Source: Southern Living Magazine | Published: January 16, 2024 | Author: Tara Massouleh McCay
This article was the featured cover story published in the Jan/Feb 2024 issue of Southern Living.
If Norman Rockwell had painted a picture of the perfect beach town, you’d likely see the colorful umbrellas and turquoise waters of this close-knit South Florida community.
As a rule of thumb, any destination that includes the phrase “by-the-sea” in its name is somewhere you want to visit. Similar to the effect of a Southern double name, “by-the-sea” communities are inherently charming and tend to respect tradition. They’re quiet but never boring, cheerfully bustling but not overcrowded. The idyllic South Florida beach hamlet Lauderdale-By-The-Sea offers all of these things and more.
The bridge from Fort Lauderdale into Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is like a portal to vacation world. Cross over, and suddenly ho-hum drugstores and fast-food restaurants transform into vibrant shops and cafes. The streets become lined with twinkle lightwrapped palm trees, and the extra-wide sidewalks are speckled with outdoor dining tables and flip-flop-wearing locals. The change of pace is palpable. The sun seems to shine a little brighter, giving everything a candy-coated gleam, and the soft breeze holds the faintest scent of saltwater. The only thing to do is exhale and obey the town’s tagline: “Relax...you’re here.
Unlike other coastal destinations that easily succumb to high-rise condos, touristy restaurants, and run-of-the-mill souvenir shops, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea understands that growth doesn’t always equal progress. The community celebrates its 75th birthday this year. And in another 75, they hope to look and feel largely the same.
Ten years ago, Lauderdale-By-TheSea took strides to do exactly that by carrying out a series of upgrades. They widened sidewalks to accommodate more outdoor dining, replaced pavers in public spaces, added a plaza to the center of Commercial Boulevard, brought multicolored Adirondack chairs and umbrellas to Anglin’s Square, and came up with a new logo. “We gave ourselves a face-lift and started marketing the town, and it’s been nonstop ever since,” Connors says. Today, Anglin’s Square is the area’s destination for major holiday events (including a spectacular Christmas tree lighting) as well as for bimonthly dance lessons, live music, and beginner’s yoga—all completely free for anyone who happens to pass by.
To help preserve the community’s character, they also implemented lowrise legislation in its charter, mandating that no new structures over 33 feet tall can be built. At the same time, business owners were encouraged to embrace, and in some cases return to, the midcentury modern style of many of the original buildings. Retro renovated boutique hotels like High Noon Beach Resort, Driftwood Beach Club, and Plunge Beach Resort are just a few examples.
For every new development this place considers, Connors says they regularly think back to another motto: Small is big. “We’re trying to keep the small-town feel, so that’s always at the forefront of our minds,” she says. At just 1.5 square miles in area, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is very walkable. If you don’t fancy taking a stroll, you can easily secure a rental from Big Cat Bikes or request a ride with Circuit-By-The-Sea, a free golf cart-like shuttle that operates similarly to other ride-sharing services and runs seven days a week.
“So many places in South Florida are growing,” says town manager Linda Connors. “Miami wants to be Hong Kong, Fort Lauderdale wants to be Miami, and Pompano Beach wants to be Fort Lauderdale. Everyone hopes to grow, but we don’t; we try to keep what we have but make it better.”
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