BEACHES AND OUT­DOOR GEMS

Travel Guide to Florida - - SOUTHEAST FLORIDA -

A trip to Florida isn’t com­plete with­out some much-needed beach time. Spend the day swim­ming, kayak­ing and snor­kel­ing in crys­tal-clear wa­ter at Bahia Honda State Park, lo­cated be­tween the his­toric Seven Mile Bridge and Big Pine Key in the lower Florida Keys. This stretch of sand has been listed many times among the best beaches in the USA.

Home to two sprawl­ing beach parks, Key Bis­cayne is per­fect for oceanfront fam­ily pic­nics. Visit ei­ther Cran­don Park Beach at the en­trance to the is­land, or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the is­land’s end. At Bill Baggs, climb the steps of a his­toric light­house (c. 1825) or kayak along the wa­ter’s edge. Or fish on the sea­wall of Bis­cayne Bay where you can spot the rem­nants of Stiltsville, a col­lec­tion of his­toric struc­tures on stilts hov­er­ing over the wa­ter that dates back to the Pro­hi­bi­tion-era rum­run­ner days.

Of course, in Mi­ami, you’ll not want to miss the sparkling sands of South Beach. Fam­i­lies love the kid-friendly fa­cil­i­ties and mini splash and play area at South Pointe Park Beach, while those who want to be in the “scene” head to the beach along Ocean Drive. Far­ther north, the beach in Surf­side is a fa­vorite among lo­cals be­cause of its laid­back vibe and ac­cess to a water­front walk­ing path. Or check out Oleta River State Park Beach, ideal for kayak­ing and ca­noe­ing.

Fa­mous for its bustling beach­front district and an en­ter­tain­ment des­ti­na­tion in its own right, Hol­ly­wood beach fea­tures a va­ri­ety of side­walk cafes, bou­tiques and ice­cream par­lors—so go for a dip and then cruise the Broad­walk. Spend the day boat­ing or ca­noe­ing at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Da­nia Beach, a pop­u­lar tur­tle nest­ing spot.

Draw­ing spring break crowds for years, Fort Laud­erdale Beach runs the length of North At­lantic Boule­vard and makes the per­fect beach day easy be­cause of its prox­im­ity to a va­ri­ety of restau­rants and amus­ing at­trac­tions. Seek­ing a quiet respite? En­joy seren­ity in the shaded pic­nic ar­eas at

Hugh Tay­lor Birch State Park, which also fea­tures monthly mangrove habi­tat walks.

In Boca Ra­ton, the Dag­ger­wing Na­ture Cen­ter fea­tures a 3,000-square-foot ex­hibit hall sur­rounded by 40acres of nat­u­ral area to ex­plore.

Check out the panoramic views from the Jupiter In­let Light­house and Mu­seum at Jupiter Beach Park.

In Juno Beach, ven­ture out on a wildlife tur­tle walk then nav­i­gate through the rare coastal ham­mock and nat­u­ral dune sys­tems, part of Florida’s most pre­cious habi­tat.

TOP: Jupiter In­let Light­house and Mu­seum. ABOVE: A green sea tur­tle near John Pen­nekamp Co­ral Reef State Park in Key Largo. OP­PO­SITE: Hol­ly­wood Beach Broad­walk.

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