Palm Beach, The Gold Coast
Kind of like the Hamptons but with less of a nightlife scene, this playground for the rich and famous is a society based on benefit bashes, second houses (mansions), very fine dining and Beverly Hills-style shopping. If chiming right in is a bit out of your league, you're certainly not alone. But you shouldn't be scared off, either.
A stroll along the beach is stunning, a slow drive past the massive gated compounds (or a stroll through the Breakers hotel) is anthropological-based gawking at its best, and chowing down at one of the few affordable restaurants is a sober reminder that not everyone is a Rockefeller (witness the very real waitress and short-order cooks at Green's Pharmacy). Love it or hate it, ‘the Island', as it's called, is a classic and inextricable part of Florida life.
The long, narrow island of Palm Beach sits between the Introcoastal Waterway, here called Lake Worth, and the Atlantic Ocean. It's just east of West Palm Beach and those other communities stretching southward. The main north-south artery is S County Rd (Hwy A1A), and two major bridges link downtown with the mainland, Flagler Memorial Bridge (Royal Poinciana Way). Further south, Southern Blvd and Atlantic Ave both provide access to the Island.
Downtown stretches from Royal Poinciana Way to Worth Ave, with most major sights scattered between. Prices tend to rise as you head southward. Ocean Blvd runs from the southern edge of the Breakers to the tip of the Island; most of the mansions worth ogling are below Worth Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, The Gold Coast
Once upon a time, Fort Lauderdale was known as a main destination for beer swilling college students on raucous Spring Break vacations. And, up until the mid-80s it was this accurate set of images - of drunk 19 year-old girls in wet T-shirt contests, bands of boys drinking beer in the streets and constant partying at unfortunate beach side hotels - that dominated most people's knowledge of the place. But my, what a difference a couple of decades make!
Today, after a concerted effort to clean itself up by outlawing activities that load to such alcohol-fueled bacchanalia, Fort Lauderdale has been successful in attracting more matured and sophisticated visitors with its myriad offerings (though there's still plenty of carrying on within the confines of many a bar and nightclub). The city's Port Everglades is even the winter home to the new swanky Queen Mary II cruise ship for heaven's sake.
Though much of the inland portion of the city consist of endless, unattractive strip malls, seek out the good stuff and you'll find yourself rewarded. You'll find beautiful beaches, a system of Venice-like waterways, an international yachting scene, spiffy new hotels, top-notch restaurants, and gay hot-spots, all just 40 minutes up the coast from Miami.
Fort Lauderdale, 40 miles north of Miami, is set out in a grid where physically possible (it's hard with the water breaking things up). It's also divided into 3 parts: the beach, east of the Intracoastal Waterway, downtown on the main land, and Port Everglades, the cruise port south of the city. US Hwy 1 cuts through downtown, while Highway A1A runs along the ocean and is also called Atlantic Blvd or Ocean Blvd, depending if you're north or south of Sunrise Blvd. The main roads between downtown and the beach are Sunrise Blvd to the north, Las Olas Blvd in the center and 17th St to the south.
Castillo De San Marcos, Atlantic Coast
In 1672, after the British had burned the city around them one time too many, the Spanish began constructing this coquina citadel. Completed 23 years later, it's the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. Rangers wearing Spanish-colonial uniforms add to the medieval ambiance of the place. Cannons can be heard all over town when they're fired every Sunday, The fort is located between San Marcos Ave & Matanzas River.
Castillo De San Marco
(904-829-6506; adult/child under 15 $6/free; 8:45am-4:45pm, ground closed midnight-5am)
Author Name : Kenneth Ng
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