We all need a break from work and the status quo — and a chance to walk on the beach, to clear our minds, to connect with ourselves. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway, then Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, might be your perfect ticket.
And surprisingly affordable.
Ft. Lauderdale is a quick and inexpensive flight from many locations around the U.S., as well as the United Kingdom — making it a wonderful place for a quick get-away. With a broad range of restaurants, and multiple activities available, you’ll have the opportunity to do as much — or as little as you like.
Right in the middle of Florida’s Gold Coast, an area on the Atlantic that stretches from Miami up through West Palm Beach, you’ll find Ft. Lauderdale more laid back than Miami, its neighbor to the south. As the morning sun turns the sand golden and warm, it’s natural to think that this is how the area got its name, but you’d be wrong. Florida’s Gold Coast derives its name from the Spanish treasure galleons that wrecked just offshore.
Attractions and activities in the Ft. Lauderdale area include gorgeous beaches, surfing, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, shopping, a wide range of great restaurants, opera, and an arts district.
Ft. Lauderdale has a lot to offer — so get ready to get your beach on!
Weather in Ft. Lauderdale, particularly in the winter and spring, is sunny and temperate. It’s a wonderful place to escape freezing days and snow in other parts of the country.
There are two seasons: rainy (June through September) and dry (October through May). During the rainy season, Ft. Lauderdale is hot and humid, but definitely helped by the steady breeze blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. During the dry season, I’d say Ft. Lauderdale is close to perfect.
But what about Ft. Lauderdale’s history of being a spring break party town?
After the 1960 film, Where the Boys Are, Ft. Lauderdale had a certain reputation for a long time, but in the 1980’s, the city chose to walk away from spring break madness. It outlawed alcohol on the beach, and the craziness migrated elsewhere. Today, this is one of the loveliest beach cities in Florida.
You may simply be looking to wiggle your toes in the sand and listen to the sound of breakers on the beach.
Whether you’re a late sleeper, or an early riser, beach vacations are the ultimate in relaxation. Watching the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean, sipping coffee, and getting in an early walk were at the top of my favorite things in Ft. Lauderdale.
Yachting Capital of the World
With hundreds of miles of navigable waterways, Ft. Lauderdale is often called the Venice of America. You really haven’t seen the city unless you see it from the water: cruising the Intracoastal waterway, New River, and Millionaire’s Row.
The dry dock facilities here are capable of handling some of the largest, most expensive mega-yachts in the world — and you’ll certainly be looking at some of the most amazing boats you’ve ever seen.
One way to get off dry land and onto the canals is to use the Water Taxi. There are several routes to choose from, so you simply find a Water Taxi stop, pick a direction, and go exploring. We were in town right before Ft. Lauderdale’s massive boat show (the largest in the world). We had a wonderful trip through the mega-yachts, found a dockside restaurant for lunch, then took a regular taxi back to hotel.
About Ft Lauderdale: All you have to do is look at a map to see what a significant network of waterways this city has.
Airboat Ride into the Everglades
Florida is home to 20% of all wetlands in the United States. The Everglades National Park comprises more than 1.5 million acres which includes vast sawgrass marshes, sloughs, wet prairies, cypress swamp areas, mangrove forests, and hammocks of hardwoods. Did you know? There are only 20 World Heritage sites in the United States, and the Florida Everglades are one of them.
Ft. Lauderdale is a perfect home-base for exploring the Everglades, whether you head to the one of the National Park Visitor’s Centers, or choose to do an airboat tour from one of the many tour operators.
I booked a two-hour private airboat tour with Everglades Swamptours. On our first meeting, they were unable to take us out due to a malfunctioning starter on the airboat. We were fortunate to meet a couple of guys with a private airboat, and Bob and David got us out into the Everglades — such a kindness!
Because I was staying several days in the area, I was able to get back out to meet the Swamptour folks another afternoon, and that time everything went perfectly. If you’re interested in checking out different Everglades tour operators, start with Hello Sunny! (Ft. Lauderdale Tourism Board) and read through their listings.
Two hours was SUCH a short time here! A twenty-minute ride in, then time looking for gators and then checking out some of the small islands and sawgrass marsh areas. It seemed barely a snap of the fingers and we were headed back towards the car.
