Suddenly, Fort Lauderdale is Florida's newest contender

By Travel + Leisure
Updated: February 02, 2017
Graciela Cattarossi

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;; 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.
—Hillary Geronemus

>>Made in the Shade

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 (; $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; 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; 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; 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.


Johnny V

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.