Alex Ninian makes his annual spring pilgrimage to Florida.
The Venice of America and Yachting Capital of the World are two not-entirely modest or self-effacing claims made for Florida’s Fort Lauderdale area, closest big beach resort to Miami.
Its eastern boundary is the soft brown sand of the Atlantic Ocean shore, and through the town, runs an inland waterway called the Intracoastal. Across town meanders the New River, and they all intersect. Each of these has spawned hundreds of man-made offshoots, inlets, cuttings, reaches, moorings, docks, and canals and you have a town which is a shimmering waterworld. There are over 300 miles of navigable waterway in the local county alone.
Recently the town has moved upscale with clean beaches, sedate promenades and a stylish downtown of smart shops, restaurants and bars. Now you are likely to come across longer-stay pleasure seekers of all ages enjoying the warm sea by day and, after dark, taking a water-taxi to the downtown nightlife amenities offered by the city.
All of Florida is within easy reach – the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico to the west; Palm Beach, Orlando and Disney and beyond to the north; Miami and the Keys to the south.
The Keys are a must-do. The scene is set by an enormous sign by the highway proclaiming “Entering a State of Mind”. The road, US 1, connects 100 miles of islands via a series of bridges and causeways and it represents a straightforward drive to Key West which is just 90 miles of Cuba.
Orlando is for families and lovers of theme parks, which abound. And then there is Cape Kennedy and the space centres, always worth a day.
Florida is a year-round location, not just Disney, and just recently the weather centre said that of the 50 states, Florida was the only one not covered in snow. In winter the temperature is 24-29 °C which equals 75-85 F.
The Everglades is a famous feature of Florida. The area is flatter than a pancake and slopes towards the Gulf at about two inches per mile. Sixty inches of rain fall in a few summer weeks and flood the place, because it’s so flat. Because of the small slope it takes months to drain off and dry out before it all happens again.
When it’s wet it is a place where fish and water flora and fauna abound and when it’s dry it’s a place for the dry-land birds and bees. You take an air boat which is driven by an air propeller because the water is so entangled with undergrowth that an ordinary propeller would clog up. What you see are spoonbills, flamingos and highly coloured parakeets.