Remember the family beach vacation? Those endless hours at the water's edge when you buried Dad as he pretended to sleep and almost lost your trunks while riding the waves? Remember running on tip-toes across hot sand with homemade ice cream dripping down your arm? And the pleasure of coming home to beachfront motels, with their cool rooms, kitchenettes and balconies where soggy beach towels were thrown to dry in the sun? Remember watching the sand wash out your suit in the shower, and sleeping two in a bed with your sister? And how it felt when you learned to float in the salty water or saw a jellyfish while collection shells, and how your fingers shriveled with prunes?
In a world where beach resorts now seem dominated by high-rise condos, security guards, huge shopping malls, multiplex cinemas and amusement centers creep inexorably towards the sand, there is, luckily, at least one little place in Florida where things are the way they're supposed to be in a family vacation.
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea proudly claims to have grown but not changed much since Christmas Eve, 1924 when its first residents put down roots. Even now this stretch of barrier island flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and Broward County's famous Intracoastal Waterway is scarcely more than a mile long and a half mile wide, sandwiched between Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Many of its original residents are still around and they sing its praises. "After all these years, it's just my town," they say, with pleasure.
To the visitor, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea could be right out of a Jimmy Stewart movie. The local folk, population of 3,500, remain neighborly and welcoming of visitors. The town was officially founded in 1947.
The many hotels and motels of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, most of which line the beach, are on the small to intimate side, giving the town, really a village, a wonderfully human scale. Tropic Seas and High Noon are just two of the many family-run superior small lodgings that give the community decidedly homey, individual character in contrast to the impersonal, feel of many bigger resorts. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is so conveniently sized, in fact, you can spend an entire vacation here without ever having to drive a car.
In addition to being only minutes from all the action and attraction of the Greater Fort Lauderdale area - deep sea fishing, golf, horseracing, and the Everglades - Lauderdale-By-The-Sea has its own unique amusements and landmarks. Beachfront restaurants such as Aruba Beach Café and Ocean 101 provide sustenance and refreshment without leaving the sand and village center. Boutiques and waterfront restaurants such as Blue Moon Fish Co. and ice cream parlors enrich the quaint feeling of the area. Capturing the flavor of the community is the Pelican Sculpture Project, a piece of art by Carl Wagner depicting Florida's favorite birds situated in the center of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
Jutting 1,000 feet into the Atlantic is Anglin's Fishing Pier, (the creation of one of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea's first residents, Melvin Anglin) where locals and visitors from around the world come not only eat but position themselves at strategic spots to catch everything form bluefish, grouper, and pompano to crabs and spiny lobsters.
The town also offers one of the last remaining spots in South Florida where walk-in "off the beach" dives are still possible. A simple stroll from the beach by Anglin's Pier into the warm Atlantic waters will take you to a natural reef that is accessible both on SCUBA and snorkel and, at depth of 15-20 feet, this colorful and lively spot is rewarding for novice and experienced divers alike. Experienced divers will find world-class artificial wrecks and reefs to explore including The Nursery, Capt. Dan and the USS Copenhagen. In the fall, migratory fish such as tarpon and snook add to the year-round population of reef fish that love among the abundant soft coral, sponges, and a smattering of brain coral.
In addition to fishing from the pier and diving from the beach, other activities available in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea without getting in your car include windsurfing, bicycling, roller blading, outdoor dining and, of course, sunbathing.
In the final analysis, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is a throwback to days when the pleasures of life, and especially the pleasures of a family vacation, were a little simpler and, for most of us, a lot more rewarding. It should come as no surprise then that, this little escape from a world that is often "too much with us," is such a popular Florida beach resort town.