Hurray for Hollywood (and Fort Lauderdale)

I can’t believe another week has swept past. The good news is I think we are finished with edits on GOING TO THE DOGS. As soon as I know, I will post another short excerpt but for now, we’re back to the beach and this week is a great destination. I’m lucky because my mother and sister both live in the area so I get to go there a lot. So fasten your seat belts, grab your sunglasses and sunblock and we’re off to the Sunshine State.
HOLLYWOOD AND FT. LAUDERDALE
Copyright: Elle Druskin 2011

Were you a fan of 60′s movies like Where The Boys Are? If you remember the movie or caught it on countless re-runs like I have you will remember that thousands of college students packed into Ft. Lauderdale beach for the annual Spring Break. They still come down there but travel options being a lot more diverse today, things are not quite as hysterical as they were and the area is far more upmarket, so to speak, so don’t worry about massive hoards of students all over the place.

Being a peninsula, you are never far from a beach in Florida and they are all beautiful. It would be easy to write a book just on Florida beaches but I’m confining myself to a few. I’m sure everyone has their favorite whether it is east coast or west coast. My family lives on the east coast and I visit there very often which is why I have chosen a few of the south Florida beaches for this week. These beaches are clean and they make darn sure they stay that way. South Florida prides itself on clean beaches and clean water. I remember a story years ago about some cruise ship that dumped rubbish that eventually floated up on one of the beaches. They tracked them down, fined them and issued a severe warning that if it ever happened again, the company would not be allowed to sail in their waters. That’s pretty serious.

Food and entertainment are great and there are plenty of things for families to do too, so you cannot lose on these beaches unless you are there during hurricane season and you are in the middle of one. (Hurricane season is July—November but the peak time is August—October). And by the way, Florida is great in the summer. It is not that much hotter, and sometimes, less so than points north and a lot more comfortable in the heat because of the proximity of those beaches and the ocean breeze so I recommend Florida for summer or any time of year visit. The greater Ft. Lauderdale area has over 20 miles of beach so let’s hit the water.

If you have a car, you will find distances fairly short for most of these things. If you don’t have a car you can use the train which stops at all the towns along the beach strip. I’ve used it for plenty of things and yes, the train goes into Miami Airport and also stops at Ft. Lauderdale–Hollywood Airport too.

Hurray for Hollywood!

Just along Hollywood, there are about 6—7 miles of beach and Hollywood is considered locally as a very cool beach. Before you even hit the water, or maybe after, you will probably want to have a stroll on the boardwalk. This is over 2 miles in length and all you have to do is watch out for rollerbladers and cyclists unless you are one of them. You can rent bikes on the boardwalk and you will also find jet-ski rentals.

At the Hollywood Beach Theatre, there is free music and dancing almost every night and it’s literally right next to the beach, so if music and dancing is your thing head over there. If you are looking for more entertainment, then head over to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. This is not on the beach but not far; nothing is far from the beach in Hollywood. It’s a huge complex with music, gambling, comedy clubs, restaurants and shops. My sister and cousins keep saying we are going to spend a weekend there instead of the evening but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. The complex is so big that chances are, we’ll all lose each other and spend the weekend trying to reunite!

If you are looking for a slightly less frenetic or quieter scene, then head over to Dania Beach. Dania Beach also has kayaking available, not necessarily a lot else but then again, you want to be there because it’s a bit less hectic.

For those looking to snorkel, I recommend Lauderdale by the Sea Beach. This is one of the few beaches with a reef that is close enough to the beach for you to swim out and snorkel. For those who want to explore a lighthouse or learn a bit about turtles (more about that below,) your best beach is Hillsboro.

All sorts of water sports are available on these beaches and you are pretty much going to find them almost everywhere. In Ft. Lauderdale you will definitely find parasailing, water parks, scuba diving and catamarans. There are also shops that rent boogie boards and surfboards in case you left yours at home and you can book lessons for any of these sports. Of course there is a surf school in Ft. Lauderdale although the surf is not always fantastic but for beginners it might be a good place to start.

It’s a given that you will also find lots of on-land sports like golf courses and tennis courts. Hey, this is Florida!—but I would guess most people are interested in the water sorts of activities. Whatever you are looking for on the water, you are going to find. If you’re not sure, just ask someone because they will be happy to tell you.
Enjoy the Atlantic surf, keep the beach clean (or you know what will happen—they really are strict about it), and if you are parked on the beach take a lot of change to feed those parking meters.

Doggie friendly beaches
If your dog is on vacation with you, there’s good news for him or her. There is definitely a doggie designated beach in Ft. Lauderdale. Canine Beach is on Sunrise Blvd. It has designated hours that differ from summer to winter and you must have a permit. Locals buy an annual permit for their pooches. Visitors can buy a weekend permit from the park ranger on site. A weekend permit is $7.00 as far as I know. This is not like the dog beach in Sydney; the dog must be on leash. BTW the ranger is supposed to keep extra pooper scoopers because YES you must clean up after your dog which is fair enough.

I’m Beached Out, Now What Do We Do?

