So I don’t know about you, but when I think of Florida I immediately think of Disney Land and beaches. Well little did I know, hidden alongside (and far out of sight) of the Disney based chaos is the incredible land of Greater Fort Lauderdale.
Greater Fort lauderdale (GFL) has fast become one of my favourite winter sun destinations. This owing to my recent trip that I was lucky enough to take alongside my fave travel and fitness bloggers: Cat Meffan, Lottie Murphy, Natalie Glaze, Phoebe Greenacre and Sophie Porley. For 5 nights we witnessed the fun, sun and hidden health spot gems that GFL has to offer. Little did we know GFL holds the most magical mix of nature, culture, cuisine, year round sunshine and of course the most incredible white sand beaches and turquoise clear warm sea.
We touched down to a balmy 30 degree heat in mid November. The girls and I truly ready for some winter sun with the UK’s colder season setting in. What awaited us with a true heaven on Earth. Here’s my run down on the hot spots you can visit whilst you’re there! Find a full run down in the post below and be sure to check out my vlog to see it all in action….
Where To Stay
The Dream Place to Stay
On arrival we checked into the incredible Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. We were like the grown up version of kids in our own little Disneyland…a hotel, overlooking THE most incredible perfect white sand beaches. Better still we each had our own room with views of the ocean. From the moment we checked in, we knew we were in for a treat. The hotel is based on the beach and has all the amenities a health conscious traveller could ever dream of. A gym, a coffee shop, a juice bar, watersports, beautifully nutritious food offerings, ocean side pools and a spa. All of this alongside miles of beaches beckoning you for that sunset beach walk, or sunrise run.
Get up close and personal with the crocs at Sawgrass Recreation Park
What You Can Get Up To
See the Crocs in The Everglades
Hit up Sawgrass Recreation Park for an out of this world crocodile encounter. As you jump aboard the airboat adventure and into the Everglades you’ll feel as though you’ve truly been immersed into natures wonderland. Surrounded by water and saw grass your highly-trained experienced Croc Captain searches out the crocodiles in their natural habitat. Whilst listening to fun facts about the awe inspiring eco system you skim across the glass water, keeping a watchful gaze for the wildlife. We couldn’t believe just how close we managed to get to the crocs, all whilst feeling safe in the hands of our Captain.We were lucky enough to see a number of native crocodiles as well some soft shell turtles and spread eagles. An absolute highlight and magnificent way to see nature at its finest.
See the epic views from Hillsboro Lighthouse
Climb the Lighthouse of the Hillsboro Beaches
Jump aboard a water taxi, goggle at the dreamy waterside mansions and make your way over to Hillsboro Lighthouse. Awaiting you at the Sands Harbor Resort & Marina is the most picturesque lighthouse set amongst the beautifully scenic Pompano beaches and palm trees. Make sure to take a trip to the top of the Hillsboro Lighthouse to spot local wildlife and epic views along the coastline. On a clear day you can see all the way to Miami. A truly stunning viewpoint to set your gaze on. We were lucky enough to catch a day with incredible visibility and can vouch for a breathtaking birds eye view from the top – well worth the stair climb to get there. The light marks the northern limit of the Florida Reef, an underwater coral formation on the lower east coast of the state.
Snorkel the drops offs
Snorkel the Drop Off’s in the Deep Blue
So you’ve seen the phenomenal views of the ocean from land. Now you can really get in the midst of the action by diving down under in the sea! We head out on the big blue with South Florida Diving Headquarters and had a super fun afternoon. The dive masters had amazing energy and were really knowledgeable about the local area! We had music and fun facts, then got up close an personal snorkelling with the fish on the Pompano drop off. There was plenty for scuba diver lovers to get stuck into if we were to delve deeper down too.
See the Mural’s of Downtown Hollywood
See the incredible artist murals in Downtown Hollywood
When you think of Hollywood, you think of the bright sights of LA, but this is a new kind of Hollywood. One that I can say I’m certainly a fan of. We head to Downtown Hollywood to visit the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project. There in Florida’s Hollywood is a collection of curated outdoor murals by both local, national and internationally recognised artists. There we saw the sights of the town but through the incredible eyes of artists. We gazed at the gorgeous murals by artists including Tatiana Suarez, Evoca1, Rone, The London Police, Jessy Nite, Ernesto Maranje, Logan Hicks and Kenny Scharf. We also visited the local art studios. What was particularly special was when we met a lovely man called Alex Meiklejohn. Alex was a pottery artist who specialised in miniature pottery. We spoke about his background and he spoke passionately about his love for his art. We left with a kind token of his work as he let each of us choose our favourite miniature piece. He was such a kind hearted and gentle soul. We agreed that the sunshine made everyone in GFL just that extra little bit happier and full of energy! It was so nice to have the opportunity to explore the art and meet the locals up close and personally.
