Take this boardwalk to seaside fun, says Ruth Brindle
After a brief visit to Fort Lauderdale a few years ago I was determined to get back to one of its charming neighbourhoods – Hollywood, a laid-back east coast version of its west coast namesake.
I made it this spring and was rewarded by a revamped and refreshed two-and-a-half-mile broadwalk that has something for everyone.
Strolling, jogging, cycling, rollerblading even ‘surfing’ is all going on in a fun and safe vehicle-free zone next to an award-winning Blue Wave beach.
Popular since the 1920s, this paved thoroughfare, named one of the Top 10 nostalgic promenades in the US, is a packed boulevard of shops, accommodation, restaurants and clubs that, to me, is a little reminiscent of our own seaside ‘fronts’ but with the amazing added extra of beautiful, year-round sunshine.
With our multi-generational family group to please, there was a bulging list of possibilities. But we were all agreed on one thing – we just had to try out our pedal power on a family-sized surrey (www.sunandfuncycles.com). Not sure of the speed limit we still managed to ‘race’ another family along the broadwalk to howls of laughter. More adventurous and fit youngsters wove in and out on ‘low riders’ and fun cycles with ‘no-hands’ steering.
Of course, you can just lie on the beach – no British-style windbreak needed here.
The FlowRider at one of Hollywood’s most upmarket and popular hotels Margaritaville Resort (www.margaritavillehollywoodbeachresort.com) gives fit surfing enthusiasts the chance to ride some waves and the less fit a great spectator sport. It’s a beautiful Caribbean-style resort that’s also a great place to enjoy a cool respite from the sun’s heat in its spectacular lobby, complete with giant flip-flop – ideal for a holiday snap. The resort also sponsors live evening entertainment at the Hollywood Beach Theatre.
Another great plus for the area is the Hollywood trolley, which for $1 (70p) will get you around the beach and downtown areas with 12 stops.
We would have used this service, but we had enjoyed our own free transport to the beach from our beautiful hotel a couple of miles south at Hallandale Beach.
The newly-built Beachwalk Resort (beachwalkresortfl.com) offers a free shuttle to and from the Broadwalk and also to and from the Aventura Mall for shopping throughout the day. The free electric buggy service to Hallandale Beach was also like a fun outing and when we got there we were rewarded with our own free loungers by the surf.
As the Fort Lauderdale area is famous as being ‘the Venice of Florida’ with its miles of intracoastal waterways, the views from our 23rd floor rooms over were spectacular. The interconnecting rooms were ideal for our big family group and the large kitchen more than enough for making a meal from our Walmart purchases. The store is right next door.
The hotel pool is by the waterway too and one of the many bridges that open to let the luxury yachts go by. But while we can only dream of owning one of our own craft, we could at least take advantage of the brilliant bright yellow water taxi, which conveniently stops at the hotel dock. It’s a hop-on, hop-off service taking you either to Hollywood or in the other direction to view the multi-million dollar homes in Fort Lauderdale.
This is a very relaxing and trouble-free way to travel (www.watertaxi.com) and a cruise to Fort Lauderdale itself gives you a peak at the multi-million pound waterside homes of the rich and famous.
It’s obvious a lot of time, trouble and money has been spent in the Hollywood area to create a really family-friendly place to visit and the effort has paid off. It was also the first destination in Florida to offer extra help for the disabled, wheelchair using holidaymaker to access the beach with a scheme called Mobi-Mat.
Away from the lures of sand and surf the ArtsPark is a 10-acre green space offering entertainment and events, including a free Friday movie night under the stars – just bring a blanket or beach chair. There’s a growing arts and culture scene in Downtown that’s well worth exploring.
The great outdoors, however, has its own charm and the natural Florida mangrove habitat is just a short trip inland. You can explore it safely along walkways or by kayaking through the 1,500 acre West Lake Park and learn all about the wildlife at the Anne Kolb Nature Centre.
But, of course, there’s also shopping, shopping, shopping! It’s one of the top activities for Brits in the US and south Florida definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Las Olas Boulevard is an upmarket boulevard with individual shops and renowned restaurants and cafes which, conveniently, has its own water taxi stop. But if you have cut-price bargains in mind, head for the largest outlet mall in the States – Sawgrass Mills. It is huge! Sensible shoes must be worn as you’ll walk miles in your hunt for that perfect purchase.
Give yourself a whole day to shop or visit more than once to take advantage of our favourable exchange rate at your favourite outlets among the mind-boggling 350 retailers on site. If you have cash to flash head for the Mills’ Colonnade Outlets with over 60 luxury brands such as Gucci, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo and many more (www.simon.com).
So if I had the choice of the two Hollywood towns on opposite coasts, for me, the Florida option wins by a mile on laid-back fun.
For more information on Hollywood, Florida, visit www.VisitHollywoodFL.org
How to get there
America As You Like It offers a seven-night holiday to Florida, including return flights from Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale on Norwegian, seven days fully inclusive economy car hire and seven nights self-catering at the Beachwalk Resort in a one-bedroom apartment from £1,160 per person, based on two people travelling.
www.americaasyoulikeit.com, 020 8742 8299