As we winded our way deeper into downtown Hollywood Florida, USA in our rental car, we could sense the beach was becoming nearer. It’s something in the air, not visible, like another sense, a beach sense. You can almost smell the salt and the sand. I could mentally make the buildings on the horizon disappear and see that the Atlantic Ocean was resting there awaiting discovery, as if for the first time. Finally, we find a useful public parking garage, and wind our way up towards the top… a busy day at Hollywood Beach for sure. We all get out of the car and I guide the kids over to the edge of the garage at the separation of concrete between floors, where you can easily peek out at the horizon and whatever may lie there. And there it was… the alluring Atlantic Ocean. A mixture of wonderful shades of blues, ranging from Azure to Celeste, to Aqua. I had visited the Pacific Ocean too many times to count and so seeing the ocean was nothing new, but somehow, I was caught off guard at the beauty of the Atlantic, as I marveled at it with my kids. Wow, Hollywood Beach was magnificent and majestic, and yet so soothing and comforting. You couldn’t hear it from a top the parking garage, but could certainly feel it’s magnitude and significance.
The Hollywood “Broad-walk”
We made our way down about a half block of beachy houses painted with bright oranges, blues, and yellows, a hotel or two (one of which we had to make an emergency potty stop for my 6-year-old) and then, there we were, the Hollywood Beach Broad-walk. Please note, this is not a typo, it is not spelled in the traditional sense. It is truly referred to as the Broad-walk. It is a bricked walkway not just for walking of course, there are plenty of joggers, roller bladers and bicyclists as well. We came about several small bicycle rental shops along the walk where you could rent all different sorts of bikes for all sizes. It was a bustling seen, ripe with colors, cultures and smiling happy, tan…. very tan, faces. Our only question…which way… left or right? After all, the Broad-walk stretches for 2.5 miles up and down the Atlantic coast. The sand and ocean was only a few steps away, and so very tempting, however, the kids were hungry, so first things first.
Strategic Parking if you have kids
You will want to pay attention to which areas of the Broad-walk you visit and also where you park. If you have kids, there are stretches and areas of the walk that are not littered with as many family friendly eating joints, and that is something to consider, especially if your kids are finicky eaters, such as mine. Cultural food is a wonderful part of traveling, but kids sometimes aren’t quite so daring and adventurous, and prefer their usual. Which brings me to…
McGowan’s Lounge and Restaurant
Our first day at the beach we were on the south side of the Broad-walk and having a bit of a tough time finding something the kids would like to eat. We also needed a cool shady retreat to sit… some other place than that of a rowdy bar or club. After almost giving up and heading back to the car for a trip to Mcdonalds, my wife spotted something… McGowan’s Lounge and Restaurant. They had a large full menu of food and cold drinks, but most importantly, hot dogs, grilled cheese and chicken nuggets, perfect for the kids. We sat outside in a very nice cool shady retreat nestled under a very large straw hut large enough to fit several full tables and a full outdoor bar. The gentlemen who served us, and his cook, were wonderfully nice people. The food was fresh cooked on the spot and great. I recommend the cheese quesadilla and mozzarella sticks. The lemonade tasted fresh squeezed. It was a splendid way to begin our day at Hollywood Beach.
Margaritiville Hollywood Beach Resort
One area of the Broad-walk I would highly recommend is nestled just next to the Margaritiville Hollywood Beach Resort, where Ocean Drive meets Johnson street. We spent nearly a whole day here. You do not need to be staying at the resort to enjoy the activities and entertainment. Whether enjoying time with family, friends or solo, there is enough to do right here to last most of a day, or half a day at the least. It is dotted with souvenir beach shops, small family eateries both dine in and carry out fast food type, as well as a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop. Don’t leave without allowing the kids to enjoy an ice cream while sitting and watching the sunset on the ocean horizon. The Hollywood Beach Theatre lies right in the middle of the promenade here, and just as the sun begins to go down, you can enjoy some good live music right on the beach. Check the Margaritiville Resort website for schedules, but I believe there are live performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Get more info here: Margaritiville Resort and here: Hollywood Beach Info
About the beach itself
Directly connected to the Broad-walk is the beach itself. The reason we came! The sand color is a mix of hues between sugar cookie, to tan, to sand dollar. Many would classify this as a “white sand” beach. Certainly whiter in color than the Pacific ocean beaches in the western U.S. With the amount of traffic the beach sees, it is surprisingly lush and clean, spotted only with the occasional strand of dried seaweed. Palm trees sprout up from beneath the sand in many places, leaving you with a feeling that you’re somewhere on a desert island. You will also find volleyball nets dotted throughout. There is plenty of space to spread out and find your own little personal space of paradise, plant your umbrella and towel and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Atlantic Ocean rolling in. We were there just as the Spring break season was beginning in early-mid March, and it was never crowded to a point where it took away from the experience. We found pleasure in socializing and mingling with another family with kids, who were stationed not far from us in the sand. A great way to meet good people. Who says you must have the beach all to yourself?
Caution : Jellyfish a Possibility!
Be aware of colored flags flying at the lifeguard stations, they keep you aware of dangerous marine life in the area. During our visit, there were “Portuguese Man of War” jellyfish washing up on shore. My wife and I did find a few of these and I took some pics, shown below. It didn’t end up posing any problem. Just stay vigilant, and teach the kids what they look like. They sting and require some treatment, usually available at lifeguard stations in the form of ammonia. This is nothing different than any other beach in the world you may visit.
Clear Water, Sea Shells, Sunsets
As mentioned in the intro, the water is a wonderful light blue color, almost as if you are in the Caribbean. I was thrown back at how clear it was while in the shallows, especially earlier on in the day before the tide began to come in. Be sure to get there early in the day, and the shallow portion will stretch for quite an impressive distance, making it perfect for kids to play safely. Play along with them, or nestle down in the sand and watch, or do a mixture of both. As it gets closer to dusk and the tide comes in, the shallow ankle high portion quickly fades away. The water also becomes much murkier as a plethora of seaweed will begin to wash ashore. We spent this time walking the shore line looking for sea shells. We discovered that Hollywood Beach, as well as adjacent Fort Lauderdale Beach, are wonderful for finding all sorts of small sea shells. We also noticed different sorts of sea sponge and coral occupy the beach. This was a family activity we enjoyed doing together. The sunset was stunning, with a prism of pinks, purples, and blues painting the horizon. Nothing beats an Atlantic coast sunset in Florida.
Visit Hollywood beach Florida for some stunningly beautiful, clean beaches, fun shops, restaurants and entertainment.