Best Place To Ride A Bike/Broward 1999 | Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and A1A | Sports & Recreation | South Florida
This ride that encompasses the best of Florida's two worlds: a trek through a canopy of trees and a ride along the beach with its glitzy view of the sea. Start by taking the easy, two-mile ride through the park and roll by the Australian pines and banyan trees that make this a great little urban park, complete with sea turtles and rascally raccoons. You can loop around on the paved road as many times as you want, but be careful, the road is shared with automobile traffic. Then exit the park and prepare for phase two. Pull out the wraparound shades, put on the headphones, and strip down to bare essentials, for you are about to ride along a bustling South Florida beach. Ride south on the ocean-side sidewalk against the traffic of A1A, the better to spot beach scenes and suck in the salty air. Pedal down to the south beach area and head back. Those of you belonging to the Train and Trash Club can stop at the Elbo Room and erase any thirst built up during this less-than-grueling ride.
Theirs is a life much different from ours, and it resides in those mansions occupied by the monied class of Palm Beach. The overly wealthy buy these big, showy homes by the water, then put up hedges and fences to keep us, the riffraff, from getting good, close-up looks at them at their leisure. This ride along the eastern edge of Lake Worth allows you to peer into their back yards and see for yourselves what Robin Leach used to tell us about. By standing on your pedals, you attain a height of about seven feet, and you can thereby see over many of the fences and hedges meant to block your view. Look to your right and see Buffy and Reginald serving cocktails after a mild day on the yacht. Now quickly look left and see their oversize yacht parked at their personal dock. The nearly five-mile, out-and-back route begins at the Flagler Museum; ascots are optional.
It seems like almost everyone in Broward County has a pair of in-line skates, and all of them would like to be able to skate in a safe, stress-free environment. It's difficult to do it on the beach or along Las Olas Boulevard, where it's crowded and the pavement is too uneven, and besides, those places are for people who like to see and be seen. So where can you Rollerblade safely on a smooth, paved path and without feeling self-conscious about your skating ability? Would you believe at the Pompano Beach Air Park, located just north of Atlantic Boulevard on Federal Highway? The path surrounding the small general-aviation airport gives you a really good workout, whether you do one lap or ten. The 4.5-mile path is a skater's dream, and there's plenty of room for both novice and seasoned skaters to roll in harmony.
If you want lions and tigers and bears, oh my, then you're better off at Dreher Park Zoo in West Palm Beach or Lion Country Safari. But if it's local flora and fauna you crave, then you can't beat this massive preserve in south central Palm Beach County. It's all that remains of the northern portion of the Everglades, and more than a dozen categories of endangered and threatened species live there, including the American alligator and the extremely rare snail kite. There are also lizards, frogs, snakes, raccoons, armadillos, otters, bobcats, deer, and fish, although the refuge's big draw, especially in winter, is its dazzling array of native and migratory birds. Two main nature trails are available, a marsh trail with an observation tower and a boardwalk through a 400-acre cypress swamp, as well as a five-and-a-half-mile canoe trail. Be sure to take binoculars and, because insects are a big part of the park's population, bug spray.
We give this place four paws up! The 2.5 acres of fenced-in park is built exclusively with mutts (or purebreds) in mind. It offers obstacle courses, wading pools, water fountains for dogs, and cleanup bags for, well, you know. Canines romp on the main grassy area while their owners sit and watch the frolic from the shade. For dogs more agile of body and mind, there is a complete obstacle course with cement tubes to run through, jumps, ramps, and weave poles. The pooch park is the idea of a local veterinarian who saw the need for dogs to get off those doggone leashes and run. Although relatively quiet during the week, the park can get crowded on weekends, so watch out for the big dogs. Woof.

