surf-able waves appear regularly and it’s not uncommon to have a few days of overhead-high throughout the year. Don’t expect barrels, but it’s worth bringing your board!
Delray Beach – Paddle Boarding (Photo – Oleg.)
Historic Bike and Walking Tour – More of a self-guided ramble, all need do is pick up a copy of the Historic Delray Beach Bike and Walk Tour map at the Delray Beach Visitor’s Center, rent a bike from one of several bike stores around town, or walk, then get exploring the interesting and chequered history of Delray Beach.
Delray Beach – Atlantic Avenue (Photo – Elvert Barnes)
Culinary Tours – With more than a couple of options, try a food tour of Delray, which is as much of a history lesson and a story of the various groups of people who have moved and settled here over the years.
Where to Stay in Delray Beach:
We stayed in the Delray Sands Resort (compliments of the management). A 5 star hotel located in Highlands Beach, with an exclusive beachside location, not shared with any other hotel. A relaxing beach paradise, where the waves lap against the shore as you enjoy your breakfast on the outdoor decked patio, or cool off in the pool.
This is the only hotel with direct access to the beach in the Highlands Beach area, so your beach view from the pool is unique to Delray Sands. The atmosphere is relaxed and refined with a quiet sophistication. The rooms are complete and comfortable, luxurious without being loud or overstated. Ours had its own balcony with a view overlooking the pool.
Check out our full Delray Sands Resort story – coming very soon.
You can check details and latest rates on Booking.com, Agoda or Expedia or visit their website directly at Delray Sands Resort. Don’t just take our word for it though, check out their reviews on TripAdvisor
Where to eat in Delray Beach:
The main street in downtown Delray Beach is filled with every kind of restaurant imaginable – Seek and you probably will find! Obviously we can’t comment on everything on offer, but we can tell you about where we ate for the two nights we were there.
Like Mexico meets Miami, marinated in beachside cool, laidback flavours and then all combined with the simple sophistication that exists in the heart of Palm Beach County. Make sure you order the guacamole, prepared table-side from nothing but raw ingredients. Full, in-depth food story coming soon!
Sushi prepared to order, Oysters Rockefeller, lobster tails and much more, all capped off with an extravagant assortment of deserts. Full, in-depth food story coming soon!
Note: This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of Carma PR for the Restaurants in Del Ray, The Meridian Group for our stay in Lago Mar Resort Fort Lauderdale and to Visit Florida, the official tourism office of Florida in Tallahassee, and especially Ms. Summer Gilhousen, who arranged the whole trip and coordinated with all the local tourism boards, private companies for our sponsored hotel stays, tours and car rental. Thank you!