Dive, Dine & Dream
Picture a small tranquil Floridian town, bathed in sunshine, and one which simply oozes with that laid back lifestyle found in the Caribbean.
Imagine gently swaying palm trees, a town square furnished with 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.
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.
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 acre Hugh Taylor Birch State Park on East Sunrise Boulevard, rent a canoe, kayak or ‘peddle’ boat, and paddle slowly along 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. 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.
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 the 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. The level 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.
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.
For a casual dining experience take a short stroll down to Commercial Boulevard, and head for Mulligan’s Beach House Bar and Grill. Whilst 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 Jackson Chardonnay, it was just the ticket.
For a more formal affair the Piccolo Ristorante 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, 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! www.windjammerresort.com