Fort Lauderdale often screams Hello Sunny; it’s this South Florida destination’s tagline, and rightfully so. Visitors to Fort Lauderdale might think beach, and that makes plenty of sense. Greater Fort Lauderdale has more than 20 miles of beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, and playing in the surf and relaxing on the sand is a great way to enjoy Fort Lauderdale. But Fort Lauderdale beyond the beach can be fun, too.
I visited Fort Lauderdale for a few days in late October, and only spent about an hour at the beach. And let me say how close to perfect the water temperature was. Sure, more time enjoying the surf would’ve been fun. But I’m not a kid anymore, and I’m OK not playing in the ocean. I also don’t care to lay out and bake, meaning there’s more time to enjoy Fort Lauderdale beyond the beach.
Let’s be clear, though. The beach is what gives destinations like Fort Lauderdale its juice. It’s the centerpiece, if you will. Destinations need centerpieces and I can think of worse ones than Fort Lauderdale’s, which features beautiful sunrise views over the Atlantic Ocean …
Runs along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk …
And this surf that the kid in all of us can get behind.
But when you want to enjoy Fort Lauderdale beyond the beach, there are more than a few ways.
On the second day of my time in Fort Lauderdale I had the opportunity to go out with Flyboard South Florida, based out of Pompano Beach, to get my first taste of flyboarding, sea kayaking and standup paddle board. The wind was too strong for us to go out near the open sea, so we stayed in the protected waters of Hillsboro Inlet at Pompano Beach. Flyboarding is a lot of fun and not as challenging as I thought it would be. I actually was intimidated before trying it, but it turned out to be a lot of fun, even when I struggled at times to stay up.
Only one person at a time could go so as we waited on others in our group, we could kayak and try standup paddleboarding. Kayaking in the inlet was a blast. I’m not sure I’d want to head out on the open ocean, at least in the wind we had that day. Standup paddleboarding didn’t meet my expectations, but that’s probably because I was so exhausted from kayaking and flyboarding that standing up was a hopeless endeavor.
I stayed at the new Margaritaville Beach Resort in Hollywood Beach, and after exhausting ourselves with flyboarding, it was time to try our hand at the FlowRider Surf Simulator.
Let’s just say I was able to boogie board OK, but surfing lasted all of about a second. It’s tougher than it looks, although some people picked it up rather easily. The FlowRider is open to hotel guests as well as the general public walking along the Broadwalk.
And speaking of kayaking, we had a different variety of kayaking, this time on Whiskey Creek in the John U Lloyd Beach State Park. This water was more protected and gave us the opportunity to weave in and out of some mangroves while getting more exercise in a kayak.
One of my favorite things about travel is the opportunity to try different foods. Fresh seafood is my favorite travel food, possibly because I live in landlocked Tennessee and I cherish every opportunity I get to enjoy it near the source. And Fort Lauderdale has a lot of great options.
My words can never do great food justice. So when these subpar words say the seafood I had in Fort Lauderdale was superb, please believe that is high praise.
One of the great highlights of my visit to Fort Lauderdale came at Cap’s Place, a restaurant that began in 1928 and quickly became a popular supper club and gambling casino in the 1930s and 1940s. This place has a rum-running history with gangster elements, but while those stories are fun and fascinating, it’s the food that has the final say here.
The experience all starts with the water taxi across the intercoastal waterway with a fun welcome from the captain. The building itself has that creaky feel, with plenty of old wood all around. Our server had her own unique attitude that only added to the experience.
And then, the food comes. Hands down, the best crab cake I’ve ever experienced is an appetizer at Cap’s Place. That was followed by heart of palm salad.
As it’s called, this comes from the heart of a palm tree. Seminole Indians from central Florida bring it down to the restaurant.
The bacon-wrapped scallops were next, and while the great texture of the bacon provided a full flavor, it was the fresh scallop that wins out.
The yellowtail snapper Johnny style is like a slightly fried dusting on this fresh fish that comes with a side of buttermilk mashed potatoes and squash casserole.
But don’t think that Cap’s Place is the only great spot for food in Fort Lauderdale.
15th Street Fisheries has fabulous fresh seafood in a waterfront setting in the Fort Lauderdale marina. Dry rubbed mahi-mahi, Key West snapper, grilled swordfish, Provencal diver scallops and lobster tail are just some of the great seafood options at 15th Street, which has garnered numerous accolades by locals.
And a casual lunch spot is Quarterdeck Restaurant. We visited the Dania Beach location where it sits right on a pier overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Quarterdeck has all the typical seafood fare, but I decided to go with a different option with the tuna Philly sandwich.
Having a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich with Yellofin Tuna instead of steak was an interesting option I was glad to sample.
Everglades National Park is massive, and there are a lot of great ways to experience the park. But if you’re spending time in Fort Lauderdale a quick drive to the western side of Broward County will give you several options to get out into the River of Grass.
I actually visited the park two times, one at night and one during the day. I detailed the nighttime airboat ride with Sawgrass Recreation Park in an earlier post. Soaring through the river of grass on the loud airboat with only a faint touch of moonlight creeping through the clouds to provide a “headlight” was a thrill.
A couple of days later I experienced Everglades Holiday Park, riding one of their massive airboats. The cover was appreciated since it rained throughout our ride. It was different seeing this part of the Everglades during the day, giving a better understanding of the unique ecosystem.
Florida isn’t all beach, and horseback riding at Tradewinds Park & Stables gives another way to explore Fort Lauderdale beyond the beach.
The 626-acre park is one of Broward County’s largest and most diverse. It has a disc golf course, fishing lake, athletic fields and Butterfly World. There are playgrounds, model steam train rides an educational farm and more.
A ride at the stables is a unique way to explore the park, winding through wooded trails and open terrain.
Yes, relaxing in Fort Lauderdale is an obvious choice, whether it comes in a chair by the hotel pool, on a towel in the sand or in one of several spas.
With miles of Atlantic Ocean along the east, the intracoastal waterway dissecting the middle and the Everglades to the west, there is plenty of natural beauty to enjoy in Fort Lauderdale.