Florida Family Road trip – Beaches North of Fort Lauderdale

Genie Davis August 3, 2011 No Comments

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We love the beach. So when I suggested a simple driving tour of Florida, heading north from Fort Lauderdale featuring a succession of beach days, my kids were as excited to check out the sand and sea as I was. We’d heard from friends that the beaches are wide, the sand soft, the water warm, and the vibe super relaxed and family driven. We found all to be the case. Prices are reasonable even for seaside digs, and you won’t see high rise condos, bikini-topless twenty- somethings, or fifty dollar lounge chair rentals this far from Miami.

This is not a long road trip, in fact most of these small beach communities are less than two hours from the Ft. Lauderdale airport terminals. Of course, first we had to get out of the car rental lot. I was given an upgrade from a compact car to a larger, keyless vehicle, and no one showed me that I had to keep my foot pressed all the way down on the brake in order to turn over the ignition. Once we’d summoned a bored attendant to raise his eyebrows at my lack of vehicular knowledge, we were on our way.

One of the communities we enjoyed the most was Pompano Beach, a throw back community featuring small,  family run motels and the feeling that time left this cheerful small town to wait it out in the early 1960′s. Or maybe earlier than that, as many of the motels we looked at and those we stayed in had a court yard style that’s straight out of the ‘50′s. Inside however, we found comfortable beds and free wi-fi; we also found an asset we often seek as a family – a kitchenette. Being able to make our own breakfasts and pack our own lunches isn’t just a cost-saving travel technique for us, it helps us with our variety of special diets, to eat well and be able to splurge on one high-end meal or a junk food snack once a day.

Fern Forest Nature Park just outside Pompano Beach

We loved exploring Fern Forest Nature Park just outside Pompano Beach.

In Pompano, we were treated to a full one bed room apartment at  Pineapple Place, which had a small pool and a fully stocked, complete kitchen, not just a kitchenette behind shuttered doors. Not fancy but modern enough, spotless, and with a great location just a short walk to the sand. We made our own picnic lunch, and for dinner we had large platters of fresh seafood and salads at Joe’s Riverside Grille. We waited for a table with a view of the water, and were glad that service was quick once we were seated. I tried the seafood stew, which was enormous, and enough for lunch left overs. For activities we had – the beach.  Wading in the warm water.  Walking along the white sand. Watching the sun rise over the Atlantic after an early night watching a dvd in our apartment.  The beach is side and smooth here, and with plenty of room to spread out, we could haul our picnic lunch in, build a sand castle, bury ourselves in the sand, and simply enjoy ourselves without eavesdropping on our sand neighbors. One caveat here is that although the waves are warm and at low tide lots of fun for wading in, the surf can be a bit rough, unlike the gulf side of Florida with its calm waters.

Just outside of town, should you tire of sea and sun, is Fern Forest Nature Park. This lovely park space features a self guided trail to three different areas of the park, each perfect for small children – easy, brief, and scenic. There’s a boardwalk trail, a dry land trail, or a marsh tour. The favorite was the boardwalk – a great place to run and see, well, ferns, greenery, birds, flowers, butterflies, and the one negative, a healthy insect population. Wear insect spray and they’ll stay away.

Deerfield Beach Florida Shore Walk Way

The walk way along the shore at Deerfield Beach, Florida

Just up the sand from Pompano is Deerfield Beach, and the funky, fun Deerfield Buccaneer motel about a block from the water. With a putting green in the motel courtyard and another small swimming pool which seems somehow perfectly kid sized, and the beach a block away, there was very little not to like.

Deerfield also has a plethora of fun, touristy shops with sea shell necklaces, water globes featuring mermaids, and of course sea shells, for purchase.  And, there’s a long seaside walk way that’s lovely to stroll at twilight.

Deerfield Beach is also home to a great family water park known as Quiet Waters. Talk about a throwback to another time. This is a small fry-designated, old-fashioned waterpark with paddle boats, gentle kayaking opportunities and shady picnic spots. The lake is brackish and safe for small children – in fact a perfect spot for kids under the age of eight. There is one larger slide that appeals to older kids, but the emphasis is on sprinklers, wading pools, and the lake activities. Quiet, inexpensive, and small town in feel, it’s a fun stop before heading back to the ocean.

Dinner brought us to the relaxing beach-front spot known as JB’s on the beach, with great fish and chips and a decadent banana pie. It’s the kind of place you can linger at, and of course, the kids can run onto the beach and enjoy themselves.

The short drive back to Fort Lauderdale is like entering a different time and place – fast cars, chain restaurants, and high heels instead of flip flops. Make the short drive to the small town Atlantic beaches and enjoy relaxing with your toes in the soft white sand.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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