John U. Lloyd Beach State Park

Whiskey Creek got its name from the bootleggers that used its winding, shallow waters to hide from authorities back in the day. Today, the creek remains undeveloped and pristine, snaking around a white, soft beach that curls into a nature preserve connected to John Lloyd Park. What makes it the perfect kayaking spot is that both beautiful extremes of Florida are found here. The creek itself is flanked by shallow swamp water and deep ocean. On one side, the view is sandy beach with tall palm trees swaying in the breeze. On the other, it's mangroves and sea-grape leaves flapping in the wind. You can kayak the tepid waters of the creek, paddling in the shade of the seemingly endless mangroves, and then wind around the beach before looping back into the open waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Next, head over to Port Everglades to catch a glimpse of the massive cruise ships in the distance. It's an entire South Florida kayaking experience in one shot.

Of all the things South Floridians can do in and around the ocean, fishing might be the easiest. Then again, if you have no idea what you're doing, it can also be the toughest. That's where Flamingo Deep Sea Fishing comes in. This 65-foot boat and its crew provide the best way for an amateur South Florida fisherman to get out on the open water and learn the ropes. They provide everything you could possibly need while trying to pull in the big catch, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. Flamingo runs boats multiple times a day and has a long track record of finding fish. Hell, their slogan is "Fish Can't Hide From the Flamingo." Everything from kingfish, snappers black fin tuna, bonito, mahi-mahi, barracuda, grouper, and wahoo to cobia and sailfish are routinely pulled up onto their deck, making the $40 price of admission a deal, seeing as you are likely to take home many meals. Regulars boast of shark sightings on deep-sea trips, and photography — something not all boat crews are fond of — is encouraged.

flamingofishing.com

Deerfield Beach Pier

South Florida presents ample fishing destinations, but fishing off a good, well-set-up pier is one of the best. The fishing pier at Deerfield Beach is the best of the best. The 976-foot structure, which costs just a buck to walk on, provides amateur fishermen a place to get their feet wet. At the bait and tackle shop, novices can purchase an entire kit for less than $20 that will get them through an entire day of fishing, and judging by the pictures of recent catches on the pier, they can expect to bring home dinner worth at least that much. Group and private lessons are available too. The destination doubles as a terrific place to take a date, with views stretching to Pompano Beach on a clear night.

In 2012, authorities used 600 tons of limestone boulders to build an 800-foot-long underwater snorkeling trail over two acres on the south side of the Blue Heron Bridge. Six to ten feet deep and marked off from boat traffic by buoys, it's enough to be adventurous yet not too intimidating. The underwater rock trail was built with little ledges and crannies in which sea critters love to hide. On a calm day, you might encounter squid, octopus, spotted rays, tarpon, starfish, and even cute lil' seahorses. Free parking, outdoor showers, picnic tables, and a lifeguard make this a near-perfect place to while away a beach day.

Everglades National Park
Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service

Warning: Do not try this at home. Now, with that out of the way... swimming with alligators is probably the biggest wildlife thrill out there. We know. Earlier this year, New Times went along with Hal Kreitman — AKA the Haligator — as the former chiropractor paddled around the water with a pack of hungry gators. This was Kreitman's thing, and he was offering to take people along with him for a fee, calling the adventures "wildlife photo shoots." It was intense, watching him park kisses on the noses of wild reptiles. The initial investment in this kind of thrill-seeking might be just the gas out to the 'Glades, but the cost comes down the line. If you try it, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will come after your ass. A few weeks after our story ran, Kreitman was busted by Fish and Wildlife agents and charged with a felony for playing with the gators. So swimming with alligators may be thrilling, but it's gonna cost you some lawyer's fees after the fact. Kreitman is fighting the charges against him.

