With 300 miles of waterways and 40,000 resident yachts, it’s not surprising that Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed “the Venice of America.” Crisscrossed by the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), a handful of rivers, hundreds of canals and several lakes—and bordering the Atlantic Ocean—the city is as much afloat as it is aground. All this water and tropical weather, along with a history of boatbuilding and easy access to the Caribbean have also made Fort Lauderdale the megayacht capital of the world. Appropriately, it’s also home to the largest megayacht show in the world, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, held each year in the fall. Whether your boat is big or “just right,” Fort Lauderdale has something to offer everyone, and virtually everything in the city is accessible from the water.
After years toting around a reputation as a wild, spring-break party town filled with drunken college students, Fort Lauderdale is finally being recognized as an upscale beachfront city with a sense of style that matches its mega-mansions and megayachts.
Without a doubt the focus of the city’s action and culture is Las Olas Boulevard and the Riverwalk complex. Running east-west, Las Olas Boulevard starts at Fort Lauderdale beach, crosses the ICW, and ends at the Riverwalk entertainment complex. Flanked on both sides by canals and waterways that connect million-dollar mansions to the ocean, Las Olas is home to swanky shops, funky boutiques and more dining options than one can imagine. The boulevard also gives access to the city’s art museum, numerous galleries, and science center.
The western end is the Riverwalk district, which includes parks, bars, movie theaters and more restaurants. Best of all, it can be accessed directly from your boat. A cruise up the New River will bring you to the city-operated marina at Riverwalk. In addition to the district’s businesses, there are also grassy picnic areas, copper-topped pavilions and a brick-lined walk to the Stranahan House, the city’s oldest. Cooley’s Landing, also run by the city, is situated next to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Discovery and Science and Esplanade Park.
The eastern end of Las Olas puts you at the beach. The Las Olas Docks facility is located on the Intracoastal Waterway and was completely renovated in 1998. It offers 52 slips and full amenities close to the sand.
Running north-south and parallel to the beach is the legendary highway A1A, made famous in song by Jimmy Buffet. This eventually becomes the city’s 17th Street Causeway, which is significant for boaters. The busy boulevard has offices for virtually every boat manufacturer and charter company in the world. It’s also bursting with restaurants, hotels, shops and services. These roadways are also home to some of the area’s significant marinas.
Bahia Mar marina is on A1A directly opposite the beach. This 40-acre, 250-slip facility and hotel complex provides than four miles of state-of-the-art dockage. Pier 66 Marina is just around the bend between the beach and ICW. The 127-slip marina offers full services. The 33-slip marina at Fort Lauderdale Grande is on the ICW opposite the Port Everglades cruise ship pier. Lauderdale Marina is situated on a prominent point just north of Port Everglades Inlet at navigation marker #27.