From the water, the casually elegant city of Fort Lauderdale beckons, whispering the promise of brilliant days soaking up sun, art and culture, while music and laughter permeate languid evenings spent overlooking the sparkling coastline.
The genesis of what is known today as the “Yachting Capital of the World” can be traced to the late 1950s. This “new river settlement” along the southeastern coastline of the southernmost state participated in the 1920s land boom, but a flurry of residential development in the late 1950s and the first annual Fort Lauderdale Boat Show — organized in 1959 as an attempt to offload excess boat inventory and attract offseason visitors — set the tone for the evolution of this decidedly laid-back yet purposefully progressive coastal city.
The 1960 film Where the Boys Are positioned Fort Lauderdale as the colorful, heady oceanfront destination to which throngs of pink-faced youngsters would let their hair down for one week a year, but the days of spring-break shenanigans were discouraged by the late 1980s and nearly nonexistent by 2020.
Today’s Fort Lauderdale is hip and sophisticated, where microbreweries and coffee shops commingle with high-end art galleries and designer boutiques, and young professionals gather outside their shared residential spaces to sip hibiscus-infused libations in Instagram-worthy eateries. The city exudes a casually elegant lifestyle, which has been largely defined by its beachfront location and myriad waterways that demand a vessel aboard which to enjoy it all.
Even if you have visited before, perhaps only as a stopover or a jumping-off point, now is the time to tie up or drop anchor and come ashore to experience this amazing destination from a new perspective.
PERSPECTIVE: FROM THE WATER
Offering everything from world-class marinas and shipyards to yacht charter companies, brokerage houses, service providers and provisioners, greater Fort Lauderdale is purpose-built for boating. Second only to tourism, the marine industry here contributes nearly $10 billion to the local economy each year. The annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is credited as one of the most influential yachting events in the world, spanning 90 acres across seven waterfront locations showcasing billions of dollars’ worth of products all related to life on the water.
Fort Lauderdale’s dizzying array of dock-and-dine restaurants pale in comparison only to the number of high-end and boutique hotels that cater to boating — most with adjacent marinas or waterfront dockage, like the brand-new Hotel Maren and Hillsboro Beach Resort, and some even offering their own marinas, such as the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina and Bahia Mar.
Being a waterfront destination with ideal weather year-round, Fort Lauderdale not only offers every watersport imaginable — from deep-sea, canal and pier fishing to jet skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, parasailing and kite surfing — but its plentiful waterways are also lined with beautiful homes, stunning tropical canopies, and natural preserves that beg to be explored.
PERSPECTIVE: FROM THE TABLE
A population of well-heeled, well-traveled residents with discerning palates has laid the foundation for Fort Lauderdale’s emergence onto the culinary scene over the last two decades. A spectrum of dining options from kitchens helmed by world-renowned and rising-star chefs ranges from trendy pop-up concepts and mouth-watering authentic restaurants to the latest in artistic fine dining opportunities and everything in between. Fort Lauderdale will cater to — and impress — any appetite with ease.
New and unique offerings range from Japanese-Korean fusion Takato and the waterside shared-plate Salt7 to the speakeasy-style Bodega Taqueria lounge, Twice Removed gastropub and Cuba Libra, led by a two-time James Beard award-winning chef.
Even the Miami-based South Beach Wine and Food Festival now stretches its reach to Fort Lauderdale every year, underscoring the latter’s culinary prowess and saluting both new and established talent — the kind normally found in cosmopolitan cities with colder climates.
Paring with this burgeoning culinary scene is a plethora of distilleries and microbreweries, each unique in its own right and serving to perfectly encapsulate Fort Lauderdale’s forever-summer waterfront vibe. Local microbrewery Gulf Stream Brewing Company created a Fort Lauderdale-specific brew, a hefeweizen named “Everyone Under the Sun” in honor of the area. Cheers!
PERSPECTIVE: FROM THE ROOF
Explosive development — both residential and commercial — has stretched the city’s skyline and invited us all to the roof. Once few and far between, rooftop lounges and restaurants now serve as the mandatory punctuation for a day well spent in this shining region by the sea.
From the eponymous Rooftop to The Muse in Hollywood and the newly opened Easton Rooftop Pool + Lounge, chilling out on the roof is the thing to do in Fort Lauderdale. Existing hotels have paid renewed attention to their sky-level options, and new offerings — like the Cambria Hotel and the AC Hotel Sawgrass Mills — make sure to serve their tapas and cocktails with views for miles.
PERSPECTIVE: FROM THE SAND
Expansive golden sand beaches — 24 miles of them — alone would put this sunny seaside destination on any bucket list. Beyond the beach, however, the greater Fort Lauderdale area teems with opportunities for every activity under the sun.
A vibrant art scene has also taken hold, and creative enclaves such as FATVillage, Hollywood Mural Project and Riverwalk invite visitors to immerse themselves in the region’s local creative talents. Art walks and festivals celebrating the arts offer unique ways to enjoy creative expression; the annual Art Fort Lauderdale, for example, showcases artists and their works in a series of beautiful waterfront homes, which participants visit by boat.
From gaming at the world-famous Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to soccer matches at the DRV PNK Stadium to endless opportunities for shopping on Las Olas Boulevard and beyond, Fort Lauderdale can be as relaxed or as active as you wish — a once-overlooked destination that caters to sun-seekers and jet-setters who covet that yachting lifestyle.
Check out more: VisitLauderdale.com/Welcome