Or, How We Took a Tropical Vacation for Not a Lot of Bucks
Warning: If you have no interest in Haulover Beach, The Ocean Palm Motel, or our vacation, turn back now! This is a long one! But of course, it’s very interesting!
Not much time and not much money, but after three attempts over five years we finally made it to Haulover Beach! Job issues, then sudden illness aborted the first tries but we persevered and made it happen this March. Leaving the Land of Ice and Snow behind, on silver wings we flew south to the sunny shores of Miami, and what a shore it was!
Our flight to Fort Lauderdale was uneventful other than the fact that we had planned to fly to Miami originally but changed destinations at the last minute. Add to that the fact that someone (Steve, maybe?) persisted in thinking that we were in Tampa, of all places, causing no end of confusion in our conversations with locals during our visit! So the trip down went fine, notwithstanding sharing our row of seats with a Zombie!
Zombie might actually be a bit tame; he was lying back in the seat with his eyes rolled back in his head and foam coming out of his mouth. He sure looked dead but did come back to life long enough to let us in to our seats then immediately reverted back to a dead-looking guy. So scary that the flight attendant kept waking him and asking him if he was alright! At one point Steve asked if the guy was dead, could we have his seat? The zombie never even heard all of us talking about him. Creepy.
When we arrived in Tampa, that is, Lauderdale, it was past 7:30 pm on Sunday night and the airport was all but closed. Now, having cleverly planned our arrival in Tampa, ahem, Miami, in detail but failing to do so for Lauderdale, we hadn’t a clue as to what to do about ground transportation to our motel. There was no one at the airport to ask, everything was closed. We tried asking the La Quinta shuttle driver for suggestions but she rudely blew us off, saying she only dealt with her own passengers! Wouldn’t even tell us where a taxi stand was. Welcome to Florida! (note to selves: Never stay at a La Quinta; jerks!)
We followed ‘ground transportation’ signs hither and yon and eventually found ourselves outside, still without a clue as to how to get to Miami. A long line of folks waiting by a parking shuttle sign was mixed with people thinking it was a taxi line, which it wasn’t. At least we weren’t the only lost souls there that night!
We finally flagged a passing cab (222-2222) and managed the language barrier enough to tell him where we were going, and were off! Sorta. After about 20 minutes he started asking us just exactly where we wanted to go. Well, other than the address and knowing that there was a little store a block from the motel (The Ocean Food Market, thank you Google Earth!), we weren’t very helpful. Creeping down the boulevard looking for street numbers with an increasingly vexed driver, we finally found The Ocean Palm Resort Motel; home at last! Strangely, the estimated $45 trip cost $60 when we got there. Hmm, only $60 to get screwed in Miami! Oddly enough, the return trip by a different company (444-4444) was only $45!
Check-in went smoothly, Elizabeth seems to be there all the time except late at night and she’s a doll! A little formidable at first perhaps, but she warms up quickly if you’re not a total jerk. She’ll be glad to help you with whatever you need, just ask! Robert, who works when Elizabeth doesn’t, is charming, friendly and very helpful. He set us up on their computer to do early airline check-in and ordered a cab to pick us up the day of departure. They stress that they don’t want you to worry about anything because you’re there to enjoy yourself. I wish everyone was that wonderful! (La Quinta, take notes)
This motel is reportedly the first two-story motel in the States and the last motel remaining in Miami. Low and stucco, snuggled in among new high-rise condos it is a rare surviving vestige of the glory days of the past when motels lined the shoreline, beckoning to frozen Northerners needing to thaw in sunnier climes. Quaint and charming are the terms that come to mind, but not in the way that modern establishments refer to themselves. This place has earned that description, and has the scars and bruises to prove it!
Word has it that Trump has tried to buy it to build another tower but the owner is happy to keep it as it is. Word also has it that he doesn’t care much for Mr. Trump and enjoys telling him to go jump in a lake! Just rumors, mind you…
If you’re a white-glove tourist, you’d better stay at Trump Tower down the row. Our not-quite grand old Lady shows her layers of paint, the patches in her walls, and the pink tile in her bath that isn’t there for a retro look; it was born there! Clean enough so as not to worry, it’s also sort of a Southern relaxed style of clean. Don’t worry about it, you’re on Miami Beach! More faded strumpet than gracious lady, she has some holes in her stockings but she keeps them well mended!
