In his four years as a Miami Dolphin, Chris Chambers hasn't been the kind of player to make a showy victory dance in the end zone, even though he's been there more often than any other receiver on the team. He hasn't been the kind of player to boast about his accomplishments either, despite racking up better than 900 yards a season (a total of 3,478). So maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that last year, the Cleveland native bit his tongue as the Dolphins stank up the NFL. But it's a credit to Chambers that he not only avoided complaining during the Dolphins worst season in 35 years but that he also shone. The Wisconsin alumnus managed a career-high 69 catches, 974 yards, and seven touchdowns during a year when the offense was the NFL equivalent of junior varsity. Chambers credits his quiet demeanor to being a "nappy-headed" kid with an embarrassing chipped tooth. Nicknamed "Spiderman" as a teenager for his lanky limbs, the 26-year-old has shut up his childhood bullies with a gutsy performance on a team in which many veterans seemed to give up.

Get your wine-sniffing, Bravo-watching, Lexus-driving self out of the cloistered condo canyons and yacht lots of beachside Broward. If you drive 20 minutes west, you'll find yourself in the middle of Oklahoma, or something like it. Then open your color-contacted eyes and behold: Little girls in cowboy hats are petting enormous, Argentine hunting hounds. Improbably beautiful young couples -- the gals with tall cowboy boots and short skirts, the guys with thick arms and tucked-in shirts -- suck down cheap domestic beer. Children and parents all laugh at the same rodeo clown or gasp at a 1,300-pound bull stomping a thrown rider's fortified vest. You might even glimpse a family of Orthodox Jews conversing in Yiddish. It's not another country. But it is country.

This gym on the seventh floor of the AutoNation skyscraper sits directly across the street from the Broward County Courthouse and is surrounded by law offices. Thus, entering its locker room is like taking a trip to Lawyerville; it's populated by legal experts who work out on weekdays. Everywhere, even when clothing is minimal, cell phones are a must. (There's even a phone right on the locker room wall.) It's common to overhear snippets like, "Eighty-three million? There's no way we're settling for less than 86 mil -- I told him that!" Face it, when you hear someone say "Do you want to be able to see your kids again?" -- and it's not a threat made in a movie but privileged attorney/client discussion of a child-custody hearing -- ears tend to prick up. Lawyers flirt with secretaries. Maybe even set up secret trysts. And you're sure to hear about Mr. Big Shot's ski trip to Aspen or the huge case Mr. So-and-So just won. Who knows? You might even get a stock tip, you pathetic, poverty-stricken turd.

Near Port Everglades, John Lloyd has two miles of beach. On a ridge above the sand are picnic tables shaded by huge Australian pines. That's really all you need for a wonderful afternoon soirée, but Lloyd doesn't stop there. Like to fish? You can do it on the north end of the park from a paved jetty. Feel like doing a dive? Swim out in the water until you are about even with the Dania Beach Pier, which is to your south, and then dive down to see some of the sea's delights. You can find sponges, gorgonians, and coral. Care for a hike? The park comes complete with a large forest, or hammock as they are called in these parts, with a 45-minute self-guided trail. But you might want to do what we do -- just kick back and enjoy a little paradise.

Finding the right picnicking spot in South Florida seems simple enough; all you need is a place where your ham and cheese sandwich won't melt inside its plastic bag -- if that doesn't melt too. You need shade, but the pavilion at your neighborhood park is always full of rambunctious toddlers and their scolding parents. And besides, pavilions aren't that great for picnicking anyway. Isn't the whole point to be in a natural setting, dining beneath a tree? At Gulfstream Park, there are enough trees to cover whatever party you have planned, whether it's a double date or a family reunion. Not to be confused with the Hallandale Beach horse track of the same name, the only stakes at this Gulfstream Park are the steaks you grill. The park runs along the west side of a naturally canopied hill, scattered with picnic tables and grills, as well as a play area to keep the kids busy. On the east side of the hill is a public beach, which means cool ocean air in lieu of the humidity of inland parks. If you're hot, you can take a swim; you have the option. After all, this is Florida -- why wouldn't you picnic at the beach?