Flamingo Gardens

Want to chase around some albino peacocks, feed a fish to a pelican, or adopt a disabled box turtle? If so, look no further than Flamingo Gardens — a wildlife preserve that exists to rehabilitate and support injured animals. This is the best place to see Florida wildlife up-close and personal and also to make a difference in preserving our great state's animal habitats. It has the largest collection of native Florida animals, 3,000 species of rare and exotic plants, and some of the largest trees in the state. Many of the birds and other wildlife have been hit by cars or are just too dependent on humans to be released. But some of them, like the otters Fast Eddie and Patches, are doing their part to repopulate their species. Since 1989, Flamingo Gardens has helped release dozens of otters into the wild through a breeding program. This is made possible by an $18 entry fee and by unique fundraisers like the adopt-a-flamingo program ($50 to sponsor one). Warning to new visitors: Even though they're not fluffy in that traditional way, these critters are addictive. You might whimper because you can't take Winnie — the disabled turtle who used to live in a Winnebago — home. You will, however, get the assurance that with such great care, the little critter won't be eaten by alligators.

Perhaps the only downside to living in sunny southeast Florida is that despite our miles and miles of beautiful coastlines, they all face east. While this makes for some awe-inspiring sunrise-watching, most of us are more lucid during the sun's big evening performance, exit stage west. That doesn't mean we're out of luck when it comes to viewing sunsets. It just means we have to find a way to put some of that ocean water west of us. (Hint: It's called a boat, people.) Solution: the Cast Away the Day Sunset Cruise aboard Spirit of Lauderdale, a 50-foot catamaran with 1,500 feet of deck space, a shaded bar and lounge, and plenty of cushy seating. After navigating the Intracoastal Waterway — and for once enjoying the schadenfreude of being on the boat that stops auto traffic on the drawbridge — you're out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Once the Spirit of Lauderdale is in optimum solar-event-viewing position, complimentary Champagne will be doled out to those of legal age. Warning: It might in this moment occur to you that you should buy a boat.

Funky Buddha Brewery
Photo by Doug Fairall

It's a summer afternoon. You peep out the window and see gray skies. Suddenly, the rain pours down in buckets, blasting away that beach-barbecue idea you had moments ago. Suck it up and spend the day on the couch, or liven things up and head to the perfect place for amusement and superb craft beers. This popular hangout has ever-changing new-release brews on tap to keep adventurous palates devoid of boredom. Aside from the award-winning hops and artisan selection, you can enjoy a game room featuring bocce ball and cornhole, plus board games and cushy couches. Sporting events are broadcast on the large TVs, giving sports lovers something to watch. The friendly bartenders here are a special breed and knowledgeable beyond belief about how your beer is made. Try striking up a conversation, and get schooled on the whole brewing process. Be sure to check out the yoga events and special tours of the brewery. Bottoms up!

Chances are that the best place to make new friends is not on your living room sofa, karaoke night when you're wasted, or Facebook. If you are brave enough to come out to a local dance club, then your odds are a lot higher. One, you are forced to interact with new people you've never met. Two, you're in a fun environment. Three, you're in a judge-free zone, because everyone is learning a new skill. Swing Out South Florida has an all-ages social swing dance every Monday from 7:30 to 11:15 p.m. The night starts with a beginner lesson at 7:30, followed by an intermediate lesson at 8:15, then a social dance from 8:45 till close. Your first visit is always free, and it's just $12 after that. With an average of 70 to 100 locals coming out every week (and visitors from all over the country), you're bound to get a new job through networking, meet your future mate, or make a new best friend. A few tips to increase your success: chew minty gum, wear deodorant, and smile!

swingoutsouthflorida.com

Cat ladies gone saintly! This all-volunteer animal-welfare group works to eliminate the cycle of overpopulation of the cat species. It identifies feral cat colonies, then traps, neuters, and releases the kitties back into their families — or gets the cats adopted. Every cat it takes in gets up-to-date shots and is tested and treated for diseases. The group also goes above and beyond what most ordinary shelters can pull off by keeping cats in foster homes rather than in cages while they are being cared for. Paws treats about 150 cats per year and has even been credited with eliminating entire cat colonies.

pawssouthflorida.org

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