Known as the “Venice of America” because of the waterways that crisscross the city, Fort Lauderdale (population 154,200) is on Florida’s famed Gold Coast, 23 miles north of Miami. Since the 1950s it has attracted college students on spring break and winter-weary Americans looking for warmth and sun. Today, commerce, high-tech industries, and tourism support the local economy of the city.
With about 23 miles of beaches, 300 miles of navigable waterways, and numerous rivers, canals, and inlets, this is a boater’s paradise. All types and sizes of craft frequent the waters here, and in numbers up to 40,000 at one time. This is the yachting capital of the world and many homes have private slips along the waterways. Port Everglades is the deepest harbor in the state, and is the world’s second-largest passenger cruise port. More than 1 million passengers sail from here each year.
All types of watercraft are available for rent, and public fishing piers and boat ramps are easy to find. Dive shops line the beaches; a popular dive site is the Mercedes I, an intact ship sunk 97 feet to provide an artificial reef.
Cruises are available down the New River on a Mississippi-style steamer. There are first-class sporting facilities including tennis, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and nature trails. There is also horse racing at the state’s only track, Pompano Harness Track, and betting on jai-alai (a Spanish-style indoor lacrosse). Butterfly World is a 3-acre tropical garden with more than 150 butterfly species. Bonnet House is a 35-acre historic plantation home, and the Stranahan House, built in 1901, is the city’s oldest standing structure and a museum of South Florida pioneer life.
The Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade offers low- and high-rise hotels, bars, and shops as well as a crowded beach. This area is the hub for tourists. Cruising along the strip is a main event each night, whether in a car or on foot. The 3-mile Hollywood Beach Boardwalk attracts people from all walks of life and offers a more pristine beach. Lodging and dining options exist in every category.
Nearby Miami International Airport offers domestic and international flights. Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood International Airport offers limited service. Trains serve Fort Lauderdale and nearby Hollywood.
The best ways to explore are by car and boat, though a free and convenient network of trolleys navigates the downtown area.