Pileated woodpecker

Black-and-white warbler

Limpkin, mourning dove

Great-crested flycatcher

Glaucous gull, rock dove

Solitary vireo

Cattle egret, snowy egret

House sparrow, oriole

Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Ovenbird, sandpiper

Screech owl, fish crow

Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Binoculars, bug spray

Comfy shoes, half a day

Go slow, soak in

Fern Forest's aviary.

On the 37-mile stretch of sand between Lake Worth Beach and Fort Lauderdale Beach, you're pretty much dealing with blue herons and bluehairs. It's just nature interspersed with condos -- or the other way around. It's quiet. It's calm. It's pretty freakin' boring. Except for one shining spot of beach-worthy bodies and beachfront bars: Deerfield Beach. Of course, this spot has palm trees, turquoise waters, and beach umbrellas -- but so does every other beach from here to Jacksonville. What sets Deerfield apart is the action. You can tell from the bike racks and five permanent volleyball courts that this is not the destination for people who want to lie around and imitate a dying manatee. No, this is the beach for hot lifeguards, spring breakers, and surfers. Go-getters angle on the fishing pier, a blimp chills overhead, and a dude bangs on the steel drum at JB's on the Beach while the bartender doles out mojitos. Everything else you might want is available in the nearby cluster of shops. Need a glass pipe or 40 kinds of rolling papers? Cross the street and hit Lazydaze. A surfboard? Run over to Island Water Sports. A fish taco? Rattlesnake Jake's. A fanny pack, a mood ring, or a man bikini? Go to Wings. Gelato? You can get that inside the post office!

On one of those days, when you're looking at all the traffic on I-95 and you're remembering that your Florida neighbors voted both George and Jeb Bush into office and you're thinking, "Why the hell do some people consider this place paradise?" all you need to do is mosey over to Carlin Park for a reminder. With its 3,000 feet of beach frontage, its Lazy Logger restaurant, its little-league baseball field, its tennis courts, its exercise course, and its amphitheater, Carlin Park offers the best of Florida living. A Pig Gig Rib Fest, a Shakespeare-by-the-Sea festival, and a Sunset at Carlin concert series give you all the more reason to spread out a blanket and hunker down on the sand. Treasure hunters sometimes find buried early-American silver coins on the beach, and some experts expect 2005 to be a record sea turtle nesting season.

So your doctor's been telling you to take better care of yourself, as always. And, as always, he uses the dreaded e word: exercise. However, running around your block means passing by that neighbor whose vacuum cleaner you borrowed and conveniently misplaced. But that's just as well, because what you need is a full exercise course with chin-up bars, steps, and various beams to help stretch all those neglected muscles. The course at South County Regional Park has 20 such stations. And when you're all done, you don't have to hurry home to shower -- the enormous Coconut Cove Waterpark is right there. Of course, if you skip both activities, you've still got 856 acres' worth of park to explore. That means baseball fields, tennis and volleyball courts, the Daggerwing Nature Center, a remote-control car track, a remote-control airplane field, and more open space than Wal-Mart would know what to do with.

Quiet Waters? Isn't that where all those weird medieval people hang out? Well, if you're thinking of the Florida Renaissance Festival, then, yes, that's one of the many events the park hosts. But if face-painting fairies, jousters, and jesters are all you know about Quiet Waters Park, then you've been missing out on the Holy Grail of outdoor recreation in Broward County. For those looking to relax, there are plenty of shaded picnic areas along the lake ripe for a barbecue. For you active types, there's mountain-biking, a nature trail, and a lot of open space to toss around a football, fly a kite, play freeze tag, or do whatever else tickles your youthful fancy. But if you want to turn the fun up to ten, try out the cable skiing/wakeboarding course, which comes complete with jump ramps and rail slides. If water sports aren't your thing, then grab your blades, skateboard, or bike and hit the ramps and rails. Of course, to do all this would take a couple of days -- why not stay the weekend at the park's campground? At $25 a day, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than some overcrowded Disney World resort. Oh, and if you happen to get there next March, be prepared to joust.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of