We have visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida, many times, either as its own destination or before and after a cruise. The hotels we chose ranged from south of Port Everglades up to Lauderdale by the Sea, but there is one thing in common: every trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida shared, and that is how we chose to see the sites.
The city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is wider than most people know because the bulk of its visitors stay along the five miles of oceanfront, including the almost 4 million cruise passengers that leave the city each year. The city is bisected by the Intracoastal Waterway and various other rivers and canals.
The Intracoastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts running from Boston, Massachusetts, south around Florida, then on to Brownsville, Texas. And it is that waterway and other rivers that give you the best and most cost-effective way to see the city.
The Water Taxi service in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a hop-on, hop-off boat that tours the "Venice of America." The boats run every half hour to forty-five minutes between about a dozen stops along the waterway from 10 am to 8 pm or 10 pm on weekends.
But it isn't just a great form of transportation. The captains that pilot these bright yellow ferries are very knowledgeable and will give you a running commentary on everything you pass along the routes.
And you pass a lot; from mansions owned by the famous and infamous, past drawbridges, hotels, and restaurants. You will learn a great deal about the city and its history from these water taxi captains and see some fantastic sites.
If you have more than one day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I will encourage you to ride the whole route the first day, which takes about 3 hours, getting off only for food, drinks, or a restroom break. Mark places of interest on the map for the second day, when you can disembark at various stops and tour the city on foot. The tickets are only $28 and here's the best part - they are good for a whole year! Where else can you get unlimited transportation for your entire stay in a city for less than thirty bucks?
Pro Tip: The water taxis run in both directions, so make sure you are going in the right direction before you board. Worst case, you get off at the next stop and wait for the next taxi going your way.
For lunch, we always get off at stop 9 or 10 for great seafood at Shooter's Waterfront or Bokamper's Sports Bar & Grill. Both are big, touristy, and loud but will give you the whole Fort Lauderdale experience. Those of you as old as me may look around expecting to see Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon walking in the place.
For shopping, take stop 7 for the Galleria Mall or stop 2 for Las Olas shops and restaurants. For the fans of mystery fiction, get off at stop 5 for a walk around the Bahia Mar marina. You probably won't run into Travis McGee, but I did see a yacht named Busted Flush. At any rate, Bahia Mar is where you can see hundreds of vessels of all sizes docked and moored.
But as much as the Water Taxi in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, provides transportation, it's the tour past the fantastic mansions that will keep your head on a swivel. Just when you think you have seen the most opulent waterfront home in the world, the next one is even larger and more ostentatious. Tucked in among these many multi-million dollar homes are tiny bungalows that look liked they've been here since the canal was dug in 1949.
If you find yourself in Fort Lauderdale, before you do anything else, I urge you to purchase a ticket on the Water Taxi. It's the best way to see and get around this beautiful city.