Picture it—miles of powdery, golden-sand beaches stretching out along the Atlantic Ocean with crystal waters blending seamlessly into a bright blue sky. This is Greater Fort Lauderdale; here, sunshine seekers can get their fill of adventure in whatever form they desire, both on and off the water. Whether the goal is to relax with the sound of gently lapping waves, kayak through pristine mangrove estuaries, peruse museums home to internationally recognized masterworks, or connect with the area’s unique culture by tucking into mouthwatering meals, there is truly something for everyone under the sun to experience here. Read on to discover all Greater Fort Lauderdale has to offer.
Any visit to Greater Fort Lauderdale must include some time spent at the area’s famed beaches, and with 24 miles of sandy shorelines an assortment of adventures awaits.
If your idea of a good time includes underwater adventure, start with Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. The town has the breezy atmosphere of a seaside village and a small beach that’s home to an outstanding walk-up snorkel trail. Strong swimmers with proper equipment can venture just 100 yards offshore to find a spectacular artificial reef featuring a replica shipwreck complete with cannons and anchors—better still, learn from the experts at Private Scuba and Snorkel and come face-to-face with marine life while on a guided tour. If you happen to be a certified scuba diver, a trip to explore the remains of the S.S. Copenhagen can’t be missed; the 19th-century British cargo ship struck the reef on a journey to Cuba and promptly sank. Today, the shipwreck is an underwater archeological preserve, and just one of many wrecks that experienced divers can tour.
To explore even more shipwreck adventures head to Shipwreck Park at Pompano Beach. Here, intentionally sunk ships, like Lady Luck, serve a second life as underwater cultural attractions. As you dive, explore whimsical art installations or pause for a photo op with a card-dealing shark in an underwater casino aboard the sunken 324-foot tanker. Afterwards, explore Pompano Beach’s newly renovated Fisher Family Pier—the end of which is shaped like a pompano fish. Kids will enjoy peering through its eye to see the water and imagining what may lie below!
For divers that want to stay a little closer to town, Fort Lauderdale beach offers fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving spots like Twin Ledges (a natural ecosystem accessible by a quick boat trip) and the Hog Wreck (the site of a weathered 180-foot barge intentionally sunk in 1986). Just down the road at Vista Park, divers will find a hidden gem—the Vista Park Reef. The coral reef here is just 1,000 feet offshore, making it accessible without a boat and a perfect spot to easily see colorful fish, billowing sea fans, and even stingrays! Sea Experience offers daily tours and gear rentals to beginner and advanced divers alike.
Quiet Beachside Escapes
While it shares the same breathtaking views of the surf as well-populated beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Dania Beach exudes a type of solitude and quiet. Here, visitors can enjoy an undisturbed walk along the shore, or spend a calm afternoon casting a line off the Dania Beach Fishing Pier. Not far north of the pier, the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park is the perfect hideout from the bustle of the nearby city. The undeveloped coastal ecosystem is an ideal spot for an enchanting kayak trip through mangrove-lined wetlands, along with other outdoor pastimes like swimming, hiking, and birding. The park is named for two prominent civil rights activists that led “wade-in” protests to desegregate South Florida beaches in the 1950s and 1960s.
What comes to mind when you think of the perfect beach day? If it’s a day filled with action-packed, non-stop fun then Fort Lauderdale's beach is a match made in heaven. The beach spans four miles—offering plenty to do both on and off the sand, including everything from sampling tasty bites at gourmet restaurants, to jumping in for a quick game of pickup beach volleyball. Dial up the adrenaline with a jet ski rental, or serenely parasail above all the buzz below. A paved promenade runs the length of the beach with a low concrete “Wave Wall” running parallel, providing beachgoers with a spot to rest and navigate—the pillars demarcate the corresponding avenues.
For a funky mix of retro Floridian architecture, fun oceanside activities, and bustling culture, Hollywood Beach is a must-visit. The beach has a 2.5-mile paved broadwalk lined with over 50 restaurants, plenty of boutique shopping, and of course, the beach itself. Be on the lookout for beachside events while visiting—the Hollywood Beach Theater often hosts free live music programmed by the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort.
While an urban hub home to nearly two million people may seem like an unlikely destination for outdoor adventure, pockets of protected Florida nature, unique wildlife, and pristine waterways are all within striking distance in Greater Fort Lauderdale.
Just 20 minutes from downtown Fort Lauderdale, West Lake Park achieves a worlds-away feel. Here, outdoor enthusiasts will find a three-mile strip of pristine mangrove estuary just west of the Intracoastal Waterway that can only be accessed by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Keep an eye out for local wildlife as you float downstream or walk along the adjacent trail—as part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail visitors may spot rare birds like scarlet ibises and roseate spoonbills! Complete the trip by paddling to the Anne Kolb Nature Center where visitors can climb to the top of a 68-foot observation tower for panoramic views of the area.
