Fun Drives: Exploring the Gold Coast Highway A1A Around Miami
Now that you have rented your convertible from Budget, National, or Thrifty, one great way to spend the day is exploring a stretch of Highway A1A in and around Miami. Highway A1A stretches from just south of the Georgia state line to Key West at the southern tip of Florida. It is sometimes referred to as the "Gold Coast Highway" which is thought to be a reference to the Spanish galleons that used to sail these waters carrying gold doubloons. This 50-mile stretch of A1A that we're discussing today travels along the sparkling blue Atlantic ocean and runs through Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pampano Beach, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. It's a great drive and a wonderful way to take in some local color.
First stop: "The Broadwalk"
This well-known section of Hollywood Beach it known for its sparkling white sand, blue waters, fit bodies, and 2.5 miles of shops, bars, and restaurants. This beach begins at South Sunset Road and extends to Sheridan Road.
Second stop: John Lloyd Beach Recreation Area ($3 Entry Fee)
This long barrier island of gardens and forests commands views of busy Port Everglades and a beach historically significant as one designated for African-Americans, in the days of segregation. It now a gay destination.
Third stop: IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum (300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, 954.922.4212)
This facility appeals to all ages and has seven different galleries highlighting the creatures of the sea, a fun discovery room for children, a virtual fishing exhibit (where you can hold a fishing pole and feel the pull of the fish), and a vast wetland area.
Fourth stop: Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale's main street boasts many upscale shops and excellent eateries. At the river end, Las Olas Riverfront is a colorful theme mall, from with the Riverfront Canal Cruise departs.
Fifth stop: Bonnet House (900 N. Birch Road, 954.563.5393)
This historic 35-acre plantation home and estate was built in 1921 and gives one a true glimpse into Old Florida. The estate is open to guided tours only. The estate features a two-story waterfront home which is full of original artwork and tropical gardens.
Sixth stop: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center (1801 N. Ocean Blvd, 561.338.1473)
An informative center, which features trails, butterfly and herb gardens, outdoor sea tanks, and a sea turtle rehab center. The Nature Center offers both adult and children's programs. It takes its name from the distinctive local tree with red peeling bark.
Seventh stop: Worth Avenue, Palm Beach
The street for local and visiting celebs to check out the latest fashions or perhaps pick up a unique work of art.
Eight stop: Flagler Museum (1 Whitehall Way, 561.655.2833)
The Gilded Age is preserved in this luxurious mansion which was commissioned by Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler as a wedding present to his third wife. This is a classic Beaux Arts-style mansion containing 55 rooms. Included in these is a Louis XIV music room, a Louis XV ballroom, and 14 guest suites outfitted with original antique European furnishings. In the backyard, you can find Mr. Flagler's private restored railroad car (#91). You can participate in a group tour but the norm is to self tour.
Ninth stop: The Breakers (1 S. County Road, 561.655.6611)
This 140 acre, 7 story building is awe inspiring with a frescoed lobby, countless chandeliers, and long, palatial hallways. beachfront hotel is third hotel to be built on this site, the first two having burned down. The aura of America's Gilded Age (1880 - 1910) still clings to every aspect of this stylish abode.
Tenth stop: Norton Museum of Art (1451 S. Olive Ave, Admission $8)
The Norton is frequently mentioned as Florida's finest museum of art. The Norton is known for its prestigious permanent collection and top temporary exhibitions. The major exhibits are divided geographically. Stroll through the French collection and you will see works from Degas, Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Renoir.