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‘VENICE OF AMERICA’: Play, stay and dine on Fort Lauderdale’s wonderful waterways

When locals and visitors call this tropical destination the Venice of America, it’s because these winding ribbons of waterways aren’t just for show. The extra bragging rights come from how Greater Fort Lauderdale makes good use of them, cultivating a water-lover’s lifestyle that can be enjoyed year-round under the warm Florida sunshine.

Whether one is a fishing enthusiast or a foodie, a paddleboarder, or a party-boater, there are multitude of ways to stay, play, and dine on the waterways in Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Water Taxis Are No Ordinary Ride

Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi and Pompano Beach Water Taxi are designed to take users on the scenic route from hotel to museum, theatre to drinks, beach to dinner, lunch to shopping – basically whatever way one wants to enjoy their day around the beach and waterways.

Water taxi

• The Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi is an attraction all its own, where the crew provides a narrated tour of the area – including the scoop on the mansions on Millionaire’s Row – as well as beer, cocktails, and sodas below deck.

• There are several upscale hotels walking distance to the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi, including The Pillars, a world-class boutique hotel that sits directly on the Intracoastal Waterway. This body of water is actually a thoroughfare, like A1A or US 1. In fact, a person could sail all the way to Virginia on the Intracoastal Waterway, but it’s more likely to be remembered for the serene sunset views.

• Other sensational hotels near the Water Taxi include The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale; W Fort Lauderdale; and The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Disembark at The Galleria for fashion and dining, including Neiman Marcus, Michael Kors, Vans, and Sephora, as well as The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Blue Martini and more.

• The Express Route goes as far south as Hollywood, where the vibe is laid back and everyone feels like an old friend at Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. And on the New River Route, the historic Riverside Hotel offers Old Florida elegance amid the shopping, galleries, and dining of tree-lined Las Olas Boulevard.

• The Pompano Beach Water Taxi is the best way to get to Hillsboro Inlet Park, providing excellent views of the historic Hillsboro Lighthouse. Among the Water Taxi’s 12 stops, there are great places to dine on the water. Have a meal on an island at Cap’s Place, a former 1920s speakeasy. Try the Conch Fritters, Short Rib Tacos, weekend brunch and other delights right on the water at Nauti Dawg Café, a dock-and-dine restaurant tucked away in Lighthouse Point Marina. And you don’t have to miss a game while you’re on vacation when you’re at Bokampers Sports Bar, another dock-and-dine spot where you’ll enjoy the food, the televisions, and the waterside seating.

Ride a gondola

Las Olas Gondola

Yes, those are authentic Venetian gondolas gliding along the New River in Fort Lauderdale. Professional gondoliers in striped shirts set the ambiance, and each gondola is the picture of elegance from the ferro to the risso – those unique, curvy metal pieces on the bow and stern of a gondola.

Las Olas Gondola offers 75-minute tours and a unique perspective of the luxurious homes and tropical greenery along the canals at a cozy speed that makes it easy to soak it all in. This is the perfect romantic ride for two, unique outing with the kids, and cool experience for all ages.

Kayaking and paddleboarding

If you dream of gliding along the waterways at your own pace, gazing at the blue sky and green flora, and listening to the rippling water as your oar slices through it, then you’re in the right paragraph. Discover two amazing area parks that provide natural kayaking and paddleboarding escapes within Broward County:

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Located in Fort Lauderdale between the Intracoastal Waterway and A1A, this park is great for biking, hiking, fishing, camping and other nature activities. It even has art classes. But you came for the paddling!

At Park and Ocean, the park’s concession area visitors can be fitted with beach chairs, bicycles, jet skis, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more. Request a kayak or SUP — map and safety vest included — and paddle through lush mangrove trails and into the calm waters of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park’s coastal dune lakes. And one can also fuel up for the adventure at Park and Ocean, offering tasty eats, craft brews and waterside tables.

If visiting during a full moon, plan a nighttime adventure during the Monthly Full Moon Kayak Tour at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, a guided 45-minute paddle by the light of glow sticks and the yellow moon.

Paddling at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park

A little farther south in Dania Beach is another oasis within the metropolis. Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is a beachfront haven that has swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, birdwatching, shore diving, as well as kayaking and paddleboarding along the 3.2-km. stretch of mangrove-lined waterway known as Whiskey Creek. This creek was aptly named because of the bootleggers who used to hide out in it to avoid the law during the Prohibition Era. There’s also evidence that the ancient Tequesta Indians used the creek as well.

Whiskey Creek Hideout is the park’s concessions stand with a full menu of deliciousness as well as adventure. There’s the Chipotle Black Bean Burger, Avocado Salad with Salmon, morning breakfast, as well as a kids menu and plenty of comfort food.

A guided kayak Eco-Tour launches every Monday-Friday at 10 a.m. And Fridays feature paddleboard Sunset Tours and monthly Full Moon Kayak Tours, as well as the post-adventure campfire and a S’mores feast.

Mark your calendars

With this array of water-centric events, everyone’s invited to enjoy the boating lifestyle in Broward County. And for some of them, you don’t even have to leave land.

• Oct. 26-30, 2022: The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show attracts more than 100,000 visitors, and 1,000 exhibitors, plus 1,500 boats across 10 km. of docks. Back for its 62nd year, FLIBS is filled with floating eye candy. The Superyacht Village enclave shows off spectacular vessels up to 120 metres and more than 100 food venders populate the Culinary Experience; there’s also a Hospitality Lounge, and informative seminars – altogether demonstrating why Fort Lauderdale is also known as the Yachting Capital of the World.

Dec. 10, 2022: Every year, the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade kicks off the holiday season with the “Greatest Show on H2O.” Attendees will see private boats, giant showboats, and corporate mega-yachts adorned with thousands of lights, as well as music, performers, and decorations. There are plenty of spots to watch the spectacle along the 20-km. parade route from the New River to the Intracoastal Waterway up to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach.

• Jan. 26-29, 2023: Art Fort Lauderdale is a refreshing way for art-lovers to acquire their latest masterpiece. This unique, four-day curated art fair transports attendees via Water Taxi to vacant luxury waterfront properties that are the temporary home for featured artists and galleries exhibiting a variety of paintings, sculptures, and other works.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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