Category Archives: Florida

Card Sound Road – Alternate Route to The Florida Keys

“If it’s your first time driving to The Keys, ya gotta go along Card Sound Road!”

That was the recommendation we received from a totally unexpected source, and one that I’d like to pass along myself. It’s worth a little side trip if you are ever to drive to and through the Florida Keys.

Turn left here.

Heading south on US1. Turn left take the Card Sound Road route.

Roughly a week before we were to depart from a month long stay in Fort Lauderdale and continue southward, we were visiting Flamingo Gardens, a wildlife sanctuary and botanical gardens, just west of town. During a brief talk with one of the staff feeding the rescued birds, the discussion turned to the pungent smell. Not that it was an offensive smell, just very heavy. It brought to mind what a tropical rain forest might smell like and that’s when the talk turned to our upcoming trip to The Keys.

Not Smelly

Before I get any further with this story, I want to make sure I don’t turn you off with any thoughts of a ‘smelly’ or ‘pungent’ Florida Keys experience, so don’t worry. Apart from one or two spots in the Lower Keys where we came upon some dead seaweed stuck along a stagnant shoreline, this chain of islands (or ‘Keys’) has no more smelly sea shore than probably anywhere else in the world. And that’s all part of the charm of being on the edge of an ocean.

Road Less Traveled

When driving south to The Keys, one will head down the Florida Turnpike to it’s southern terminus at Florida City. At this point, it merges with US1, which then continues right down to ‘Mile Zero’ at Key West.

When I was planing our own drive there, I had us following that same route, as it it is the most direct. Fortunately, this little side track only adds about 15-20 minutes to the trip, so it’s not going to hold anybody up. Plus, it’s more in keeping with our laid back, easy going style of traveling. After all, we are grandparents now, so we gotta start acting the part ;-)

Card Sound Road

Southbound on Card Sound Road.

After turning off of US1, we continued southward on what could be described as a secondary road. It’s well maintained and we are able to cruise along at about 45-50 MPH, but clearly not designed for the heavy traffic one would find on US1 when heading into Key Largo. A more ‘out of the way’ vibe is how I would describe the feel of the road.

One Dollar Sir

Roughly a third of the way along, there was an unexpected toll booth – again, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The toll was a whole one dollar and took about as long to get through as it did for the attendant to mumble ‘uh-huh’ when I said thanks and have a great day. I’m guessing the thrill of being in The Keys wasn’t as strong for him as it was for me. Or maybe it was the imminent threat of crocodiles crossing the road at this point that was keeping him on edge ;-)

Card Sound Raod toll booth

Toll booth, complete with a ‘Crocodile Crossing’ sign. Fingers and toes inside the car at all times, kids.

How About a Drink First?

For those who couldn’t possibly carry on any farther – or had better intentions for the $1.00 toll, there is a bar right beside the toll booth. Alabama Jack’s was busy the day we drove by, with vehicles of all sorts parked on both sides of the road. There was even a couple of boats tied up to their docks.

According to their web site, they are only open daily from 11:00 am to 6:30 in the evening. Being located on the edge of a swamp, the mosquitoes apparently make the prospect of hanging around past sunset not much of an option. Maybe it’s the short hours that cause locals as well as passersby to want to get in before lights out. . .

Alabama Jack's restaurant and bar.

Alabama Jack’s restaurant and bar.

As tempting as it might have been, we decided to carry right on through past the bar. Just a little south came into sight the reason for the toll; a long causeway stretching over Card Sound proper. I’d say that it was one dollar well spent as the view was pretty nice. We would learn shortly afterward that this was only the first of dozens of ever increasingly awe inspiring views of the blue-green waters of the Florida Keys.

Card Sound causeway

Driving on the causeway over Card Sound and our first of many ‘overhead’ view of the Florida Keys.

Now that we are seasoned pros at this, I’d like to pass along the very same recommendation we received ourselves; If it’s your first time driving to The Keys, ya gotta go along Card Sound Road :-)

Fort Lauderdale – Florida’s Best Beach?

I can still recall the very first time I set foot on the soft sand beach of Fort Lauderdale. Two things came immediately to mind; first was how soft the sand was, second was how warm it felt on my feet. That last part may sound like a given, after all, this is south Florida. The reason that the warmth struck me was the fact that this was January. January = Winter. Not exactly the warm and squishy feeling I had equated with that time of the year.

Fort Lauderdale Beach sign

The sign that you have made it :-)

Game Changer

Coming from southern Ontario, our winters are mostly, well, crap. Cold, snow and cloudy are the words that come to mind to describe that time of year in the Great White North. Lauderdale, on the other hand, enjoys an average of 246 days of sunshine a year.

Average winter temps? A warm and welcome 77 degrees. Average snowfall? Zero. Yup, right from that first day, I was hooked.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take much to settle into this new way of looking at that time of year and my beach experience had an immediate and far reaching influence. Since our first experience, we have returned to Lauderdale many times, with our most recent stay taking up the entire month of January! Once despising winter, I can now say bring it on!

Walking on Fort Lauderdale Beach

Walking along the miles of uninterrupted beach on a hot & sunny day.