Here comes the turtle information in more detail. Florida has a lot of sea turtle nests and during the summer months, you can go with a naturalist to learn about them and see the hatchlings being released. I have never done this but heard it’s a great experience and I hope I get to do this on my next trip. Rather than talk about what I don’t know, I will give you their website and you can check it out for yourselves in case you are in the vicinity at the right time of year. Personally, I think this would be as interesting for adults, if not more so, than kids. You can find out more about them at the Museum of Science in Ft. Lauderdale or go to this website:

http://www.sunny.org/visitors/beaches/seaturtles/

There are plenty of other family sorts of activities from tours of the Everglades, to skimboarding lessons. My kids always loved going to Boomers which is an amusement center that includes mini-golf, bumper boat rides, (they loved those) laser tag and go-karting, among other things. Boomers is located in Dania Beach. My kids still remember a mini-golf course in the area (not at Boomers) with the craziest things on it including one hole that was like a toilet and they had to reach in to get the ball back to proceed. They thought this was hilarious—you probably have to be a kid to find that so funny although we all laughed.

If your kids or you are into astronomy, there is a Planetarium at Broward Community College and for those who adore butterflies (I do) there is Butterfly World in Coconut Creek with waterfalls, lorikeets and tropical gardens.

I can’t remember where the heck it was but I went with my Mom and the kids to a boardwalk kind of walkway that passed over water just above alligators. I was scared to death the whole time that one of us would take a wrong step and end up as someone’s dinner. There are so many gators in Florida, it isn’t funny but if you are interested in the beasts, you will find plenty of places where you can get up close (don’t get too close) to them. Not saying more about that. There are heaps of other things to do which you can easily find out once you are in the area so just ask around and you will find them.

For more adult activity, there are casinos, race tracks and proximity to professional sports like football during the season. Tickets are not cheap and book out fast so if you are considering attending a game, make sure you book asap.

Tip: if you are in Florida in the summer, you should use insect repellent, especially around sunset because of the mosquitoes. Don’t neglect that.

Food

I can’t begin to list all the places for great eating. It’s your choice to eat healthy, decide to indulge a bit, or go overboard or somewhere in between. There are family friendly restaurants, fast food places, and fine dining as well so you take your pick. You will have to dress decently for the more upmarket restaurants and not walk in off the beach. Technically, this is not in the area, it’s further north in Delray Beach but I used to love to go a restaurant across the street from the beach when my own kids and nephew were little because we could literally roll in the strollers and be seated outside so that we didn’t drag in sand all over the place. The kids loved that and loved the food and so did we and you will find some places like that all over the beach area.

Many restaurants have family deals or Early Bird specials which are really good value so it’s always worth checking in advance. This may not be a gourmet tip, but I don’t really care. I eat very few sweets—just not my weakness, but I ALWAYS make sure to indulge in some Key Lime Pie while I am in Florida. I just love it and it doesn’t taste the same with regular limes no matter how you try to duplicate it at home, so definitely try that very local dessert because it is gorgeous (and not for calorie counters so make sure you hit the beach with lots of activity before or the next day to make up for that aberration!).

Listen, I could go on and on about Florida beaches and the general south Florida area. I didn’t even talk about Miami and South Beach because that’s an entire entry in itself, but enough’s enough for this week. I’m heading there again soon and will be thinking of you.

Our next stop is Fiji in the beautiful South Pacific, a destination of over 300 islands.

Here’s your quiz:

The capital of Fiji is:

Nadi
Suva
Malucca
Denarau

A local dish, Ota Miti is made from:
Bananas
Mangoes
Fern shoots
Pineapple

The word you will hear all the time as a greeting in Fiji is:

G’day
Buri
Yagona
Bula

The local pearls in Fiji are known as:
Fiji Gold
Fiji Pink
Fiji Black
Fiji Cream

The local dancing in Fiji is called:

Hula Fiji
Meke
Tamure
Fiafia

4 comments

  1. E. B. Davis says:

    I’m a beach writer, too Elle. My favorite beaches are on the Outer Banks of N. C. the setting of my WIP. Before Hurricane Irene, friends and I manned sea turtle nests to watch and assist in hatchings. Then Irene came through. I doubt nests survived the storm. There’s so much talk of man interfering with turtle nests, but natural events like storms and preditors have a worst effect. Since Hatteras nests probably got wiped out (although it was more of a sound side event–there were still very high rough tides) I hope Florida’s baby turtles survived.

    • elledruskin says:

      I have long wanted to visit the Outer Banks. Those turtles have featured prominently in some recent novels. I just re-read Pat Conroy’s Beach Music and they were part of an ongoing discussion about interfering with nature, etc.

  2. Many tourists forget south central Florida where there are more cattle than people. Come to Okeechobee county for barbeque contests, rodeoas, cattle, cowboys, great bass fishing, and alligators. It’s the Florida of the past. You’ll love it.

    Lesley

  3. elledruskin says:

    So true. Like I said, Florida could be an entire book there are so many great places and you are never far from the beach. I’ve been perusing The Cracker Cookbook recently which is north Florida based I think. Cracker, in this context is not an insult but taken as a background of pride and tradition. Fine by me!

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