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Fort Lauderdale - Off the beaten track

Palatial waterfront housing with all the trimmings

Delray Beach

Delray Beach is a lively town with an interesting history that's far more welcoming and affordable than much of the rest of southeastern Florida. The area was first peopled by settlers from Michigan (the land was bought by the postmaster of Saginaw, Michigan, who brought friends) and blacks from the Florida Panhandle. A local company began extending the railway south and lured in about a hundred Japanese farmers to work on a farm settlement called Yamato. The Japanese workers planted a number of crops, but chiefly they were here to farm pineapples. The settlement never amounted to much: crop yeilds failed to reach expectation and, with added competition from Cuban fruit companies, pineapple farming in the entire area dried up. Today, Delray Beach is a small but very pleasant resort town - energetic but not full of itself - with pleasant restaurants, beaches and museums. Among the better ones is Morikami Gardens, dedicated to the lives of the Japanese settlers at Yamato. It's a lovely and serene place worth spending a couple of hours, if only for the Cornell Cafe, which serves tasty homestyle Japanese food.

Delray Beach is about 32km (20mi) north of Fort Lauderdale and is easily accessed by bus, train or car.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area

Where there's nature left in southeast Florida, it's best to see it fast, and the Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area is one of the spots to see. In the middle of the beach (north of East Sunrise Blvd), the state-protected park contains one of the last significant maritime hammocks left around Fort Lauderdale, mangroves, a freshwater lagoon system and several species of endangered flora and fauna, including the gopher tortoise and golden leather fern. Oh yeah - there's luscious peace and quiet here as well. The park allows beach access, and within the grounds you can fish in the Intracoastal Waterway, picnic, hike, bike or canoe.

National Enquirer Headquarters

If you're driving past the town of Lantana, north of Fort Lauderdale, a pilgrimage to the headquarters of National Enquirer is almost a must - though, sad to say, there are no tours per se. The Enquirer's tasteless but (the industry grudgingly admits) accurate airing of the dirty laundry of celebrities - and their heroic tales of blind jugglers and miracle diets - have given it the largest circulation of any newspaper in the USA. The headquarters are on SE Coast Ave in Lantana; if you're travelling on Hwy 1, you can't miss the enormous National Enquirer sign on the west side of the railroad tracks. If you call and ask for the marketing department (and sound awfully convincing), maybe they'll bring you through on a VIP tour.

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