Walk With Me

One or favorite things to do when we are on holidays is to walk. Exploring an area and seeking out new mini adventures are always a treat for us. With seven miles of uninterrupted beach and shoreline to enjoy, this place fits our style perfectly.

Apart from ‘just walking’ the beach, there are a multitude of places to drop in to while out and about. As mentioned, it can get quite warm – scratch that, HOT – throughout the day, but apart from diving in for a swim, there are many places to stop in and duck out of the heat. The main beach strip runs right alongside the ocean on the infamous A1A. Also known as Ocean Boulevard, this road is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist traps that help cool you down, quench your thirst, or lighten your wallet ;-)

beach rinsing station

When stepping off the beach, there rinsing stations like this are all along A1A.

After Hurricane Sandy rolled through here in 2012, the preexisting seawall was extended north, past Sunrise Boulevard. This barrier had been put in place to protect the road and oceanfront buildings from storm surges that often accompany a hurricane. As you can see in the following photo, this structure is not some monolithic looking concrete eyesore, but rather, an aesthetically pleasing part of the landscape. Designed to blend in with it’s surroundings, it is formed in a curving pattern to mimic the waves on the ocean.

With dozens of strategically located openings in the seawall, many of these pedestrian access points offer rinse off showers, as well as feet sprays to clear off that heavenly beach sand.

A1A and the beach

Looking south along A1A and the beach.

Warm & Easy Feeling

With average sea temperatures ranging between 84 – 88 degrees in the summer and 72 – 77 degrees in the winter, one can always expect nice conditions for swimming. The Gulf Stream runs northward, just off the coast to continually brings warm water with it. This is one more reason that Fort Lauderdale enjoys warm air temps throughout the winter. In all of our visits, I can recall having to wear something more than just a light tee shirt only three or four times.

If you are not the swimming type, the view of the blue/green water will be enough to warm you up. It also makes a nice backdrop while enjoying a late afternoon aperitif on the balcony :-)

Atlantic Ocean and the beach

The gorgeous blue/green waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida’s Best Beach?

So, can I categorically state that this is Florida’s best beach? Probably not. But, after having visiting a number of beaches on the east coast, Gulf side and even the Keys, I can definitely say that this is our favorite. With warm temperatures that can be counted on throughout the winter, a large and long area to walk and dozens of great places to see along the way, this place is number one with us. And precisely why we look forward to returning to with eager anticipation each year.

morning on Fort Lauderdale Beach

Good morning from Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Keep an eye out here on the Blog for more upcoming reviews of the Greater Fort Lauderdale area. There’s so many things to see and do in this town and I’m looking forward to sharing ’em all with you.

Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show – 2015 Primer

For any boating enthusiast, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) marks not only the beginning of the season’s overall boat show circuit, but brings to mind visions of palms, beaches and the most impressive collection of new yachts anywhere in the world. Granted, Lauderdale and neighboring communities are home to 23 miles of soft sand beaches and the city does a great job of maintaining the innumerable palm trees that cover the landscape. Fair enough, but that statement about the yachts seems pretty bold, don’t you think?

2014 FLIBS from the air

2014 FLIBS from the air. Photo Credit:

World’s Largest

Bold is probably the most descriptive word one can use when referring to FLIBS. Heralded as the worlds’ largest boat show, this event takes place along nearly a full mile of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) at seven locations and covers 3 million square feet. Everything from SUP’s, right on up to the finest super yachts the world has to offer will be there. With a total value of 4 Billion Dollars worth of boats on display, I’m thinking the term ‘bold’ works quite well.

The centerpiece of the show takes place at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center. Situated right along the ICW, this 250 slip marina also houses a hotel and yacht brokerage and is mere steps from the beach. Extending northward, the in-water display of boats goes all the way up to Las Olas Marina, which straddles trendy Las Olas Boulevard. To the south, there are more boats on display at three other marinas, including the Hilton Marina Hotel and Pier Sixty Six Marina, the later of which underwent a major expansion of it’s docking facilities last year.

Yachts at Bahia Mar Marina

An assortment of the mega yachts at Bahia Mar Marina

Walking Optional

If you need a break from the sunny & warm outdoors, the air conditioned Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center hosts numerous indoor displays. Getting to all the venues is made easier with shuttle buses running on the roads, and the Water Taxis running along the ICW. Having rode on the water taxis many times in the past, that would be my recommendation.

If walking is more your style, keep in mind that this is Fort Lauderdale, the town that was once a mecca for spring breakers. Even though those crowds of high school and collage kids have been replaced by family vacationers, the many bars and restaurants remain. Finding a place to take a load off your feet is not going to be a problem ;-)

view from Bahia Cabana Restaurant.

Enjoying the view of the yachts from the Bahia Cabana Restaurant.

Over the past thirty years, Fort Lauderdale has worked hard to create an atmosphere and ambiance as the ‘yachting capital of the world’ and from what we have seen, has done an admirable job. A perfect venue for this event.

For the past number of years, the show has been taking place during the last week of October, but for 2015, the date has been moved to November 5 – 9. Tickets are generally available online, but a quick check showed that they are no longer offered for this event. One can purchase theirs at the gate during the show.