When Joseph Wesley Young founded Hollywood, Florida, nearly a century ago, he envisioned a coastal city that could rival California’s glamorous counterpart. That vision included the Theater Under the Stars, a three-sided wooden bandshell that was destroyed during the 1926 hurricane (and years later rebuilt). Construction during that era also included the Hollywood Beach Hotel and a pedestrian promenade, the Hollywood Broadwalk, that recalled Atlantic City’s renowned boardwalk.
Today, people from all over the world continue to flock to Hollywood Beach and its 2.5-mile walking path. The area is home to new and venerable restaurants, mammoth and quaint resorts, beach bars, boutique shops and much more. Through it all, the small, seaside town has managed to keep its charm. Here are a few reasons why.
Cruise the Coast: On the northern end of the 30-foot-wide Broadwalk, give your feet a rest by renting a bike from the Bike Shack (101 N. Ocean Drive). Choose between low-lying banana bikes, perfect for a relaxed ride; or a “limo,” where up to four can cycle together under a shaded canopy. Choose sea over land with a trip on a water taxi (watertaxi.com), which begins at the Margaritaville resort and journeys through Hollywood Beach.
Sunset Dining: The search for trendy dining in an otherwise quaint, mom-and-pop South Florida neighborhood is easier than expected. There’s JWB Prime Steak and Seafood (1111 N. Ocean Drive) inside Margaritaville, an upscale spot that marries seafood and farm-to-table specialties with an extensive wine and cocktail list; Hollywood Brewing Co. (290 N. Broadwalk), a craft brewery packed with American- and European-style pours and fair-priced plates such as poached shrimp, Vienna-style schnitzel and cake infused with an organic dark house-brewed beer; and Giorgio’s Bakery & Bistro (800 N. Ocean Drive), a waterfront restaurant featuring American and Greek dishes with an expansive bakery. In addition, check out the recently opened Point Royal at The Diplomat Beach Resort, with coastal America fare from celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian. Make a reservation 30 minutes before sunset at any of these restaurants, and watch day turn into night with a cocktail in-hand and a few plates to share.
Browse the Broadwalk: More than 30 boutique shops line Hollywood’s Broadwalk, giving visitors a chance to check out a variety of local artisan stores packed with luxury swimsuits, accessories and classic souvenirs. Aqua Shop (1416 N. Broadwalk) sells women’s beachwear including brightly colored one- and two-piece bathing suits as well as jewelry, hats and beach bags. For a small keepsake, visit Margaritaville Surf Shop (317 Johnson St.) or Wings (349 Johnson St.), a beach-shop chain that has been a staple of Hollywood Beach for years. Josh’s Organic Garden (101 N. Ocean Drive) pops up on Sundays with locally sourced organic produce, and a juice and smoothie bar.
Burgers and Brews: Le Tub Saloon (1100 N. Ocean Drive) oozes Hollywood Beach’s true essence: casual, friendly and an all-around good time. Located across the street from the Broadwalk, the burger joint, once named the country’s best by GQ, is a beach staple known for colossal hamburgers and ice-cold beer served in a nautical-designed environment. The wood-framed saloon whips up charbroiled patties slapped with thick cheese slices. The restaurant draws large crowds, so plan to wait up to an hour for a table. But if you’re a burger lover, it’s worth the delay.
Stay the Night: It’s hard to miss the 17-story mega-complex that now sits on Hollywood’s beachside. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (1111 N. Ocean Drive) is the area’s latest resort destination. Offering an array of amenities, the hotel features more than 300 rooms, a full-service spa, three pools and a custom-built FlowRider. Activities aside, the expansive resort houses eight different food and beverage venues, covering everything from boozy bars to steak and seafood fine dining. Hollywood also is home to The Diplomat Beach Resort (3555 S. Ocean Drive), Broward County’s largest hotel by room count. The property recently underwent a $100 million renovation—and now features 1,000 rooms and more than 10 restaurants and bars.
Jam at the Bandshell: The venerable outdoor bandshell, now called the Hollywood Beach Theatre (and managed by Margaritaville), remains the area’s epicenter. Musical acts, from party rockers and reggae groups to tribute bands, take the stage Wednesdays through Sundays, from 7 to 9 p.m. Visit the Margaritaville website (margaritavillehollywoodbeachresort.com) and click on the Entertainment link to see the performance schedule for July.