Fort Lauderdale is best known for its sandy shores and spring-break lore. But with 165 miles of canals running right through the city nicknamed the “Venice of America,” there are endless watery ways to have fun beyond the beautiful beaches.
Head out on an old-school Florida boat tour to ogle the homes of the rich and famous along the famed Millionaire’s Row, or zip around the canals via water taxi to enjoy some of the downtown cultural highlights. Just add water, and Fort Lauderdale brings the fun.
The waterfront promenade along the New River known as the Riverwalk runs through the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale and is a great spot for strolling, people watching and cultural stops.
Rent a kayak, standup paddleboard or electric boat here to explore the area from a watery vantage point. Pause for a picnic in Riverwalk Park. Or spend a few hours browsing the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, where a collection of more than 7,000 works highlighting multicultural and women artists, as well as Cuban and Latin American artists, is housed inside a striking modernist building.
Just the right amount of kitsch makes an outing on a two-story riverboat a Fort Lauderdale rite of passage. Jungle Queen offers a range of fun, family outings. Choose from 90-minute daytime sightseeing cruises, three-hour cruises that stop on a private island in the river where you’ll see resident lemurs and monkeys, or a nighttime cruise complete with an all-you-can-eat buffet and Polynesian fire show.
All tours leave from the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, cruise along the Intracoastal and New River (major waterways) and then venture into several smaller waterways that the city’s water taxis miss. A live narrator keeps the journey entertaining, sharing local tales and dishing out stories on the most extravagant abodes and mega-yachts along Millionaire’s Row.
Come see several billion dollars’ worth of the most seaworthy boats in the ocean during the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, held every fall along the canals and rivers surrounding town.
The gathering is the world’s largest in-water boat show. And with more than 40,000 resident yachts at home in Fort Lauderdale’s sparkling waters, the city has earned its other moniker as the “yachting capital of the world.” Even if you don’t have a ticket to the show itself or any satellite events, just being in town at this time is a serious buzz.
When does public transportation come with a chance of dolphin sightings? When you’re navigating Fort Lauderdale’s canals and rivers aboard the city’s convenient and entertaining Water Taxi system.
With 12 stops throughout Fort Lauderdale, the green-and-yellow boats carry riders along the Intracoastal and New River, passing within Instagramming distance of Millionaire’s Row and depositing riders at popular sightseeing spots, like the shopping and dining district along Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale Beach and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.
A day pass costs $26 ($12 for kids ages 5 to 11), and the taxis run throughout the day, every day, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There’s no shortage of options for a waterfront cocktail (or two) in Fort Lauderdale. But when you’re looking for a place where the food is on equal footing with the million-dollar views, this upscale restaurant on the Intracoastal fits the bill.
Yachts pull right up to Kaluz to hitch their bowlines, and it’s pure entertainment to watch the restaurant’s staff hustle to serve the owners and their lucky guests right on their boats (oh, how the other half live!).
Life is good, too, from your table on the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, where you can soak in the sparkling views while indulging in a platter of mahi mahi tacos or the tangy sweet ginger calamari.