South Florida - Ft. Lauderdale & Environs

Discussion in 'Travel Stories' started by giradman, Mar 22, 2015.

  1. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Well, Susan & I just return from our first little vacation of 2015 - spent 5 days on Ft. Lauderdale Beach along the South Florida east coast on the Atlantic Ocean. South Florida consists of the east Atlantic coast starting around Cocoa Beach (just below the Kennedy Space Center) and extending to Miami and then to the Florida Keys; the west coast south starts around Everglades City, up through Naples, Ft. Meyers and into the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area - Orlando is central (see first map below). We have been to all of these towns & cities multiple times over the decades - Susan's parents use to live in Delray Beach (blue arrow on the map but not labeled), which is between Boca Raton & West Palm Beach - thus, the most common placed we have visited in Florida.

    Ft. Lauderdale is labeled and is between Boca Raton and Miami - we left North Carolina in the rain and a temperature of 42 F degrees, and arrived in Lauderdale w/ sunny skies and temp in the low 80s F - was like that during our entire stay, so these south Florida towns are great getaways from the winter and early spring weather even in the mid-Atlantic area where we live. The city is nicknamed the 'Venice of America' because of the extensive man-made canals (pics later) - about 165 miles w/i the city limits (a boat ride is a MUST - and one will be described in a future post).

    This is a popular resort destination (especially for college kids on spring breaks) - quote below outlining the numbers of hotels, restaurants, etc. - Port Everglades is busy w/ huge cruise ships (Wiki Article for those interested in more details). We stayed at the Atlantic Hotel on Ft. Lauderdale Beach, which is separated from the main town by the intracoastal waterway - see second schematic map (blue arrow the location of our hotel; red arrow is the site of the Bonnet House & Gardens - another upcoming post). I'll stop here - next post will be more on the hotel and the beach. Dave :)

    P.S. There seems to be an error on my first map, i.e. Palm Beach is mis-labeled and should be Cocoa Beach near the Kennedy Space Center - Palm Beach is located on the ocean across the intracoastal waterway from the city of West Palm Beach - the cartographer of this map should be subjected to a whipping! ;)

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    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
  2. scifan57

    scifan57 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for yet another mini travelogue. I hope to see more in the future.
     
  3. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Hi Scifan - thanks for your response - about to add my second post! Dave :)
     
  4. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    NOW - location! Staying in these south Florida coastal towns can be tricky in selecting a hotel - do you want to be isolated, be near the main spots to visit such as restaurants, or be in a hectic area w/ a lot of nightlife and other activities? In our two other visits to Ft. Lauderdale, we stayed at the Marriott Hotel which is slightly off the A1A highway (an important road that goes up & down much of that coastal area and can be absolutely beautiful w/ ocean scenery, but annoying w/ the amount of traffic - flip a coin?).

    This time I let Susan decide and she choose the Atlantic Hotel, which I linked in my first post - a 4 diamond resort w/ a wonderful spa (Susan went twice while I sweated in the fitness center - ;)) - we had a nice suite on the 5th floor level, the same location as the spa, fitness center, and outdoor pool - below some pics (some mine and several from the web - probably can guess which ones).

    The first image from the web of the hotel taken from the beach (A1A is not shown); next 3 pics are mine showing the views from the 5th level of the hotel - really beautiful but notice that the highway separates the hotel from the beach, which is true for a number of miles along this road, so crossing the street can be an issue (especially for a bunch of drunk college students on spring break who are not even looking at the cars passing by!) - Susan was somewhat upset w/ this 'geography' but I was the chauffeur of the rental car and simply had to drive slowly and carefully - the last pic from the web shot high showing the outdoor pool and the beach & ocean sans highway.

    SO, if you plan to go to any of these coastal Florida cities (and we've been to all of them multiple times), then carefully research location of your 'domicile' - I kind of liked the activity of the numerous college kids around (and the gals looked GREAT in their skimpy bathing outfits - ;)); Susan was less happy w/ the location; BUT overall, an excellent hotel and a great location to visit some of the sites I'll mentioned in future posts. Dave :)

    P.S. OOPS! Notice the airplane in my 2nd photo w/ the trailing banner - these are constantly present going back & forth along the beach - always ads for places to visit (and spend your money) - ;)
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  5. scifan57

    scifan57 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the pictures. They're a lot better than the falling snow I see when looking out my dining room window just now.
     
  6. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Yep, I can feel the pain - the weather was just about perfect in FL even a little too warm on several days - on our return to North Carolina, the temp was just into the low 40s F and it was raining - what a BUMMER! But, better than snow & ice! Dave :)
     
  7. BobbyBoomer

    BobbyBoomer iPad Fan

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    I grew up just north of FtL, in Pompano Beach. I now live about 40 min north (in traffic). Im glad you enjoyed yourself.