We knew we wanted to eat along the Ft. Lauderdale waterways, and the Blue Moon Fish Company came highly recommended. It was a quick drive from the Sonesta, and before long, we were at a table right on the water. Sunset, stone crabs, and a dry rose wine — perfect end to the day. There’s a wide range of just-caught fish to choose from — a seafood lover’s paradise, along with great beef, lamb, and chicken dishes.
Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District
Ft. Lauderdale has a vibrant arts and entertainment district along the Riverwalk. An afternoon in a museum can be a cool break from the beach, and there are several choices. You might choose modern paintings and sculpture the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, or head over to the Museum of Discovery & Science and learn about the Everglades — including hopping on the airboat simulator that will take you on a very immersive trip into this important ecosystem.
Want to catch a theater or opera performance? Take a look at the calendar for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
History lovers will appreciate a tour of the Stranahan House which was built in 1901, making it the oldest house in Ft. Lauderdale.
Port Everglades Cruise Terminal
Perhaps you’re looking at a stay in Ft. Lauderdale because you’re considering a cruise. Port Everglades regularly ranks in the top three cruise ports in the United States, and what this means is that the finest, newest ships of every major cruise line sail from this port, vying for your business.
The Ft. Lauderdale airport is smaller and less frenetic than the Miami International Airport (which I think earned its call letters MIA for a reason), and it’s just minutes from the terminal. Flying in for a cruise doesn’t get any easier than this. At the end of the cruise, rather than hopping on a plane and hurrying straight back to work, a couple of nights in Lauderdale is a nice way to ease that transition back to your daily grind.
Where to Stay: the Sonesta Ft. Lauderdale Beach
We spent our weekend at the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, and I loved it. One key factor for choosing a hotel: location, location, location.
For me, this was perfect. The Sonesta is next to the Hugh Taylor Birch state park – a pristine, undeveloped stretch of beach that’s an important site for sea turtle nests. This means there is a mile or so of empty beach to the left of the Sonesta. There is also a buffer zone to the right of the hotel, before you reach the next hotel further down the beach.
I love this! If you like long beach walks, if you’re into photography, or hey — if you simply like the feeling of A LITTLE SPACE away from people — this location is like hitting the lottery. I felt like the beach here was my private space.
The Sonesta room was lovely: floor to ceiling view of the changing greens and blues of the ocean, and super-comfortable beds with high end linens. As part of the amenity fee each room has daily bottled water, lounge chairs waiting for you on the beach, and a friendly welcome drink down at the bar.
While Ft. Lauderdale offers a great selection of restaurants, sometimes you just want a quiet meal at the hotel. It’s nice to know the food is good enough that you have that option.
My breakfast each morning at the Sonesta was their egg white frittata, with sautéed spinach, peppers, onion, and mushroom. In addition to their a la carte menu, they serve a full breakfast buffet as well.
I also had lunch at the Sonesta one of the days we were there — and found the conch fritters with a local beer from the Funky Buddha Brewery to be very tasty. The first night in Ft. Lauderdale, at the end of a long road-tripping week, I wasn’t in the mood to go out. The Sonesta bone-in tenderloin and a nice cabernet – great end to the day.
When I think about a relaxing escape, a good massage is often at the top of my list. The Spa services at the Sonesta have you covered there with a selection of massage options, as well as hydrotherapy tea-bath soaks. What about shopping? The Sonesta is less than a mile from the Ft. Lauderdale Galleria, so if a little retail therapy is on your weekend getaway list, it’s all right here.
Whether you’ve got a whole week of vacation, time for just a quick getaway, or you’re looking to extend a cruise vacation — Ft. Lauderdale is a great choice.
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Disclaimer: Many thanks to the Sonesta Ft. Lauderdale for hosting both myself and Pat Wetzel of Cancer Road Trip for our Ft. Lauderdale stay, and to Hello Sunny! – the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau for their warm welcome and assistance. As always, opinions and experiences expressed on AnnCavittFisher.com are honest and my own. I’ll never recommend anything I didn’t love myself.