Our room, the cheapest at $80 per night, was big enough for two double beds, table and chairs, frig and sink, TV and
us. Who needs more? If you do, they have bigger and nicer rooms too. Ours was just fine for what we wanted; a place to sleep. We came there for the nude beach, not for a hot tub in our room!
You will likely find that the freezer in your little frig (complete with ice trays) doesn’t freeze; but no matter. When you ask where the ice machine is they’ll gladly trade your empty ice trays for freshly frozen ones!
A free ‘continental breakfast’ is available in the morning; good coffee, packaged sweet rolls, toast, bagels, and peanut butter! They keep a handy supply of used books to borrow for the reading-inclined and will call a cab for you if you wish to explore the many options the Miami area has to offer.
Did you know that not only can you take an air-boat ride in the Everglades to see the alligators and afterwards, you can eat them?! Or swim in a crystal clear coral quarry? Or swim with dolphins, deep- sea fish, scuba; all sorts of things. Pretty hot nightlife too. But for us, it was the nude beach this trip!
Ocean Palm has a nice heated pool (24 hours) on a deck overlooking the beaches of the blue Atlantic Ocean. Step off the deck onto the sands and stroll down to the water or hike a couple hundred yards to Haulover Beach, right down the way. This is the most convenient lodging available for the Beach.
We spent our oh-so-few days lounging on the pool deck or wandering the beach. High-rises flank the sea to the North with Trump Tower III right next door. To the South are an unfinished parking garage and another leftover from earlier days, a ‘modern’ (for its day) apartment building from that bygone era of glitter and glamor. Then just sand for the short walk to the fence bordering the legally nude portion of beach called Haulover.
You were wondering when we’d get to that part, weren’t you? Enough about the motel, what about the nude beach! Ok, but we have to warn you; like most things nudist/naturist it’s a lot less interesting than outsiders might think.
Walking down there the first time we were struck by how mainly empty the beach was North of there. A few scattered people but not too many, but South down at Haulover there were hundreds! It’s a long stretch of beach served by lifeguard stations and full of folks of all kinds. There were scads of guys that appeared to probably be gay, together and singly, plus couples and singles of both sexes though far fewer women than men (as usual!). Several different groups of obvious friends, super-dark tanned folks and fish-belly whites (us included). The races were all represented with a heavy Hispanic leaning, probably due to Miami’s Cuban population. Plenty of Cubans around there, a handsome people and exotic to a couple from Wisconsin!
The most striking thing was how ordinary it seemed, just like any other beach but for the large number of naked people! There were plenty of swimsuit-clad folks, attired in garb from conservative tank suits to thongs and Speedos. Lots of Speedos! It also seems that men’s jockeys are also acceptable beachwear at both the nude and non-nude beaches around there. We were told that women can go topless in Miami and saw a few near our motel, but not many. Plenty at the beach, though most folks there were nude.
The water was a bit chilly for comfort, even though temps were around 80, but we got in enough to get wet. Guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find that it was still salty, as it had been years ago during a childhood visit to Miami. Still, it seems that they could have done something about that by now; nasty stuff! The surf was low but still powerful, as evidenced by the rescue we watched when a man got just a little too far out and was caught by the riptide. Took two lifeguards quite a while to get him back in. Be careful out there, it’s a lot more dangerous than it appears!
You can rent umbrellas or grab a bite to eat from a trailer right on the beach. Restrooms are handy but you must cover up to reach them. There’s also a parking lot right by the beach if you drive, but don’t get undressed until you reach the beach proper.
We chatted with a few people but mainly just laid around trying to get tanned without burning; not easy in only three days! Be sure to use sunscreen, that equatorial sun is a killer and missed spots burn fast! Luckily, aloe plants abound at the Ocean Palm and we were encouraged to snip a bit for their soothing, healing properties. We do not suggest wrapping a piecs of aloe in a napkin to take home unless you’re fond of slimy, smelly messes!
Evenings were for star-gazing from the beach, though we stayed close to the motel. We had heard that ‘vampires’ haunt the beach after dark and we did see some creepy guys wandering around in the dark. That’s ok; there’s a pretty Miami skyline seen from the motel beach and really no need to wander far. Swimming at night would be foolish; both because of the tides and, well, there are things in oceans that can sting or eat you… Like someone once said (Hunter S. Thompson?), the food chain begins at the ocean’s edge; and you are not necessarily at the top of it!
