Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale is located in the east-central portion of Broward County, Florida, approximately 23 miles (37km) north of Miami and 42 miles (67km) south of Palm Beach. It is the second busiest cruise port in the world with 12 terminals accommodating cruise ships.
Shuttles provide the easiest way to get to and from your cruise. The toll-free number is 1-800-507-2702. For those who drive, there are convenient parking garages in the port right near the terminals. The Fort Lauderdale airport is conveniently located about five miles from the cruise port.
There are several good hotels near the port including the Holiday Inn Express – Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale Marina Marriott, Best Western Marina Inn & Yacht Harbor, the Sheraton Yankee Clipper and the Embassy Suites.
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s newly opened upscale hotels are placing a luxury stamp on an already casually sophisticated destination. In 2007, the 373-room Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort with a zero-entry pool, grocery and beach concierges opened at about the same time as the $240 million, 166-room St. Regis Resort, Fort Lauderdale – the first of its brand in Florida – with a stylish gourmet restaurant and a wine room featuring more than 1,000 different bottles.
The W Fort Lauderdale adds 346 luxury rooms to Greater Fort Lauderdale, as well as a signature Stephen Starr restaurant and renowned Bliss® Spa. And the Michael Graves-designed Trump International Hotel & Tower Fort Lauderdale opened in 2009.
Known as the Venice of North America because of its vast array of Intercoastal Waterway canals that wind throughout the city and region, Fort Lauderdale is one of the more unusual of Florida’s cities.
You don’t drive through the city, if you’re a visitor, you navigate by water taxis. It’s not only fun, with a wide range of stops and re-entry points throughout the city, but informative since the taxis also offer descriptions of the houses, famous people, $30 million yachts and unusual things to see and do along the transportation corridors.
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s 300-plus miles of navigable inland canals stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Everglades and have become a destination within a destination. The waterways offer everything from centuries-old mangroves to opulent multi-million-dollar mansions. They also connect the area’s top activities, attractions, hotels, shopping areas and restaurants. Visitors can go snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean, towel off and cast a reel to land the catch of the day, then “dock and dine” and have their hard-earned meal prepared just the way they like it. The waterways help underpin the destination’s casual chic lifestyle, distinguishing Greater Fort Lauderdale from other beach destinations.
The city is home to a multi-billion-dollar marine industry with more than 42,000 registered yachts. Celebrity-owned, eight-figure mega-yachts ease along the New River and dock in luxurious digs like the 250-slip Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center, near the cruise terminal, that can accommodate up to 100 mega-yachts. For those with slightly more modest tastes, yacht rentals are both readily available and easily affordable.
While sun-drenched beaches and a semi-tropical climate may be the most obvious reasons to love Fort Lauderdale, there’s plenty of things to do in this port city that don’t involve sun, surf or sand. At the top of the Fort Lauderdale shopping list is Las Olas Boulevard, arguably one of the premier shopping districts in southern Florida.
The boulevard is laced with fashionable boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and, just a few steps away, is the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District with its own brand of eateries and things to do.
Hungry? With more than 4,000 restaurants ranging from waterfront dining spots with panoramic views, to ethnic eateries and top-notch steakhouses, you’ll find a wide array of dining options. Spicing it up “Floribbean” style at chic downtown cafés, enjoying “claw-foot bath tub” décor at a great burger joint or snacking on alligator are just a few of the options. Visitors also can take advantage of the destination’s intricate waterway system by “docking and dining,” motoring to the restaurant’s dock, then disembarking for a fresh seafood feast.
Fort Lauderdale has several top hot spots where diners can experience authentic “Floribbean” cuisine, which combines the colors and spices of the Caribbean mixed with Florida favorites. The ultimate spot for this fare is Johnny V. Located on Greater Fort Lauderdale’s trendy Las Olas Boulevard, Johnny V’s sleek furnishings and backlit mirrors give the restaurant a metropolitan feel, but the menu is truly “Floribbean,” focusing on local seafood and ingredients punched up with tropical flavors.
Can you pass the “Le Tub” test? Get both sides of the bun and the absurdly thick – and decidedly delicious – burger in your mouth in one bite, and you’ve passed with flying colors. Le Tub is a quirky burger spot located on the Intracoastal Waterway that got its name from the original décor – claw-foot bathtubs and hand-painted sinks are scattered about. Locals favor this famous eatery and GQ magazine once ranked Le Tub as home to the best burger in the country.
Wander through boutiques along the colourful Las Olas Boulevard or head to one of the city’s shopping malls like the Galleria (2414 east Sunrise Boulevard) or Sawgrass Mills (West Sunrise Boulevard and Flamingo Road.)
Things to do:
Meet an alligator or a lion. Adventurous types will love the Billie Swamp Safari, a rip-roaring romp that includes airboat, swamp buggy rides and walking safaris through wetlands filled with rare birds, wild hogs and even ‘gators. It’s on the Big Cypress Reservation, (954) 983-6101. If you feel like roaring, head to the Lion Country Safari, west of Palm Beach, for a drive-through safari, (561) 793-1084.
Even if you don’t know the difference between a rod and a hook, you’ll enjoy the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, a sportsfishing mega-catch. Chase a marlin or hook a sailfish in one of their seven virtual reality galleries or putter through the hall of fame in homage to anglers like George “The Fox” Bransford and Earnest Hemingway. 300 Gulfstream Way, Dania Beach, (954) 920-1511.
Get cultured. Spend some time with Picasso, Dali, Warhol and Calder in the Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. Then head to the Fort Lauderdale Museum and learn about the city’s historic roots from the Seminole period to the present. Fort Lauderdale Historical Museum, 219 SW 2nd Avenue, (954) 463-4431. Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, One East Las Olas Boulevard, (954) 763-6464.
There’s a reason so many sun-seeking empty nesters flock to Florida. The weather is incredible – averaging about 23 degrees – and so are the beaches. Fort Lauderdale Beach alone has a 37-kilometer stretch of shoreline that includes a four-kilometer boardwalk.
Fort Lauderdale is well-known for its flea markets and the Swap Shop, with its catchy “Where’s the bargain?” motto and name, draws shoppers from around the world to its bustling indoor and outdoor venues. Open daily. Located at 3291 W. Sunrise Boulevard, (954) 791-SWAP. (www.floridaswapshop.com)
From treasure hunting at world-class flea markets to catching the Baltimore Orioles during their spring training, the possibilities for entertainment are endless.
And if Fort Lauderdale isn’t enough for you, head to Miami or West Palm Beach. Both are within an hour’s drive. And for an unusual way of seeing the Miami Beach area, take a day-long water taxi ride from Fort Lauderdale to South Beach, Miami Beach’s famous Art Deco District.
So arrive early for your cruise and stay awhile. South Florida is an incredible part of the world, one that is waiting to be explored.
— Ray Chatelin