Take a Water Taxi and Explore the Galleries & Shops of Las Olas Boulevard
The really incredible thing about Fort Lauderdale is that you’re never far away from bodies of water. Whether thats the ocean or the waterways. You feel a true connection to nature. You can take Water Taxi’s all around the city. Described as the “Venice of America”, you can access the best sights, restaurants and beaches including the galleries and shops of Las Olas Boulevard – which is great for the shoppers amongst us!
Book an afternoon of Spa Relaxation at the FL Marriott Harbor Beach Resort
Fort Lauderdale offers a wonderfully slower pace of life. What better way to embrace that than by booking an afternoon of spa relaxation? Our hotel Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa offered wonderful spa amenities, including sumptuous massages, and exclusive pool access.
How To Keep Fit
Having always been a huge fan of keeping fit in nature Fort Lauderdale offered the perfect way to do this. The girls and I were spoilt for choice on how to stay fit. Here’s just some of the options available to you…
- Paddleboard and Kayak in the Waterways of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park – We spent an afternoon kayaking in the National State Park with Park & Ocean. It was a wonderful way to explore the waterways. There’s something about being completely intwined in the nature that makes you feel incredible. You completely forget you’re even “working out”. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway you can rent a kayak and paddle along a mile-long freshwater lagoon, it’s so beautiful!
- Sunrise or Sunset Yoga – GFL’s incredible weather means that you want to jump out of bed first thing in the morning. The girls and I spent a lot of mornings practicing yoga whilst we watched the sun come up. It’s cooler air and (if you’re lucky enough view of the ocean) is second to none for getting your morning (or evening flow on).
- Run – Whether you want longer or shorter distances, GFL offers the ability to do both. I dabbled between morning runs on the beach to running along the boulevard. It was amazing to people watch on the streets and have the option to dip straight in the ocean when you finished.
- Swim – Natures very big swimming pool (the ocean!) awaits you any time of day. The temperature is mild, cool enough to cool you down but warm enough to not flinch on the way in! We swam everyday in the crystal clear ocean, the sand soothingly soft beneath our feet.
- Shoot some hoops or train on the beach – shoot hoops like a local or find training solace in one of the many outdoor gyms along the beach!
Kayak the incredible waterways
What & Where To Eat in GFL
What is a trip without the food you eat on it? Here’s a run down of my top eateries in Fort Lauderdale, where to find them and what you just need to try!
We were truly spoilt in our options for food in GFL. We knew Americans know how to eat but we didn’t know it was going to be that good! Here’s a selection of the restaurants we were lucky enough to try out. Needless to say, you won’t be stuck for somewhere to eat, any time day or night.
Louie Bossi’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria
Head to Louis Bossi’s Pizzeria on Las Olas Boulevard. There you’ll have an unbelievable choice of Italian delicacies. We had the Mushroom Truffle pizza’s and a couple of homemade pasta dishes. Everything tasted incredibly authentic and absolutely delicious!
Top tip: the complimentary bread basket and dips are super tasty. Go hungry!
Where to find it: 1032 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 3330
Gondola rides, Asian cuisine, views of the Intracoastal and a prime spot of Las Olas Boulevard. Casa Sensei is a new Asian/Latin restaurant based in the heart of Fort Lauderdale. You can eat delightful delicacies whilst overlooking the waterways. It offered great options for veggies and non veggies alike. We tucked into Tuna Sliders, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Truffle Edamame, Sushi, Soba Noodles and Tofu and Garlicky Prawns.
Top tip: the truffle edamame are to die for – go big, you’ll likely want to order more!
Where to find it: 1200 E Las Olas Blovd #101, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Based in our hotel (Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa) we found dinner at the elegant 3030 ocean.The restaurant offers sophisticated dining alongside the beautiful beach front. At the helm of the kitchen, where her career first began, Executive Chef Adrienne Grenier has developed a fresh menu to match the restaurant’s modern, maritime-inspired design and ambience. Grenier brings her own signature cooking style of inventive farm-to-table fare – which won her the title of champion on Food Network’s Chopped – to the seaside restaurant, with a menu that highlights premium, seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. With a heavy focus on Florida seafood, 3030 Ocean’s new menu puts a spotlight on the best product available in South Florida. I had the whole fried Florida Snapper which was incredible!
