For most of A1A's course through Fort Lauderdale, the west side of the street is a hideous combo of strip malls, restaurants, condos, hotels, and curio shops: crap, in other words. But then you come upon a strange little strip of mangroves and sea oats corralled behind a wrought iron fence, which seems as out of place on this road as a ballerina at a biker bar. That would be the eastern boundary of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Mr. Birch was a reclusive former attorney from Chicago who amassed the land for a dollar per acre. In 1949 he donated it to the state, and today it's a priceless reminder of just how beautiful Fort Lauderdale must have been long ago. Spread a blanket on the beach or grab a picnic table on the Intracoastal and watch the parade of passing boats. (But beware the marauding raccoons. You could lose your lunch.)
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