Suddenly, Fort Lauderdale is Florida's newest contender
Florida may seem an unlikely destination for a midsummer escape, but low season means great deals on restaurants, hotels, and airfare with JetBlue and Song competing to offer the best price. And a flurry of development has made Fort Lauderdale the state's newest contender. The Mediterranean-style Atlantic Hotel (601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.; 866/837-4274; www.luxurycollection.com/atlantic; doubles from $249), part of Starwood's Luxury Collection, is the first of many condominium-hotel projects to have popped up on the beachfront stretch of A1A. In the works: St. Regis and W hotels, and the Q Club, which is managed by Hilton. When you're not taking a dip, stroll down East Las Olas Boulevard, where you'll find Johnny V (625 E. Las Olas Blvd.; 954/761-7920; dinner for two $90) serving New American cuisine (blue corn-crusted calamari); boutiques such as Shop 603 (603 E. Las Olas Blvd.; 954/467-0900) selling terry-cloth dresses; and for your sweets, Kilwin's (809 E. Las Olas Blvd.; 954/523-8338) cools down window-shoppers with dozens of ice cream flavors. DON'T MISS Las Olas Art Center (600 S.E. Second Court; 954/463-8833) features artists from around the globe and, on the second floor, local craftsmen at work.
They may not be the easiest to find, but these four stretches of sand are worth the effort.
A permit is required to explore the 14 miles of trails at Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge (www.thetrustees.org; $3 for walkers, $200 for drivers) on Chappaquiddick Island. While most of the Vineyard's beaches are jam-packed, here you'll find an empty expanse all to yourself.
Be one of the 300 lucky sunbathers who make it to the eastern coast of Cumberland Island (888/817-3421; www.nps.gov/cuis) each day via ferry. By restricting the number of visitors, officials ensure that the wide, pristine white beach—scattered with sand dollars and frequented by wild horses—stays that way.
Join a guide from Outfitters Kauai (888/742-9887; www.outfitterskauai.com) and kayak 11 miles along Kauai's rugged Na Pali coast to the isolated, white sand Milolii Beach, once the site of an ancient fishing village. Along the way, you'll take a floating tour of famous sea caves.
Swap flip-flops for hiking boots to get to Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park (360/565-3100; www.nps.gov/olym). A 10-mile muddy path from Ozette calls for rope, sand ladders, an overnight permit, and patience. But the reward is nature at its finest: clean water, black rock formations, and plenty of lounging sea otters and seals.
The Atlantic Hotel
A flurry of development over the last decade has made Fort Lauderdale a serious warm-weather hot spot, and the Mediterranean-style Atlantic Hotel, just three miles from downtown and eight miles from the airport, was a 2005 pioneer in the area; it’s one of the original luxury condominium-hotel projects that popped up along the beachfront stretch of A1A. The property offers all the fixings of a large, lively resort (panoramic ocean views; a happening weekend pool scene; an indulgent, holistic spa), but the 124-room property still manages to feel more like a peaceful boutique hotel—primarily because of its location, about a 10-minute walk from the boisterous Beach Place area. It feels homey too, with extra-large rooms (starting at 600 square feet), all with well-equipped kitchenettes and a balcony or terrace.