When we were in Miami, we decided to take a day trip to Fort Lauderdale to explore the area’s stunning beaches and charming downtown. The picturesque canals are a must-see, and the city’s relaxed atmosphere is a refreshing break from Miami’s hustle and bustle. In this one-day itinerary to Fort Lauderdale, we’ll take you through our experiences of the must-see sights and activities that the city has to offer.
So, let’s pack our bags and hit the road for a day trip from Miami to Fort Lauderdale!
How do I spend a day trip in Fort Lauderdale?
On our recent trip to South Florida (you can check all the coverage on my Instagram Stories here, or some posts here), we based ourselves in Bal Harbour but were keen to explore a bit more without staying overnight (so as not to disturb our daughter’s routine).
The idea of day trips seemed particularly appealing namely as there is so much to do in the area – and adds a bit of interest in the (rare but possible) case that the sun fails to shine.
So the first day trip from Miami destination was crystal clear: Fort Lauderdale. The second was too: Palm Beach.
How do I get from Miami to Fort Lauderdale?
Located under an hour north of Miami Beach, it is easy to get from one place to the other.
The first option is, of course to drive (if you have rented a car). An uber would set you back around $70-90 each way.
But there is also a train, which seems to be a great alternative. Called Brightline, the train service starts in Miami, Aventura (great for shopping), Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Palm Beach. In the future, it will go all the way to Orlando.
As we were travelling with our 2 year old (who still requires a lot of equipment – day bag, potty, stroller and car seat for any taxis), we chose to not try it this time, but I can see us doing so in our future and perfect for many other travellers.
How do I spend a day in Fort Lauderdale?
There is quite a bit to do in Fort Lauderdale – and we had no idea. If we have been to the Miami area 15+ times, it was only on my last visit (which happened to be pre Covid) that a friend took me to dinner there. I had a little glimpse of it (a bit different than what I expected), so I was curious to see a bit more. And I was not disappointed.
So here is what we did in our day trip from Miami to Fort Lauderdale:
Everglades airboat tour at Sawgrass Recreation Park
We had heard about these for years but honestly thought the location was hours away and always thought ‘oh, we will do it one day’.
Turns out that the ‘one day’ came and went and we really enjoyed it. We had the simple admission ticket which includes a 30-40 minute boat trip where you may or may not see alligators. We did manage to spot 3, and beautiful wildlife and the duration was perfect for us as a family. Little one (2 at the time) was very welcome and the whole experience felt very safe.
Driving time from Bal Harbour was 45 minutes and you are told to arrive 30 minutes before your departure window. This detail is important: if your ticket says 10am, it is an approximate time. So we actually arrived at 9am and were on a boat at 9.45am as there were enough people for 2 boats and the 3rd one filled up ahead of schedule. We found it all very well run and thoroughly enjoyed this experience.
Tickets bought direct from Everglades Tours cost from $27 and worth every penny.
PS. It is worth noting that Sawgrass Mills (the great outlets) are located 15 minutes from Sawgrass Recreation Park, in case you fancy filling up some suitcases.
Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
Having never been to Fort Lauderdale ‘properly’, I was unaware of its geography, i.e. all the canals and waterways, home to some of the most beautiful homes in South Florida.
So we decided that the ‘easiest’ way of exploring the city (whilst keeping it simple as we were travelling with a toddler) was to enjoy the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi.
The concept is simple: 10 stops around town (+1 one in nearby Hollywood) and you can hop on and hop off like a bus.
We had some trouble understanding where the stops were exactly, and also where to park, but worry not: I have got your back.
The loop takes around 3 hours, but as we had lunch reservations, we opted to get out at one of the beach stops (stop 6), located right next to the Fire Station.
We then called an Uber back to the car, which turned up in exactly a minute and took under 10 to drive back to the car park.
We really enjoyed the commentary of the tour – half of it was made up but the guide was very funny and it was quite extraordinary to see all the incredible houses.
Where to park for the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi?
Look up on Google Maps the Riverside Hotel (located at 620 E Las Olas Boulevard, FL 33301). Drive there and then park at the public parking lot closest to the hotel entrance. If you are facing the waterfront, it would be the one on the right, just before the hotel building. It is a pay and display car park.
Then make your way to the waterfront and you will see a restaurant called the Boathouse at the Riverside. Walk by the water to your left, and after a little bridge, you will see a little sign which says Water Stop 1.
Tickers cost $35 for adults (children 5-15 pay $15) and you need to pre book them with the Water Taxi.
Have a beautiful European-style lunch at Fort Lauderdale beach
I mentioned earlier than I had been to Fort Lauderdale once before, and it was for dinner. Actually on that day it included a beautiful spa treatment as well at the Auberge Beach Residences & Spa. Sadly not a hotel (or we undoubtedly stay there on a future stay), but the spa is open to visitors, as is the restaurant.
The restaurant, called Dune by Laurent Tourundel is beautiful and is right on the beach (which is something not as common as you’d think). The menu offers great variety (from grilled fish, to sushi and great flatbreads and salads). And pretty good wines by the glass (in real glass, not plastic).
You can also rent sun loungers and umbrellas at the beach and buy a day pass with Resort Pass.
Enjoy Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach is wonderful and perfect for a day out and about. There’s plenty of parking and you can enjoy a lovely walk on the promenade or just bring your beach shoes and swimming costume and rent some proper sun loungers and umbrellas.
Shop for homewares at the Gulfstream Park
Closer to Miami (and Hollywood and Hallandale), and on the return from Fort Lauderdale, there is a development called Gulfstream Park, which offers a casino, a race track and some dining, but it offers something pretty fabulous: the top USA home retailers very close to each other, with easy parking. I am talking Crate & Barrel, West Elm, Pottery Barn and The Container Store all across the road from each other. (You need to drive a few blocks for Williams Sonoma – I know, life is not fair!).
Jokes aside, we have been visiting for I would say 10 years and it just makes it so simple (we also start placing click and collect orders a week before we travel.. so things are just there waiting for us).
Back to Miami for dinner
On this occasion, we did not have dinner in Fort Lauderdale as we headed back to Miami Beach for a special evening. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Jaya at The Setai, which offered a variety of Asian cuisines which made for a nice change.
My husband chose Indian whereas I went for Thai flavours and we had a lovely evening. The set up was quite impressive – with dancers and great music. I did notice that the crowd changed as time went – we had dinner at 8pm and left at around 10pm and knew all the words to the songs… I didn’t so much the newer songs, which appealed to a younger audience. I thought it was very clever.
Is Fort Lauderdale worth visiting?
We were really pleased with our day trip to the Fort Lauderdale area and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I really enjoyed the variety it offered and as we said, it is worth us returning (and we will for the dining and shopping – and maybe one day repeat the other experiences as they really were excellent!).
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This post is brought to you in partnership with Visit Florida