Lunch was pretty easy for us. Not being too picky, we were happy to pick up a sub at The Ocean Food Market down the street (good subs, about $5) or eat at the Cuban Cafe next to it. Scary looking from the front, clean and neat inside with some pretty good food! Dinner was more of a problem. Without a car and unwilling to cab it all over Miami, that left a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away (no, not going to Miami to eat Mexican food), a Chinese restaurant (no, not going to Miami to eat Chinese food), pizza delivery (no, not going to Miami to eat delivered pizza), or Trump II two buildings down.
Trump was a bit pricey but not terribly so, but their menu didn’t appeal to us so we wound up just picking up extra food during the day for supper. No big deal. Some folks with kitchenettes shopped and cooked just like at home. If you have wheels though, Miami offers some spectacular dining. Maybe next time!
After dinner we lounged around the pool, soaking in the warm water and chatting with the other visitors. An interesting crowd (though not crowded) from all around the US and the world. There were folks from Germany, Indiana, Oregon, Ohio, Wyoming, somewhere Russian-ish, Canada, and some others. Occupations ranged from
students to a noted scientist, law enforcement to retiree, researcher to cab driver. A lovely woman spent hours by the pool knitting beautiful handiwork. Angie, a life-long knitter, learned from her how to knit the European way and found this lady has researched and taught herself how to make ‘hairpin lace’. She has a book in the works with new patterns for those who venture to learn this ancient method of making lace. All of this at the pool! We were there early in the week and met mostly more mature folks but a younger crowd was appearing later on. For those who might be interested, it was a pretty even mix of straight and gay, with no problems.
We did discover that, as always seems to be the case, a plate of good Wisconsin cheese is welcomed by those unfortunate enough not to live here!
There are signs around the pool specifically stating that nudity is prohibited; that’s the law and far be it for us to say that anybody might have not noticed those signs later in the night when no one cared. Nope, we won’t say that. The management is clear about that policy which is required by the city, and will enforce it should someone complain, as is right and proper.
Though the evenings were not really cold, there’s a regular ocean breeze which, while being pleasantly refreshing
during the day, tends to be a bit chilly at night. A sweater or windbreaker is handy in this otherwise warm place where you could spend your entire time clad in nothing more than a sarong.
During the night we tended to leave the room door open to catch the sea breezes, something that must not be too common to the locals who think that this is Winter. One midnight we were surprised by the appearance of three police officers at our door. We asked if everything was ok; some strange guy had been picketing on the sidewalk all day because the motel was full and he couldn’t get a room (?) and we thought it might have something to do with him. No, they had seen the door open and were just checking to see if everything was all right! Talk about ‘To Protect and to Serve’!
If you’re an early riser, sunrises can be spectacular over the Atlantic. You can sit on the deck after a refreshing dip in the pool, sip your coffee and watch the birth of a new day! Adding to the enjoyment are the tractors that groom the beaches and the guy that collects any shoes or towels that folks have left behind!
Alas, all too soon it was time to return to the Frozen North. Time enough for coffee and honey buns at the pool, then off to the airport. Luckily we had a driver this time that actually knew where he was going! We noted that the crowd at the airport was generally much more attractive and happier than the one in Chicago. Seems that folks hanging around a tropical paradise tend to reflect their surroundings!
As happens, our plane was 10 minutes late arriving and 10 minutes late departing; just enough time for the airport to close due to a tropical squall. Great. Sitting in an airliner in the middle of a hurricane! Ok, so it was just a little wind and rain, but it made us just late enough in Chicago that we missed our connection to Madison. Damn. Had a chance for standby on a later plane, otherwise not until the next day. Boogers, hell of a way to end a vacation! But we got the flight and arrived home safely after a 20 minute ride in a plane so small that the wings flapped. We all took turns tightening the rubber band that powered it.
Kind of a shock walking out into Winter again but it was good to be home. Back to runny noses, cat hair all over the house, and a dog that needs to go out every ten minutes!
Oh yeah, one last thing… We had a GREAT time!
Haulover Beach – The (mostly) Complete Guide by All Nudist
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