Find out why Florida’s hidden gem is known as the Venice of America
With 23 miles of gorgeous, promenade-lined beachfronts, glamorous shops and an airport offering direct flights to the UK, it’s no surprise that the low-key Florida destination of Fort Lauderdale is growing in popularity, thanks to its laid-back charm and year-round sunshine.
Fort Lauderdale has eight amazing beaches, which can all be found along the main strip. Joggers will love the ocean views on their morning runs along the beach promenade, or you can enjoy a peaceful stroll, taking in the stunning sunsets.
Each beach has a different vibe. Watch the sunrises at Deerfield Beach, which has a cove-like feel and a fishing pier, or visit Hilsboro Beach to see the brightest lighthouse on the East Coast. If you’re travelling with the family, Pompano beach is a great choice with its fun playground. Our favourite was Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, where you can snorkel along three-tiered reefs. If you prefer a quieter spot, head to Dania Beach, which is perfect for a dip in the sea.
What to do
In the heart of the city is Las Olas Boulevard, home to upscale fashion boutiques and high-end restaurants. We enjoyed a fantastic meal at upmarket Louis Bossi’s (Louiebossi.com), and can recommend the mozzarella tasting option to share with truffle honey, roasted almonds and dried fruit.
There are plenty of ways to get around the city. You can flag down the Sun Trolley bus (Suntrolley.com), which runs all day, or take a trip on a water taxi along the canals to find out why Fort Lauderdale has earned the nickname “Venice of America”. Along the way, look out for extravagant mansions and yachts – many of which belong to celebrities. Buy a ticket that’s valid all day so you can jump on and off as you please.
For a relaxing day out, visit the Flamingo Gardens (Flamingogardens.org). It boasts 60 acres of botanical gardens and the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to lots of the pink birds. For some shopping, head to the huge Sawgrass Mills Mall (Sawgrassmillsmall.com), where you can browse more than 350 designer outlets, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren. There are plenty of places to dine at the mall – we enjoyed a cocktail and bite to eat at Grand Lux Café.
We also recommend visiting the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, where you can view incredible outdoor murals by both local and international artists.
Where to stay
We stayed at the recently renovated oceanfront Diplomat Beach Resort in the Hollywood Beach area. The hotel lobby definitely has the wow factor with its airy, light and glamorous feel, thanks to the huge glass ceiling.
The bedrooms are large and bright, and if you’re lucky enough to get a room overlooking the ocean, you won’t be disappointed. The hotel is positioned directly on the beach, with lots of sun loungers, and the bar serves delicious frozen margaritas.
Although the hotel is big, the pool area is vast, so never feels overcrowded. But for extra privacy, the indoor cabanas can be rented for the day, with a fridge, TV and seating.
The Diplomat is a foodie haven, from the upscale Monkitail to grab-and-go cafés. Monkitail is a buzzy Japanese restaurant headed up by American celebrity chef Michael Schulson. We treated ourselves to the ten-course tasting menu with Kumamoto oysters, lobster claws and beef short ribs. Don’t forget to ask about Nokku, the private karaoke lounge, which is great fun in the evening. Another option is Geoffrey Zakarian’s Point Royal restaurant for Sunday brunch, or the Diplomat Prime for exquisite steak and fine wines. If you’re travelling with the family, visit Candy and Cones, the hotel’s very own sweet and ice cream shop, and enjoy a sugar fix.
Need to know
· Rates at the Diplomat Beach Resort start from around £240 per night. To book, visit Diplomatresort.com
· Booking an airport lounge ensures that you can enjoy more holiday without the hassle. To book the No1 Lounge at Gatwick Airport for £32, visit HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 955 5989.
· British Airways fly from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale from £349 return, including taxes, fees and carrier charges. To book, visit Ba.com or call 0344 493 0124.
· For more information on Greater Fort Lauderdale, check out Sunny.org