In my recently published book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) I wrote that Hollywood, Florida had its growth boon back in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a glamorous and golden time for the city. As the years passed so did the love affair with Hollywood as the attention shifted west to Pembroke Pines and North to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Signs of revitalization are making their way through the downtown area with an influx of new restaurants, bars and nightlife. The Hollywood Boulevard/Harrison Street area is a pedestrian destination area that is coming back to life.
The Hollywood Beach area is rather unique in and of itself as it still holds onto the look of its initial pedigree with brightly colored cement buildings and motel efficiencies proudly showing off its jalacy windows complete with individual aluminum window awnings. The Broadwalk is ironically passive with its crowd of bustling visitors and locals, speed walking, biking and running while others just stroll the day away. The charm of yesteryear is what makes this beachside area endearing.
I found Hollywood Beach to be an ideal 48-hour R&R escape. Depending on your style and budget a classic motel efficiency may be in order or a full service hotel might be your venue of choice. We stayed at the Hollywood Beach Marriott, we opted for full-service. And full-service we got, the staff was attentive and accommodating even as the hotel was at 100% occupancy with multiple events taking place simultaneously all weekend long. It was impressive to see that the Hollywood Beach Marriott is quite the hub for locals.
The Hollywood Beach Marriott is exactly 7 steps to the inviting sandy beach, which made this an idyllic 48 hours for me. The beach, sun, and surf play to my need for an escape. I’m not one that needs to be entertained or must have something to do, the purpose of getting away for me is to decompress and stay off the grid. However this style of relaxing may not be for everyone; if sitting on a chaise lounge for more than 20 minutes gets to be a bit mundane for you, archetypal seaside activities are available for you to take advantage of such as parasailing, jet skiing, and kayaking.
Bicycle rentals come in many shapes and sizes on Hollywood Beach so if you’ve come with a group, a Surry, a Limo or a Super Stretch would be ideal for your getaway-gang to pedal around the Broadwalk.
For those with a penchant for nature the Anne Kolb Nature Center is just a short walk or trolly ride away from Hollywood Beach. The Anne Kold Nature Center is a 20 acre coastal mangrove area where visitors can tour, walk and hike their way through the Mangrove forests. Rockell was our impressive tour guide; as an environmental science graduate student her vast knowledge for the nature center, the ecosystem and its inhabitants and was second to none which made our tour all the more interesting.
If walking and hiking doesn’t suit you, kayak rentals are available for those with a more aquatic wanderlust for nature-adventure; visitors can paddle their way through the tidal channels within the mangrove sanctuary.
Latitudes is the beachfront cafe at the Hollywood Beach Marriott where we had more than our share of grilled and blackened fish tacos; it was one of those menu items that seemed perfectly fitting for our weekend at the beach. I’m an early riser, so for me to have breakfast with a side of sunrise was a treat. In addition to the hotel guests you’ll find just as many locals at Latitudes taking in the scenery and food, no matter the time of day.
Throughout my book, I made mention about certain areas in Miami and Fort Lauderdale that simply must be experienced and the only way to do this is by getting out and walking around, because you won’t be able to discover all the hidden treasures an area has to offer by driving by. Hollywood is one of those such places; it is starting to be a destination excursion area, thanks to the redevelopment happening downtown. By walking around [downtown] Harrison Street you’ll uncover some very unique shops, and eateries and bars that will give you good insight as to what the area is about and starting to become. If you’re looking to dine, Lola’s on Harrison and Fulvio’s 1900 are two good solid bets. Lola’s serves new American cuisine and Fulvio’s serves hearty Italian. Staying closer to the beach is the indelible landmark, Le Tub, a waterfront joint that must be experienced to appreciate and certainly not to be missed.
For food and drink a bit more upscale than Le Tub, there’s Billy’s Stone Crab just a few blocks down the street [from Le Tub]; Billy’s prime waterfront location is ideal for cocktails and dinner but it’s the porch gliders that line the deck that keep the regulars coming back, even calling dibs on their favorite swing. If you’re more of the hands-on-do-it-yourself type, Billy’s has a 40′ sport fishing boat the “Crack ‘n Crab” that can be chartered; you can actually catch your dinner, bring it back and Billy’s will cook it.
Another popular haunt not to be missed is Nicks Bar located on the Broadwalk. It’s friendly, it’s lively and it welcomes everyone, young and old; there’s no prejudice here, just good times and cold beers.
Whether you go off-the-grid completely or not there are still some taxing decisions to be made during a 48-hour weekend away to the beach; piña colada or mojito; waffles or omelette; beach or pool; walk or bike ride. With options like this, it’s very easy to start your day waffling, slowly moving to piña coladas on the beach with a leisurely Hollywood Beach shuffle thrown in for good measure.
As one picture perfect day lazily comes to an end, it inexplicably leaves its footprints in the sand for yet another day in paradise to follow tomorrow.
Marriott Hollywood Beach 2501 North Ocean Drive, Hollywood, FL 33019