For decades, Fort Lauderdale was “the place” in the sun for the rich and famous and for yachtsmen in the know. Then South Beach Miami became the “hot” destination for celebs, and Daytona for the big college breakers. But Fort Lauderdale remains a special beach town even though it has grown dramatically, Port Everglade is among the biggest cruise ship ports in the world (with Miami).
The grand dame of Fort Lauderdale is Lago Mar, a posh Fort Lauderdale resort – not contemporary like other hotels, The Atlantic, W, Ritz, Hilton and Hyatt, on the beach strip, but classy and confined with its own private stretch of sand. From the moment you enter the gracious lobby, you are transported to a fanciful old-world Florida, a trompe l’oile ceiling and grand chandelier tower above, and a sensational mosaic tile sea scene below your feet set the mood. The Lago Mar staff is trained to know your name and anticipate your whim, a credit to the Banks family who have owned the resort since 1959 and continue to polish their four-diamonds and Condé Nast Gold status.
Lago Mar Resort offers ten lush seaside acres, with two gorgeous swimming pools draped by tall palms, a Promenade poolside bar, a full-service spa, tennis courts, mini-golf and playground, and 500-feet of private uninterrupted beach. Most of the 200 Floridian décor guestrooms, picture Tommy Bahama’s bedroom, at Lago Mar are suites and ours overlooked the beach and ocean with a generous balcony.
I could have been content just sitting on our fabulous deck, watching the Fort Lauderdale based cruise ships come and go from Port Everglade to the Bahamas and Caribbean, listening to the surf.
But there is plenty to do at Lago Mar, with daily activities scheduled, live music by the pool and fruity drink specials, plus fabulous dining – formal or casual. And you can stroll the sun soaked beach, read a book under a resort umbrella, or simply bob in the crystal blue 85° sea.
As you walk Fort Lauderdale beach to the north, you arrive at the high rise hotels, The Sheraton, Hilton, The W, The B Ocean, The Ritz Carlton, The Atlantic, and The Westin. These big properties are on the busier strip and the more popular stretch of beach, where Lago Mar is more private and preferable – protected near the end of the beach peninsula and breakwater.
If you wish to leave the luscious grounds of Lago Mar by car, there is much to explore in Fort Lauderdale, still considered the yachting capital of the world.
We drove the strip, savored native conch fritters at the waterfront Bahia Cabaña – which is a fun, funky waterfront bar – nothing fancy except the view of the boats tied up at the docks. Then we strolled the boutiques and bistros of Las Olas Boulevard – where we discovered great upscale resale shops.
But the best way to see Fort Lauderdale is by boat, the Water Taxi or a tour boat from Las Olas Riverfront Plaza. This way you get to see the incredible yachts and homes of the rich and famous, multi-million dollar mansions and mega-yachts belonging to Miami Dolphin players and movie stars. I called it the “I feel poor tour,” but it is fun and refreshing getting on the water to see why Fort Lauderdale is called the “Venice of America” – featuring a labyrinth of 200-miles of inland waterways.
Back at Lago Mar, we took turns lounging at the lagoon pool, the marvelous private beach, and our scenic deck from our suite. We even played an amusing game of shuffleboard on the manicured grounds.
Fort Lauderdale is a great destination for a Florida beach vacation, or for a Cruise Ship stay over in a hotel room before or after your cruise. Lago Mar is a classic resort with all the trimmings of a modern resort and spa and exceptional staff, and the best beach setting in Fort Lauderdale.