Top tip: The restaurant also boasts an expanded bar and lounge area, you can enjoy a more intimate environment in the main dining room or a more relaxed affair in the bar and lounge area. The hotel is situated on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen so definitely worth the trip!
Where to find it: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, 3030 Holiday Drive
ETARU Las Olas
Brought to the United States by Rainer Becker, co-founder and creator of Zuma restaurants worldwide and ROKA London we knew we were in for a treat for dinner. The restaurant’s menu has a heavy emphasis on Robata-grilled seafood; the menu also showcases a wide range of sushi, sashimi, raw dishes, salads, tatakis and tempura, as well as cooked Japanese specialties. We dined on delicious and unique variations of vegetables, sensational sushi, truffle mushroom hot pots (bit of a truffle theme going on with our choices hey!?), and sweet potato tempura.
Top tip: Get the Chocolate pot, banana tempura, candied peanuts and sesame poki – pretty sure it came from heaven (insert drool here)!
Where to find it: 500 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, USA
The Chocolate Pot at Etaru is to die for!
Fresh First is South Florida’s first 100% gluten-free eatery and juicery in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s yachting district. Serving up internationally inspired healthy fare, chefs combine fresh ingredients and superfoods to put a modern healthy spin on wholesome and delicious food. We were completely blown away by the healthy choices on offer. We ended up having a breakfast and a lunch here because it was too good to not go back. We dined on sweet potato waffle burgers, acai bowls, smoothies, courgetti and breakfast rice bowls.
Top tip: if you’re anything like us you’ll want to go more than once!
Where to find it: 1637 SE 17th St, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316, USA
GG’s Waterfront Bar & Grill
GG’s is based in the most incredible surroundings by the Hollywood Beach overlooking the Intracoastal waterway. They have an amazing array of locally sourced fish, fresh seafood, lobster and stone crabs, raw bar specialties, salads, sandwiches and superb steaks and chops. Renown Chef Russ Aaron Simon emphasises technique to his team, and it truly shows in the quality of food produced.
Top tip: try the lobster roll and to quote one of the girls “the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever eaten”
Where to find it: 606 N Ocean Dr, Hollywood, FL 33019
Park & Ocean
Grab a post kayak fuel up from Park & Ocean in Fort Lauderdale’s Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. With a beautiful garden and ocean front seating views its the perfect post paddle pick up. Enjoy Caribbean & Southern influenced menu offers with an eclectic mix of “farm to table” items.
Top tip: it’s a great place to come and hang out with your friends or family. The space allows for a relaxed and enjoyable social gathering.
Where to find it: 3109 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Kuro at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Kuro provides a next level array of modern Japanese cuisine. We feasted on a 7 course meal on our final night. What a way to go out on a true bang! Matcha cocktails and seafood aplenty. Picture floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the resort’s pool, a chef’s table, sushi bar and a cocktail lounge area where sakes, Japanese whiskeys and handcrafted cocktails based on the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami) are served.
We devoured miso steak, fresh fish, tofu and veggies and topped it all off with chocolately goodness. Filled to the brim and hugely impressed with the quality of the dishes served, this is definitely one to check out!
Top tip: Try the Miso steak, truly melt in the mouth
Where to find it: 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, FL 33314 (in the Hard Rock Hotel)
Riverside Market South
Riverside Market South is usefully located just north of the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. It’s the perfect post or pre flight pit stop. As you walk in you get a real sense of America. It offers an authentic American bar atmosphere with delicious food to match. Riverside Market South is an independently-owned indoor venue serving delicious hummus platters, veggies burgers and garden salads. They also operate Craft Beer Cartel, South Florida’s first home brew supply and bottle shop across the street from the restaurant!
Top tip: There’s vegan and veggie options aplenty. There’s also a cracking ale and beer collection on offer for the beer enthusiasts!
Where to find it: 3218 SE 6th Avenue, FL 33316
I hope that’s helped to whet your appetite for what I can only describe as one of the best trips of my life! There’s so much more to Florida than Disneyland! Make sure you head down to see it all for yourself – before everyone finds out! Just don’t tell Mickey 😉
Please do let me know any questions, I’d be more than happy to help answer them! Until then, happy traveling!
Sending health & happiness,
The beaches in Florida are second to none!