Overall Score: B
With 3,000 hours of sunshine per year and more than seven miles of beach, Fort Lauderdale is a favorite vacation destination for many. In recent years, Ft. Lauderdale has improved its image from a college spring break destination to a vacation spot for families and international travelers. After passing stricter laws and persuading local businesses that going upscale would benefit the city, Ft. Lauderdale has emerged as a reputable beach community.
It always amazes me, when traveling to warm climates, how different life can be. There is always sunshine and temperate weather, fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of outdoor activities year round. While us midwesterners are locked inside our houses in winter, bundled in sweaters and eating warm comfort foods, Floridians are out paddleboarding, checking out farmer’s markets, and going for runs on the beach.
While I was vacationing here (in August 2015), we stayed at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Because my husband was here on business and had the rental car, the kids and I explored on foot. As a result, most of Ft. Lauderdale that we saw was within walking distance of the Westin.
Fort Lauderdale has a pretty promenade next to the beach, illuminated by neon lights at night. Plenty of runners and walkers can be found on the promenade at any time of day. Tall buildings line the main thoroughfare, many built to emulate ship sails or with marine-inspired accents. Along the beach on A1A, there are mostly hotels or places to eat and drink. We did not encounter a lot of shops, and the shops that we did see seemed to fit in more with the spring break crowd anyway.
On the beach, there was plenty of open space to be found. Chair and umbrella rentals can be found in certain areas, and there are rinse off showers as well. Also on the beach, turtle nesting areas were roped off as well, a good sign that the government is environmentally responsible and conscious.
The beach that I visited, across from the Westin, was full of washed up plant debris. Some of the debris floated near the shore as well as being on the beach. An article from the Sun Sentinel from May 22, 2015 states that a Ft. Lauderdale advisory board created a pilot project for beach cleaning crews to leave seaweed and other sea plants that wash onto the beach. The plants are called “beach wrack,” and seem to prevent beach erosion, along with providing food for the birds that frequent the beach. While I applaud the city’s eco-friendly approach, there was plenty of trash and debris found within this mass of plant matter. It is uncertain if this program will continue due to the large number of people who just find the washed up seaweed “dirty.” Fortunately, while I was there, the seaweed did not give off an unpleasant odor.
After being in the ocean for ten minutes, I was brandished with a sting from a large jellyfish. I only noticed the jellyfish’s presence after my forearm started to burn. Stinging sensations and pain followed. After getting out of the water, I searched the web for what to do. Other than rinsing the area with salt water and keeping an eye on your body’s reaction to the sting, there was nothing really to do except wait it out. Shortly thereafter, my kids saw another floating jellyfish and then saw a girl get stung. While I was observing her mother take her over to the lifeguard station, I noticed the flags flying on them. The flags were green and purple. I had no clue what they meant. I eventually learned that green flags mean a low beach hazard and purple flags mean marine pests have been spotted. This includes jellyfish, man-of-wars, and/or sea lice. Had I looked at the flags earlier and understood what they meant, I could have saved myself the pain of a jellyfish sting.
Overall though, I found Fort Lauderdale’s beach clean and pleasant. With soft sand, warm water, lifeguards, and plenty of room to stretch out, I would recommend this beach to travelers of all kind. Just be sure to look at the lifeguard flags first and know what they mean!