Ignore the "Family" in the name. If you're seeking a friendly, comfortable environment to take the kids, try Hollywood Billiards or Kiss Shot Billiards in Jupiter. Gold Crown is an uninviting, dimly lit decades-old pool hall west of Young Circle that just happens to attract some of the meanest shooters ever to chalk up a pool cue. On any given night, you might find such pool luminaries as Danny Diliberto or Toby Sweet lounging at the bar, or picking up a game of one-pocket. Most nights the house man is John Foster, one of the top nine-ball players in the state of Florida. If you're looking for a money game, there's almost always one to be had. Just sidle up to the table nearest the cash register (the table recently fitted with a new felt cloth), and see who's looking for action. The 11 Gold Crown tables here are old and worn but still have smoother rails and more dependable pockets than most tables half their age. In other words the cliché holds true for pool tables: they don't make em like they used to. The omnipresent billiard dogs adorn the walls, as do black-and-white photos of pool greats such as Willie Mosconi, Minnesota Fats, and Abbott and Costello. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day you can play all you want for $5. Go early and hone your stick skills. Maybe then you'll be ready for the regulars.

Spread across 666 acres at the edge of the Everglades, Markham is a park apart from the congestion and development of Broward County. Labradors bound up grassy slopes, solitary fishermen patiently eye their poles, families gather on wooded campsites. The impressive list of facilities includes a target range, astronomical observatory, model-airplane field, boat ramps and rentals, and mountain bike and equestrian trails. But the nostalgia of Boy Scout outings and wilderness trips and backyard barbecues is what gives this park that "peaceful, easy feeling" the Eagles sang about back in the '70s, when Markham Park opened.
Lake Osborne composes almost half of John Prince Park's 726 acres and contributes to its bucolic character. Knotted ficus trees -- bent trunks supported by spindly fingers, aerial roots brushing the hair of visitors below -- evoke visions of J.R.R. Tolkien's gnomelike hobbits. A five-mile bicycle path winds around the park and over the lake, 20 Fit-Trail stations have diagrams for an exercise-by-numbers effect, and wood fences line roads of pitted white powder. Even the potholes are charming.
The best place to fish for whopper saltwater species like marlin is from a boat -- way offshore in deep water. But if you don't own a boat and don't want to pay a charter fee, the next best bet for snagging saltwater fish is a pier. And from the back door of the bait shop at water's edge, Anglin's Fishing Pier extends more than 870 feet into the Atlantic. It's open 24 hours a day, so anglers can show up whenever they feel like it, which is what the fish seem to do. When the breeze is blowing west or onshore, the water gets clear and the fish can see where they're going so they don't come in close. A nice northwest or southwest wind, however, keeps the water murky and the associated currents will bring in pompano, mackerel, bluefish, and snook (at least while they're in season). Early morning during an incoming tide is the best time to land fish here, and dusk to midnight isn't bad. Tarpon may lurk near the end of the pier just before dusk, and snapper and shark can be caught at night. Latching onto any of them requires not only timing but the right equipment, which can be rented or purchased at the bait shop. Admission to the pier costs $2 to $3. And if the fishing's slow, the Pier Restaurant is right there for a cup of coffee, a snack, or a fish sandwich.

Yes, you can pay $50 or more to go out on a boat, don a mask, and swim with the fishes. But why, when you can glide 200 yards out from the beach near the charming old Anglin's Fishing Pier and see coral reefs and sealife that's just as good -- for free. Mornings, before the surf is up and boat traffic starts buzzing, swim out to the first buoy south of the pier, then angle southeast for another 100 yards. Fifteen feet down, you'll find a colorful reef of star and green cactus coral, with fan coral for decoration. Abundant lobsters, parrotfish, harlequin bass, squirrelfish, sergeant majors, and coral shrimp dart in and out of the coral caves. Be on the lookout and you'll see spotted moray eels and octopuses. Small (harmless) nurse sharks will add excitement. If you don't have your own gear, rent mask, snorkel, and fins for $10 -- be smart and spend $7.50 more for a safety dive flag -- from the nearby Deep Blue Divers on A1A and Commercial. (Call the shop at 954-772-7966 for info on water conditions.) When you've sated your appetite for watching fish, swim back to shore and eat some at any of the open-air restaurants off the pier and wash the salt off your lips with a cold brew. It's the real Florida.

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