If you find yourself in Fort Lauderdale, consider yourself lucky! The “Venice of America” is a city packed full of interesting things to do and see, including many cultural attractions, fantastic beaches, and lots of ways to get outdoors and explore. The great thing about Fort Lauderdale is that it is also close to many other fun, beachy communities on Florida’s Atlantic coast as well. West Palm Beach is definitely one of those communities, and a drive north will take you less than an hour, so why not pack up the car for a fantastic road trip? There are a lot of things packed into this short distance, but we’ve included the top places you definitely need to see!
900 N Birch Rd. | Fort Lauderdale, FL | bonnethouse.org/
When you’re out and about in Fort Lauderdale, make sure to stop off at the beautiful and historic Bonnet House. The house was originally built to be a winter retreat for artist Frederic Clay Barlett and his wife Helen. The 1920s home now belongs to the state of Florida and has been transformed into an art museum that showcases the art of Barlett and his second wife, Evelyn, as well as many other internationally renowned artists.
Today, visitors can tour the property and view the galleries at their leisure. Attached to the house are the beautiful Bonnet House Gardens as well, which includes a native Florida garden, a Desert Garden, a Hibiscus Garden, as well as a Tropical Garden. Make sure to stop and see the famous orchid collection, that is regularly rotated to ensure beautiful blooms are always there to greet visitors. In addition, the gardens also serve as a home for migratory and year-round birds. Visitors love to stop and browse the wonderful collection of items in the gift shop or stop for a coffee in the quaint cafe, so make sure to include that as well!
751 Sheridan St. | Hollywood, FL | broward.org/
Although Fort Lauderdale has so much to offer by way of restaurants, shopping, and water sports, you might feel like taking a step back and exploring some of the outdoor attractions in the area. One of the best places to get a little closer to nature is the Anne Kolb Nature Center. There are several short hiking trails where you can see mangrove trees, local birds and reptiles, as well as many beautiful species of native plants. The observation deck makes for a great viewing area!
If you’re up for it, consider renting some kayaks to get a closer view of the natural surroundings in West Lake Park. If you prefer, the center offers a boat tour with an experienced guide who can tell you all about the history of the area, as well as all the conservation efforts they continue to make. Visitors love that there is also a viewing tower where you can get an even better view of this beautiful green space next to the ocean!
907B Hillsboro Mile | Hillsboro Beach, FL | hillsborolighthouse.org/
As you continue your cruise up the Florida coast, your next must-see attraction is the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1905. The lighthouse is nicknamed the Black Diamond-- due to the diamond shaped glass of its windows-- and is located on a beautiful inlet that looks directly out into the Atlantic Ocean. This lighthouse boasts of one of the strongest, most visible lighthouse beacons, which can be seen for 32 miles out to sea.
Visitors love this lighthouse because not only can you climb the steps to the top for an unparalleled view, but you can also spend some time relaxing on the beachy inlet that surrounds it. Most people recommend taking the Black Pearl South Florida Dive Company’s boat to the inlet so you can learn the full history behind this beloved landmark. After you explore the lighthouse and museum, stay for a while and relax on the beach with a picnic lunch!
200 NE 21st Ave. | Deerfield Beach, FL | deerfield-beach.com
As your road trip takes you further north, you’ll run into the small beach town of Deerfield Beach-- named such for the high number of deer that were originally in the area. Take in the views or collect some shells on the beach, which has been named a Blue Wave Beach for its quality of water, cleanliness, and safety. After you’re done putting your toes in the sand, make sure to visit Deerfield Beach’s famous pier! The pier is 976 ft long and attracts some of the best anglers from all over the world. You can either take your time and stroll down the pier, or rent some rods, get some bait, and start fishing!
The Fishing Pier also hosts a variety of environmental workshops throughout the year, as well as public and private fishing lessons from the pros. If you want to see a spectacular view, try to plan your walk on the pier for a sunset-- it can’t be beat!
1400 N Ocean Blvd. | Boca Raton, FL | myboca.us
Boca Raton is your next stop, and here we recommend checking out one of the best beaches on Florida’s Atlantic coast for snorkeling-- Red Reef Park. This is an easily accessible park that is popular among swimmers and sunbathers, but it is well known for the large schools of fish that can be seen when snorkeling. If you just want to stroll on the beach, you might want to consider visiting the reef at high tide where you can walk through the shallow waters and catch glimpses of beautiful shells and sea plants. There are also plenty of walking trails through this park as well, offering some amazing specimens of native Florida plants.
