Everglades Holiday Park
Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
Fishing superstar and television personality Rolan Martin can take a camera crew wherever he wants to shoot one of his segments for cable fishing shows, and when he's taping one on bass fishing, he heads to the Everglades. He knows something many savvy South Florida fisherman do, and it might not seem fair: When the South Florida Water Management District drops the water level in the Glades each winter based on predictions of rainfall for the coming year, water starts flowing out of the flats and into canals; at such intersections bass, perch, brim, and tarpon sit with their noses into the current waiting for smaller bait fish to float by. And whether you're an avid angler or a first-timer, you can take advantage of the bountiful pickings in the miles of glades accessible from Everglades Holiday Park. Just follow Griffin Road west, and you'll run into the parking lot, where you can use the boat ramp to put in your own craft or rent a boat ($52.50 plus tax for five hours). From there anyone should be able to find a happening fishing hole, thanks to the marvels of engineering. Park admission is free.

"He's got a tricky little pitch shot from off the green, and we can see his knees shake from here," whispers Johnny Miller of NBC, sitting up in his TV tower next to the filled grandstands surrounding the 18th green. You grip down on the sand wedge, ignore the crowds (and the pressure), and lift the ball out of the four-inch rough and onto the bent-grass greens and sink it! Heron Bay was designed by a pro and is owned by pros, and it's where the pros play when the tour stops here in March. It's one of the few TPC courses where the public is allowed to play. They start growing the rough a few weeks before the tournament and put up the stands so you can have pretensions of tour experience as you hack your way around this difficult layout. The course hugs the eastern edge of the Everglades and has been recognized for its nature-friendly design and, of course, beautiful herons. The Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, would feel at home here with the number of sand bunkers that come into play. And before reaching into the water for that errant shot, make sure there's no gator.

Weston Hills

If your daily vocabulary includes words like reps, sets, grams, cardio, and pounds, it should also include one more, Gold's. The self-proclaimed "Mecca of Bodybuilding" sprouted up in July 1990, thanks to partners Ed Benson and Bob DeLuca. Over the last ten years, Benson (now sole owner) has turned the original 10,000-square-foot facility into an elite exercise environment. The purchase of three adjacent stores added an 8000 square feet devoted to arms and legs and a spinning and aerobics studio. Four different sets of dumbbells, Ivanko plates and bars, a rock-climbing simulator, and more than 30 pieces of cardio equipment make this the best place to train for the hard-core bodybuilder or the average person wanting to get in shape. Members of the aerobics staff have appeared on ESPN's Corey Everson's Gotta Sweat and ESPN2's Crunch Fitness, and the spinning is coordinated by WSVN-TV (Channel 7) fitness expert Ellen Latham. Gold's motto is "We guarantee results." How? For those who need motivation or instruction, there is a team of personal trainers headed by author and WIOD-AM (560) radio's fitness show host Phil Kaplan. Got pain? Gold's offers an on-site chiropractic physician's office. Got kids? A baby-sitting service is available. A pro shop of vitamins and supplements makes this the complete gym. Over the years it's been the gym of choice for athletes like Mr. Olympia Vince Taylor, members of the Miami Dolphins, and model Niki Taylor.

Nobody intends to tumble from the saddle, but if it happens, let it be with AA-D Horse Adventures. An amiable guide will dust you off, explaining what caused your abrupt dismount and how to avoid future falls, taking care to minimize your embarrassment. Then, as in the proverb, the group leader will help you back onto the tamed beast. With names like Little Tree and Cowboy, these horses are well groomed, responsive (if you can communicate clearly), and younger than the plodding types found at many horseback-riding outfits. Tree Tops' extensive trails meander through live oak forest, around wild coffee shrubs and Brazilian pepper plants, tempting the ever-hungry equines and keeping you alert. "Toes up, heels down," the guides nag, while praising your improved form. You survive the rest of the ride without kissing the dirt again, and the horse is replaced by a soreness that smacks of a more amorous adventure.

Before opening his indoor gym of faux rock walls last spring, Coral Cliffs owner Robert Christiansen had a 1400-foot wide, 25-foot tall section of the warehouse space he leases covered with foot- and handholds comprising 23 routes -- from a ladderlike beginner's climb to contortionist-only extreme routes. And working by himself he's gradually expanded the climbing face, working toward a goal of covering a 7000-foot-wide section. Even as he's done so, those original routes have been tweaked periodically, offering a continually changing selection of climbs. As a long-time climber himself (he provides free instruction), Christiansen knows that variety is the spice of climbing and wants to provide that for vertically starved South Floridians looking for ever-new scaling challenges. Tape, in a rainbow of colors, marks the different climbs, and each attempt on the wall is kept safe using a buddy system of climber and belayer. The belayer is the person on the ground attached to the climber by a rope between his or her harness and the climber's; the rope is strung through a pulley system that makes light work of stopping a fall.

