Published on Thursday, February 1, 2018

No napping now in Fort Lauderdale

Graham McKenzie writes:-

It is many years since I first visited Fort Lauderdale and in those far away days of the late 1990's when the world was a simpler place it might have been a stretch to call it a sleepy old seaside town, but it certainly justified an afternoon nap.

Oft seen as a quieter simpler alternative to neighbouring Miami it seemed, to an outsider like me, very welcoming, but quite wacky. Those salad days of the last century are however long gone and any association the area had with dozing are also well in the past. The Greater Fort Lauderdale area is now a major international destination in its own right.

The local airport, FLL, which is only a  hop and a step away from downtown, has grown from 12.5 million passengers in 1998 to 32.5 million last year. Linking to South and Central America, Canada and the USA, the facility has been taken up by both Norwegian and British Airways who both offer direct connections from the UK and Europe. This has not however been achieved without some 'growing pains' as anybody stuck in international arrivals will testify.

Alongside the air passenger increase has been a development in accommodation inventory. This has been achieved not just through the development of major hotels but also many independent smaller, boutique properties. Attractions abound the area including impressive air boat rides in search of Gators in the Everglades.

Art has always been big in Florida, but it has flourished and now represents a true tourism draw. If you want to find out what's new and happening, then the Art & Culture Centre in Hollywood (no not the California one) is an excellent place to begin.

With immediate access to the ocean, all manner of water-based activities are on offer including fishing, sailing and kayaking.

The fact that the famous intra-coastal waterway is, perhaps, at its most navigable and developed in these parts mean even more marine travellers pass through and add to the overall assortment of clientele. Many will drop anchor and avail themselves of the extensive food offerings such as GG's Waterfront Bar & Grill which offers lots of local cuisine with farm to table produce in a very attractive setting. You can enjoy Florida stone crabs whilst watching the super yachts (Spielberg's mega ketch is moored a short distance away) sail serenely by. For something a bit livelier, the always enjoyable YOLO downtown is great fun with more than acceptable food.

A bit of exercise is high on the agenda for most visitors with cycling, jogging and all of the regular sports such as golf and tennis readily available. Jimmy Evert ,father of Lauderdale-born tennis champion Chris Evert, ran his famous school here for many years. Not wishing to break sweat in public, I opted for Segway Fort Lauderdale and the beach route tour. Commentary detailing the history of the area came with the added bonus of banter with the locals, the visitors and small business owners. Here almost anybody who we came into contact with entered into the spirit of exchanging comments, humour and, on one or two occasions,, insults. Great stuff!

The Segway trip reminded of what has not changed in the destination. The consistent piece has always been the welcome. A welcome to all and sundry no matter what colour, religion, sexual persuasion or nationality. Fort Lauderdale is inclusive and non - judgemental, with more than a hint of edgy class. I like it.

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