The best beaches and canals
Dip your toes into the waters of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s beaches
and canals, but maybe not the alligator- infested Everglades...
Greater Fort Lauderdale is a cluster of 14 cities on Florida’s Atlantic coast, just a 40- minute drive north of Miami. The area boasts 23 miles of sandy beaches, lined with palm trees and wooden lifeguard towers overseeing the swimmers, sunbathers and parasailors. Just inland from the beach are more than 300 miles of interconnected waterways. it could be the Venice of the Americas, if the Italian city traded its gondolas for mega yachts and centuries- old architecture for modern millionaires’ mansions. Conveniently there is a water taxi service to get around but if you are planning to go further inland, make sure you have Uber and Lyft apps on your phone to help you reach your destinations.
The city has a thriving gay community and the area’s Pride event — held on the beach, of course — marked its 40th anniversary last year. It’s so popular that Fort Lauderdale decided to create Pride of the Americas — like EUROPRIDE — which will launch in 2020.
Where to stay
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to hotels, with The Ritz- Carlton and Conrad offering a slice of the local millionaires’ lifestyle, and there are a fair few men- only spots, such as The Grand Resort and Spa. Meanwhile, the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort mega- complex offers everything a family could want, including a pool, tennis courts, stunning views of the sunrise over the Atlantic and plenty of beach- based water sports. The newest kid in town is The Dalmar in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This sleek hotel has a Californian vibe, a sixth- floor outdoor infinity pool and a rooftop bar, which offers amazing views.
What to do
After you have soaked up some rays on the beach, head up Las Olas Blvd, a road that runs from the beach for three miles to the impressive NSU Art Gallery. Between the two points are
Fort Lauderdale’s canals, lined with mansions and 17 blocks of art galleries, antique shops, fashion boutiques and restaurants. Further inland, shopaholics can bag a bargain at the Sawgrass Mills mall which has more than 350 outlets. While you are in the area, visit Sawgrass Recreation Park for thrilling Everglade air- boat excursions in search of alligators. For something more tranquil, visit Flamingo Gardens in the city of Davie, which covers 60 acres offering botanical gardens, the 1930s Wray House Museum and an Everglades wildlife sanctuary hosting 45 species of bird native to Florida, as well as otters, panthers, bobcats and even a bear. Further south, in Hollywood ( no, not that one), you can take a tour of the fantastic graffiti murals of local and international artists.
Where to eat
Make sure you pack an American- sized appetite because just like everywhere else in the States the portions are super- sized compared with the UK.
Try Louie Bossi’s for a slice of rustic Italian cuisine from pizzas to pasta and cuts of meat caramelised in the wood- burning stove. There are plenty of restaurants with sunset views along the coast, but Coconuts is a local favourite with a menu heavy on seafood such as crab cakes, fish tacos and the local mahi- mahi sandwich. Rosie’s Bar and Grill is an institution in the gaybourhood of Wilton Manors, serving up American classics and cocoloco deep- fried coconut shrimp. For a caffeine hit, try Warsaw Coffee Company that serves hot and cold coffees and sweet pastries. In June this year, Warsaw utilised its massive floor space and added Milk Money, a cocktail bar and restaurant, so the venue becomes a bit livelier in the evenings.
Where to party
Wilton Manors — once named the second gayest city in America — is the place to be when the sun goes down. You’ll find dozens of gay- owned bars, restaurants and shops along Wilton Drive. Start the night with a glass of vino at the Naked Grape Wine Bar, then head to the trendy DrYnk Bar & Lounge. Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar and Hunters are also well worth a visit. Located in what the Americans call a strip mall, patrons can often be found enjoying their drinks al fresco in the car park.
How to get there
Norwegian have direct flights to Fort Lauderdale from London Gatwick, from £ 175 one way.
“Take a thrilling Everglades air- boat excursion in search of alligators or visit the more tranquil Flamingo Gardens”