Bells ring overhead, prompted by the pull of a handle. Plastic rings with polka dots circle bent bars of galvanized steel. A volleyball seesaws along a metal channel from one basket to another. Guiding these movements with wonder and wide grins are children usually excluded from playground activities, children whose physical and mental disabilities prevent them from swinging or sliding with their peers. The forlorn expression on a wheelchair-bound boy's face as he watched his carefree siblings jump, run, and giggle inspired Richard Neiman to found Basic Skills, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale company that produces playground equipment for disabled children. The newly incorporated business unveiled its educational designs in December at Anniversary Park, possibly the only playground to provide comparable pleasure for children of all abilities. The bright colors and innovative shape of "The Basketball" may seem striking now, but Neiman hopes that eventually it will be as commonplace as the sandbox by its side -- the children straining to tilt its baskets not so different from those constructing castles out of sand.

Since this is the land of sea, sand, and sunshine, when we're in the mood for dining al fresco we like to pack our basket of goodies -- a bottle of wine, some cold chicken, crusty French bread, a wheel of Brie -- and head to the beach. Of course we're not too fond of sand in our food. But you don't have to worry about that at North Beach Park, a wild, overgrown bramble that's within sprinting distance of the surf. Separated from the froth by only a bunch of rabid Rollerbladers and a slim strip of sand are dozens of nice, clean picnic tables. We like to find a spot deep in the shadows beneath the trees where we can gorge ourselves with abandon and then drift off for a nice long nap.
South Florida is thick with amateur ornithologists -- you can't swing a booby around here without taking out a couple bird watchers. It seems that no matter what park you're in, someone is whipping out his Peterson to identify a particularly hot piece of plumage. Local hot spots include Tree Tops Park, West Lake Park, Loxahatchee Nature Preserve -- rewarding venues all. But if you like your fowl up-close and personal, check out Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Brought to you courtesy of the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department, Wakodahatchee is quite probably the world's best-looking sewage-treatment plant. These "created waters," planted with bulrush, slash pine, and sabal palms, are a magnet for birds and reptiles. A half-mile boardwalk keeps you nice and dry above it all, allowing you to get within feet of such finds as the elusive purple gallinule, the red-shouldered hawk, the belted kingfisher, and the great blue heron. Look down and you're likely to see snakes, alligators, and turtles. Admission is free, and Wakodahatchee is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk.

Best Place To Breathe Exhaust And Hear Engines Roar

Air Dania

The only thing loud enough to distract your attention from the throaty buzz of motorcycles tearing around the dirt track is the more imposing rumble of passenger jets. The planes, landing at nearby Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, pass low over the track's carefully bulldozed berms, jumps, and banked curves, lending a hint of aviation-fuel aroma to the unmistakable scent of the gas-oil mixture exhaust. (You know, that smell given off by outboard motors and chain saws.) The fumes come from the 60cc cycles navigated by the peewee class and from the 250s and bigger bikes driven by the big boys (and girls). But all of the riders out here -- who practice every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday and race on Saturdays -- look like professionals to us. Their helmets, jerseys, and padded pants are emblazoned with logos and color schemes matched to their machines. As riders whip around the track, catching big air off jumps and sliding sideways through turns, a row of PA speakers pumps out pounding rock music during practices, though much of the time you can't hear it. When the dust and exhaust have thoroughly coated the back of your throat, step over to the concession trailer for a Coke, or, on Saturdays, free beer for folks age 21 and older. Spectators get in for $2 on practice days and for $6 to $8 on Saturdays.

Not only is the Loxahatchee Florida's only designated Wild and Scenic River, it's actually two rivers rolled into one. Or at least two distinctly different paddling experiences. After debarking from Riverbend Park (canoe rentals and packages including return transportation are available from nearby Canoe Outfitters, 561-746-7053) for the nearly eight-mile trip to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, canoeists first encounter a series of horseshoe curves, which can be challenging depending on the current and which meander through narrow passages beneath overhanging trees and their drooping beards of Spanish moss. Alligators patrol the banks, tortoises sun themselves on logs in the river, and the occasional river otter or armadillo makes itself seen, along with at least ten different species of birds, including osprey and turkey vulture. The jumping mullet has even been known to hop aboard a canoe. Halfway through the trip, Trapper Nelson's comes into view. The former home of a guy by that name who lived there up until the 1960s, the picturesque exploring area has restrooms and a covered pavilion with picnic tables. After lunch the rest of the route is mostly a straight line through open water, with occasional turns, some mangrove growth, and a view of the woods from a distance. The trip takes between five and six hours and can vary in difficulty depending on wind and water level. If it hasn't rained in a while, paddlers are sometimes forced to hop out of their boats to push them through very shallow water or over fallen logs -- all in plain sight of those gators on the banks.

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