Fort Lauderdale – Yachting Capital of the World
Fort Lauderdale seems to have it all – a warm sunny climate, 23 miles of sandy beaches, luxury yachts moored beside billionaire mansions and a host of shopping opportunities, museums and interesting things to do. Once the playground for Spring Break students to let their hair down, Fort Lauderdale has now grown up and matured into a first class destination for families, couples and winter snowbirds, as well as attracting wealthy yacht owners and celebrities.
One of the best-located hotels to stay at is the beautiful Riverside Hotel, bookable at the beat prices with #RoomAuction. The hotel has one entrance on shady Las Olas Boulevard and the other overlooking the New River, complete with private pool and dock for visiting mega-yachts to moor and use the hotel facilities. This upgraded 1930s hotel blends historic features with high-tech amenities and is just a short walk from the Water Taxi stop, making it a great base for whatever you want to do.
The Water Taxi is the easiest way to get around Fort Lauderdale, advertising itself as having “19 stops and 60 spots”. Enjoy the running commentary about the billionaire homes with their luxury yachts as you enjoy the breezy ride. The taxi has stops at the beaches, state park, Galleria Mall, Las Olas, restaurants, hotels and historic attractions that line the New River and Intracoastal Waterway.
Things to Do on Las Olas
Las Olas, which means “the waves”, is one of Fort Lauderdale’s highlights, running for over two miles from the beautiful beachfront to S. Andrews Ave. This upmarket shopping street is a busy tree-lined avenue of small boutiques beneath pastel-striped awnings, one-of-a-kind shops, jewellery stores and beautiful art galleries selling collectible signed paintings of rock bands. If all that window-shopping makes you hungry, sit down at one of the tables outside a cocktail bar, coffee shop or the vintage Golden Lion pub and indulge in a long cold drink.
After dark, Las Olas is the place to dine in Fort Lauderdale. There are some excellent restaurants and steakhouses, from uber-expensive steak houses to chain restaurants. The Cheesecake Factory always has a line of people waiting for a table and offers beautifully dressed salads which allow you to indulge in one of their heavy calorie-laden cheesecake desserts afterwards!
Fort Lauderdale Attractions
If you want a pleasant stroll, head for the beachfront esplanade which is a paved sidewalk next to the tropical-island-style white sandy beach. You will find dog walkers, skaters, walkers and joggers all enjoying this lovely area beneath the shady palm trees with beautiful views of Fort Lauderdale’s white sandy beach and bright blue waters.
For a taste of history, visit Stranahan House, the home of the “father” of Fort Lauderdale, Frank Stranahan. He opened a trading post on the New River and later married the first schoolteacher, Ivy. Their historic riverfront home is now incongruously surrounding by gleaming glass high-rises. Guided tours around the New River Inn Museum of History add more interesting tales of Fort Lauderdale settlers, and a trip to the Antique Car Museum to see rows of beautifully restored Packards, fire trucks and associated memorabilia and collectibles is fun even for non-motorheads!
Bonnet House Estate was a wedding gift to his daughter from Hugh Taylor Birch, who also donated the land for the nearby Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Tour Bonnet House, which is furnished in a comfortable homely style and filled with an eclectic art collection, including paintings by the art-loving family. The central courtyard has an aviary and fountain and there is an Orchid House in the tropical gardens. Neighboring Hugh Taylor Birch State Park has a beachfront café, a lake for boating and stand-up paddle-boarding, mangrove swamps for kayaking, Segway tours, wildlife exhibits and pleasant walking trails through the extensive eco-nature park.
For evening entertainment and a superb meal, the Mai Kai, in its tropical garden setting, is a must-do. This Fort Lauderdale institution has been running for over 60 years. It was voted “Best Tiki Bar” for its endless list of cocktails. After enjoying a superb meal from the diverse menu, stay for the authentic Polynesian show which includes authentic music, grass-skirted dancers and talented fire-jugglers who work hard to produce an outstanding show each evening.
Further afield is Flamingo Gardens with its tropical scenery, birds and native animals that have found sanctuary in this wildlife refuge. Tour the grounds on the 30-minute narrated tram tour and explore the historic Wray home. You can get up-close to alligators, a black bear, opossums and many native birds and enjoy a ranger-led animal show in the amphitheatre. However, the best way to see Florida wildlife in its most natural state is with an exhilarating airboat ride with a Miccosukee Indian in the Everglades National Park. It’s unforgettable!