4000 Morikami Park Rd. | Delray, FL | morikami.org/
These historic gardens in Delray are a must-see on your way to West Palm Beach. Most visitors recommend that you rent an audio tour as you stroll through the breathtakingly beautiful mile long path through six separate Japanese gardens. These gardens have been painstakingly recreated by master gardeners to give viewers the chance to walk through time-- here they can observe Japanese gardens from the 9th century to the 20th century. You can peacefully walk through the property and may even catch glimpses of birds, iguanas, and butterflies.
One of the most popular gardens to visit is the bonsai collection, where visitors are treated to learning about ancient technique of representing, but never duplicating, a tree. Here you can learn from the masters what goes into making and sustaining a viable bonsai tree. After viewing the gardens, make sure to stop off at the museum-- which has a wonderful array of Japanese items and art-- and hosts several different exhibits a year. After your visit, most people like to enjoy a bite to eat at the Cornell Cafe. Once a month there are also traditional tea ceremonies, which is a special treat for visitors.
12800 Hagen Ranch Rd. | Boynton Beach, FL | discover.pbcgov.org
Located just outside Delray Beach is this informative nature center, that seeks to bring the native Florida plants and wildlife a little closer to people-- so that more visitors to area can learn about all the amazing species that call this area home. The reserve has 1.5 miles of elevated boardwalks that you can walk about on at your own pace, and comes with a self-guided tour with the help of extremely informative plaques. Over at the nature center, you can meet some of the resident birds and reptiles, and ask questions to the helpful handlers and nature center center employees.
If you have the time and are still curious to learn more about the Florida wetlands, consider stopping in at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands or even the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors have very good things to say about all these nature reserves, and really enjoy the opportunities to see native birds, reptiles, trees, and plants out in the wild. There is so much to learn about the interesting history of the wetlands, you might want to make a whole day out of it!
1 Whitehall Way | Palm Beach, FL | flaglermuseum.us/
You have made it to Palm Beach, so now is the time to really explore this fun and vibrant city. The former winter home of oil, railroad, and hotel magnate Henry Morrison Flager is now a museum as well as a National Historic Landmark. This stunning mansion was built in 1902 by the same architects responsible for the mansions of other industry leaders such as Henry Clay Frick in New York City. You can tour this incredible house with one of the well-informed tour guides, who are sure to answer any and all questions about the art, furniture, or even the building itself!
Adjacent to the house is Railcar No. 91, which was Mr. Flagler’s personal railcar, and has been restored to its 1912 grandeur. Make sure to walk through the wonderfully maintained property while you’re there, and consider stopping into the little cafe for tea and sandwiches!
253 Barcelona Rd. | West Palm Beach, FL | ansg.org/
In order to really immerse yourself in the wonderful West Palm Beach art scene, you should stop and see the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. The house on the property once belonged to the Norton Museum of Art founders, Ralph and Elizabeth Norton. It was redone and adapted to the Monterey Revival style that was popular in the 1930s, and today it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 100 works of art available to view in the house, and nine sculptures are on the property, which are nestled in between beautiful palm trees. The garden is home to a host of other native Florida plants and animals including once-endangered Atala caterpillars and their food source, the Coontie plant.
Visitors are encouraged to walk among the art, which includes sculptures made out of both brick and granite. There are also rotating sculpture exhibits in the garden that feature artists from around the world. Visitors love that you can take the garden in at your own pace, and there’s lots of information available about each work of art. It is also a nice, shady way to spend a couple of hours!
1301 Summit Blvd. | West Palm Beach, FL | palmbeachzoo.org/
West Palm Beach is known for its perfect beaches, fun nightlife, and amazing shopping! But after you visit the beaches for some much needed rest and relaxation, consider making a stop at the popular Palm Beach Zoo! Here you can meet koalas, capybaras, tigers, and sloths! The zoo is home to many endangered animals, as well such as the Red Ruffed Lemurs and White Alligators. The zoo works diligently towards conservation of animals all around the world, as well as right at home in Florida. The Palm Beach Zoo participates in the Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, and takes in incapacitated or orphaned animals from the area until they can be re-released.
Visitors to the zoo find the animal exhibits well done, and can tell that the well being of the animals comes first. There is even a cafe on site in case you get hungry while spending your day exploring this fun attraction!
Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are of the most popular places to visit on the east coast of Florida, and the perfect distance for a road trip! What are your favorite places to visit on the road between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach? Let us know in the comments!