Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale, on the Atlantic coast of the State of Florida, is nicknamed the "Venice of America" because of its intricate canal system and nautical orientation.  The city is a major yachting center and everywhere you go it seems like there are boats and huge yachts.  Wikipedia lists 42,000 resident yachts and 100 marinas as of 2006.  The city is located just 23 miles north of Miami and has over 4,000 restaurants and bars.

The city is named after Major William Lauderdale, the commander of the detachemnt of soldiers who built the first fort (of several) in 1835 to 1842 during the Seminole Wars to protect the populace.   

Fort Lauderdale is home to Port Everglades, the nation's third busiest cruise port.  Although in the past the city was a favorite of college students during spring break, that has dropped off considerably and has been replaced with tourists leaving or returning from cruises because of its proximity to both the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Tourists are attracted to the nautical activities such as sport fishing, yachting vacations, scuba diving etc.  You can even hire gondolas to ride the canals.  Also, it has the world's largest boat show annually and draws over 130,000 people.  If you don't want water areas there are also numerous golf courses.

Some amusingly call it "Fort Liquordale" because of all the bars, nightclubs and beaches but with the drop-off in numbers of college students visiting, the name is just a leftover from the past.  The main shopping street is Las Olas Boulevard that leads from the beach to downtown.

You can walk along "Riverwalk" and "follow the red brick road" of the landscaped park to the Arts & Entertainment District, hike in the Everglades or visit Stranahan House, a preserved 1900's home furnished with antiques of the era.  

The FTL Fun Trolley is a great way to see the area.  You can get around the downtown area and also to the beaches.  Priced at $2 a day or .50 cents a ride you can use it to get the Galleria mall, explore food outlets away from the more costly ones along the waterfront, even head to a grocery store.  The downside: it stops picking people up at 6:30 pm so plan well, plus if you are shopping what you can carry on-board is limited. 

The Water Taxi is a fun way to travel around the area but it is more expensive than the Fun Trolley.  It is $20 for all day and $13 after 5 pm but spending a day looking at the beautiful multimillion dollar homes on the waterways is an interesting diversion.

We opted to take a tour cruise on the Jungle Queen Riverboat which took us through numerous harbors and canals.  We had the opportunity to see how the "rich and famous" lived.  The tour guide named some of the owners of the elaborate mansions along the water's edge.  Most had private mooring areas so they and guests could arrive via the canals. The more spectacular dwellings are seen in the photos below.

Of course Fort Lauderdale has beaches galore.  If your penchant is to lay in the sun or go swimming, your options are wide-open.  There are miles and miles of beaches, some busy and some like the one above where you pretty much have the area all to yourself. 

When you feel hunger pangs there are restaurants near the beach as well as others off the water.  A few are below that have good food to accompany their good reputations.

Coconuts Waterside Grill is a favorite spot and offers outstanding water views.  The seafood is great and they offer a large variety of comfort foods.  Next to the Swimming Hall of Fame and just steps from Ft. Lauderdale Beach.

Gilbert's 17th Street Grill is located at the Harbor Shops.  Pleasant casual dining with an amazing array of different burgers, sandwiches etc.  Order your food at the counter and then they bring it to you. Quality eats at reasonable prices.

Casa d'Angelo is the place to go when you have a craving for authentic Italian fare created by Chef Angelo Elia.  They have an extensive menu but will prepare what you want if it's not already in print.  Good wine list that covers all tastes and budgets.

Typically when we take a cruise, we arrive at least a day early to explore the departure city and also stay a day upon our return in order to gear down and relax in preparation for our return home.  We would also normally have a hotel or two to recommend in the article. 

But in this case we had cruised from our home port of Seattle, through the Panama Canal, and finished our cruise here early in the morning which allowed us time to explore for most of the day. We simply flew home later that night.

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     By Carolynne Woods, © Copyright 2010-2020. International Travel   All rights reserved images and text