A little piece of Floridian Heaven
Picture a small tranquil Floridian town, bathed in sunshine, andone, whichsimply oozes with thatlaid back lifestyle found in the Caribbean. Imagine gently swaying palm trees, a town square furnishedwith pastel coloured wooden benches, comfortable seats and parasols; the place where locals and visitors gather to ‘chill’ and chat,or a leisurely stroll along uncongested, white sandy beaches where sea turtles emerge from the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean to lay their eggs from March to October.
Welcome to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which covers an area of only 1.56 square miles and recorded a population of 6,056 in the 2010 census. Although the town is only 12 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Fort Lauderdale, famous for its annual international boat show,glorious beaches, and meandering canals, it is such a tranquil peace of heaven that it seems as though it is of a bygone era, untouched by commercialism and a spot that has retained that old Floridian charm.
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, known as LBTS, is recognised as Florida’s most popular spot for beach diving. Divers are attracted to the reefs, one of which is 100 yards off the beach and the other is only a ten-minute swim away. Another very popular attraction for divers is the wreck of the SS Copenhagen, a 19th-century British steamship, which now lies less than a mile offshore and only 25 feet from the surface.In 1994 Florida recognised the SS Copenhagen as an underwater archaeological preserve and in 2001 it was placed on the national register of historic sites.
For those who prefer to keep their head above the water, consider a spot of snorkelling above the reef and view the abundance of colourful tropical fish, and perhaps experience a close encounter with a passing turtle. Or, visit Fort Lauderdale’s 180-acreHugh Taylor Birch State Park on East Sunrise Boulevard, rent a canoe, kayak or‘peddle’ boat, and paddle slowlyalong the mile long freshwater lagoon and spot the local wildlife. Ardent bird watchers will be entranced by the variety of species, including migratory birds, known to visit the area.
Another popular attraction is Bonnet House, Museum and Gardens, located on Fort Lauderdale’s North Birch Road. Named after the bonnet lily, the house was designed in 1920 by Frederic Clay Bartlett, an American artist from Chicago who was given the land when he married Helen, the daughter of Hugh Taylor Birch. In 1983 the property was given to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservationand the house and its contents have been well preserved and in 2002 the property was declared a historic landmark. Visitors are transported back to a time of gracious Floridian living and it is truly a spectacular property surrounded by lush, verdant gardens, and is one of the last examples of South Florida’s native barrier island habitats. We wandered around the fabulous grounds, which feature five distinct ecosystems including the mangrove wetlands, a maritime forest and the Atlantic Ocean beach.
Following that fervent exploration we headed back to the tranquillity of Lauderdale by the Sea’s Ocean Boulevard and enjoyed a first class luncheon at the Sea Watch on the Ocean. I sampled the succulent char-grilled swordfish, served with Roma tomato, balsamic vinegar and basil, and accompanied by a chilled glass of the 2015 Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay with those tropical notes of mango,satsuma and kiwi, it was perfect.
Today, it’s exceedingly rare to find a Floridian beach resort where there are no huge ‘corporate style’ hotels taking over the skyline. We were very fortunate to stay at the Windjammer Resort and Beach Club, located on palm tree lined El Mar Drive, adjacent to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s pristine, white sandy beach and only a short stroll away from the town centre. The Windjammer Resort and Beach Club is a highly regarded member of Superior Small Lodgings of Florida; an elite association of small independent hotels with a maximum of 50 rooms, and each member adheres to strict codes of practice and annual inspections. Thelevel of comfort and service at this small, charming property is exemplary, and the selection of contemporary, self-contained, fully furnished and air-conditioned studios and apartments with one or two bedrooms are ideal for self-catering holiday rentals.
Features include full kitchen facilities with every appliance provided, separate lounge and dining areas, ultra comfortable beds and a spacious bathroom with a shower. There are two heated swimming pools with sun loungers and next to a large BBQ area you’ll find an inviting seating space with plump sofas and footstools, and there’s even a large wooden swing seat, which is shaded by palm fronds.
Amenities include an excellent daily housekeeping service, complimentary super fast and secure in-room Wi-Fi, an on-site laundry, a complimentary car parking space and complimentary bicycles with helmets and locks for guests keen to keep active.
The resort also offers direct access onto the gorgeous beach and complimentary parasols and beach chairs are provided for guests.For those seeking a tranquil place to relax all day, somewhere to lounge around in swimwear and flip flops, where the only distractions are the pelicans flying overhead and the sound of the waves retreating gently from the shore, look no further.
The Lauderdale-by-the-Sea community provides visitors with complimentary public transportation; ideal for local trips. The Pelican Hopper service runs every day and the route includes the Village Shopping Centre, which features Publix, an enormous supermarket with an excellent delicatessen and bakery.
For a casual dining experience take a short stroll down to Commercial Boulevard, and head for Mulligan’s Beach House Bar and Grill. Whist dining ‘al fresco’ and taking part in the popular sport of ‘people watching’, I sampled the delicious ‘monster fish n’ chips’, and served with a frosted glass of Kendall JacksonChardonnay, it was just the ticket.
For a more formal affair the Piccolo Ristorante, also on Commercial Boulevard, serves first class Italian dishes. I ordered the ‘Chef’s Amatriciana’ –fusili pasta with balsamic caramelised onions, pancetta and crushed red pepper,which was served with aplomb. And accompanied by a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, with its silky tannins and notes of cassis and cherry, it was unforgettable.
And for those of us with a sweet tooth, a leisurely wander along Commercial Boulevard, which is crammed with quirky shops full of trinkets, beachwear and souvenirs will pay dividends. Head for Kilwin’s, which specialises in ice creams, sticky toffee apples and homemade fudges, which can be viewed being paddled on site. The creamy sea-salt caramel fudge or delicious peanut butter fudge is sure to satisfy the most discerning taste buds.
Or, wander along to Jan’s Homemade Candies, located on North Ocean Drive and select some of the mouth-watering chocolates on display, which include chocolate butter cream, coconut, lemon, maple, orange, raspberry and vanilla. This is of course the ideal gift box for loved ones at home but will those chocolates remain undisturbed? Ours didn’t!
Local Transportation, Miami &Everglades ToursandLocalAttractions
For large groups and families of 8 or more looking to travel in style in luxurious mini-buses and coaches and keen to take advantage of an efficient, punctual service with helpful drivers visit www.floridatours.com.
Domestic FlightsFor low fares and reliable, punctual flights from Fort Lauderdale to other US cities including Salt Lake City, fly with the recipient of the 2016 Business Traveller award for ‘Best Airline for North American Travel’, www.jetblue.com
Local EntertainmentVisit Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for Performing Arts, one of the world’s top ten most visited theatres. To view the extensive list of performances including Broadway musicals, operas, plays, ballets, concerts and more visit www.browardcenter.org
Review by Rebecca Underwood