    Bob
     
  8. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Hi Bob - thanks for your comments and glad to hear from a Floridian - we've been to FL dozens of times and usually split visits between the east & west coasts - a little less hectic on the west side of the state, but still the traffic can be overwhelming at times - ;)

    I'll be continuing this thread w/ some further posts, so if I make any mistakes in my descriptions, please add the corrections. Wife & I travel a lot in my retirement and I enjoy putting together these travelogue threads (actually share them w/ family - saves explanations over the phone) - Dave :)
     
  9. The OB

    The OB Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Another great, informative travelogue Dave. Thanks, most enjoyable reading.
    Andrew


    Sent from my iPad Air2 using Tapatalk
     
  10. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Everglades - Nature - Air Boat Rides

    Whenever Susan & I are in south Florida, regardless of the coast, we try to get out of the city and visit some of the natural beauty of the area - and going to the Everglades is one of the best experiences which is accessible from nearly all of the major towns in the area - we've taken air boat rides out of Orlando where the Everglades starts - a description below from a Wiki Article.

    As shown on the map, there is an Everglades National Park (blue arrow; Ft. Lauderdale, red arrow) which occupies just a small southern portion of this vast area of wetlands and marshes; and having been on the fringes of most of the Everglades, the flora & fauna are quite variable. This time we visited the Sawgrass Recreation Park about a 45 minute drive from our hotel - there is a small animal habitat w/ examples of the animals in the vicinity, including a lot of alligators. The second image show the air boats ready for passengers - these are propelled by large airplane motors/propeller(s) and speed over the sawgrass marsh lands at speeds up to and over 30 mph - the noise is deafening, so ear plugs or other hearing protection is a must - we took a 30 minute ride and did spot an estimated 8-10 ft. alligator (head and snout showing in the second pic).

    The American alligator is no longer a protected animal and can be hunted and eaten! ;) The meat is in the huge tail, which can be prepared in numerous ways but often cut into pieces and sautéed or fried; cajun dishes that might include shrimp can be substituted w/ gator tail; NOW - not to fear, the meat is white and tastes like chewy chicken, so if you have a chance, give a gator offering a try!

    Two years ago, we were on vacation in Naples, Florida and I drove further south to Everglades City (see map in my first post) - the next 3 images are from that trip - yes another air boat ride w/ some pelicans - the flora was more mangrove trees, which are fascinating, but the guide found a family of raccoons, which he lured close to us w/ some marshmallows. This area of Florida is famous for stone crabs (a favorite of mine - had twice in Lauderdale) and other 'swamp' creatures, which Susan enjoys. For lunch on that trip, we started w/ oysters - Susan had fried frogs legs, and I of course had stone crabs (last images). In addition to air boat rides, we have taken a boat tour which explained the stone crab industry - harvesting involves removing one or both claws and returning the animal to the Gulf of Mexico where the claw(s) regenerate - fascinating! (second quote below from another Wiki article).

    In the next post, I'll discuss a boat ride we took in Ft. Lauderdale exploring the New River & the many canals - Dave :)

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  11. scifan57

    scifan57 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks again!

    I would like to try alligator but I'm afraid it's a little hard to Come by in the middle of the Canadian prairies.:(
     
  12. twerppoet

    twerppoet iPad Legend

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    Yep. Those Canadian prairie alligators are much smarter, and better camouflaged than the Everglades' breed.
     
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  13. BobbyBoomer

    BobbyBoomer iPad Fan

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    The Everglades National Park is one of my very favorite places in the world. If you get near Flamingo (close to where the blue arrow is on the map) you might even see American Crocodiles - these are still endangered and the southern tip of the ENP is about the only place you can still see them. I've been going there since about 1960 and almost ever visit treats me with something new. I'm very glad you made it there, and you came at a good time of the year. Once the rainy season comes (usually in May or June) the wildlife is harder to see as it is no longer concentrated near the sloughs - except for mosquitoes, which come alive in the rainy season. From December through the first rains is the best time to go. My favorite month is March.
     
  14. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Hi Guys - well, we have alligators on the Carolina coast (even put some pics in my travelogue on that area), but rarely see the item on a menu when we visit except mainly for the fried nuggets appetizer - maybe I should look more closely?

    We have had alligator mainly in New Orleans and in bayou tours in Louisiana - pretty much prepared similar to using shrimp or crawfish - below some pics from the web - first the GATOR! Second, some of the dishes that we have had over the years, Alligator Gumbo, Fried Alligator Bits or Nuggets, & Alligator Étouffée (the latter shown is actually shrimp but could be crawfish or alligator).

    On several trips to New Orleans years ago (when permitted), we would buy Alligator tail at the NO Airport, and Susan would make either étouffée or gumbo - quite delicious, especially w/ a good roux and the right spices - need a little heat! Dave :)

    ADDENDUM: Since I'm describing food; for those interested in some excellent restaurants in the Ft. Lauderdale area, check the Food Anyone Thread (starting w/ post #5520) - I left about a half dozen posts there describing our dinners - some great seafood to be found in FL - no surprise! :)
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2015
  15. giradman

    giradman iPad Super Guru

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    Hi Bob - when we visit FL, March is our usually choice - when my in-laws lived in Delray Beach, March-April or September-October were our preferred months, but do love the early spring.

    Not sure that I've seen an American Croc in the wild, but will keep looking - over the years, we've also wanted to spot a manatee but have seen just a few; but, we did enjoy seeing Snooty & pals at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, FL a few years ago - Dave :)
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