Next, visit the Fern Forest Nature Center, a 247.1-acre urban wilderness area designed to protect native plants that have largely disappeared from Southeast Florida. Here, true to its name, visitors can observe over 30 species of ferns (including the endangered whisk fern)! With ample shade, the park is the perfect spot for a gentle stroll. Enjoy the dappled coverage of mature maple and cypress trees along a half-mile elevated boardwalk or a number of other trails.
Considered to be one of the great biological wonders of the world, the Florida Everglades begin just 25 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Explore an ecosystem unlike any on the planet with a visit to Sawgrass Recreation Park or Everglades Holiday Park. Thrill seekers will relish a high-speed airboat tour along the water, topping out at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour! For a tamer experience, soak in the history of this remarkable natural treasure with a guided freshwater fishing trip. For bikers, runners, wildlife observers and photographers that want to take in the Everglades at their own pace, the Everglades Conservation Levee Greenway is a dream destination. With 48.4 miles total, visitors can pop on at one of five access points with popular starting points such as Atlantic Boulevard Trailhead, Markham Park, Sawgrass Recreation Park or Everglades Holiday Park. The tread is rough, so wide tires will give the best ride.
Complete the adventure with a trip to Tree Tops Park. Once slated to become a golf community, the area was instead preserved. The park has an enchanted feel, with hanging vines, mossy trees, and a sweeping canopy through which visitors can see the limbs of an ancient live oak. Visitors can explore over 23 acres of restored freshwater marsh, nature trails, and an equestrian center.
3. Arts & Culture
With world-class museums featuring captivating exhibitions, stunning arrays of local art, centuries of tradition and a profoundly inclusive culture underpinning it all, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to arts and culture in Greater Fort Lauderdale.
Museums & Public Art
First up is the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale for a deep dive into visual arts that span all facets of civilization's history. The museum is a premier destination for arts programming and exhibitions with well over 7,500 works. The collections include paintings by American realist William Glackens as well as an extensive collection of Latin American and Cuban art. The 83,000 square foot building, designed by renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, first opened its doors in 1986.
Next, head over to the Museum of Discovery and Science for a day on hands-on exploration. Home to over 200 dynamic exhibits and a five-story IMAX theater, visitors can immerse themselves into the world of science. While there, observe Northern American river otters in a two-story habitat, ride through the Everglades on an airboat simulator, and explore physics and engineering principles first-hand with full body exhibits at Science Park.
Wrap up your exploration with an evening stroll at the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project. The project features a collection of more than two dozen contemporary murals by both local and internationally recognized artists like Tatian Suarez, Evocal, Rone, The London Police, and more. On the third Saturday of the month, the Downtown Hollywood Artwalk hosts a free mural tour where the public can often observe muralists at work and engage in conversation over their process and style.
Located in the western portion of Greater Fort Lauderdale, expect the unexpected on a visit to the Town of Davie! In its early days, the town resembled an Old West outpost. Today, cowboy culture still looms large; the city boasts a western-themed downtown, home to the famed Bergeron Rodeo Grounds, where, for more than 40 years, events like the Davie Pro Rodeo have taken place. While downtown, stop into local shops like Grifs Western Inc and Nora’s Western Wear to find quality leather goods, cowboy boots and hats, and other Western apparel. After, put those new boots to the test with a country western dance lesson (two step, line dance, swing) at the Round Up Night Club or saddle up for a guided horseback adventure at Bar-B-Ranch's stunning 160-acre park.
One of the first things visitors will notice upon arrival, in addition to the miles of stunning beaches, is the profound warm, diverse, and accepting culture that weaves Greater Fort Lauderdale together. Considered Florida’s gay capital, Greater Fort Lauderdale welcomes more than a million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender visitors annually—here, Pride is a daily way of life, and diversity and inclusion are a part of the cultural fabric.
The area is known for having the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the county and hundreds of gay-owned businesses, many of which are located in the city of Wilton Manors along Wilton Drive. While there, grab a delicious lunch at a drag-themed burger joint, Hamburger Mary’s or stick around for an evening of dinner and drag at Lips Fort Lauderdale. After, head to the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale to explore one of the largest gay libraries and archives in the country.
With over 170 countries represented and 147 languages spoken, the Greater Fort Lauderdale area is a true mosaic of culture—and nowhere is that more evident than at the table. With everything from tried-and-true classics to mouthwatering flavors to beachside dining, food here is a feast for the senses! And with new restaurants opening and passionate chefs taking the helm in their own kitchens, there is always something new to explore and taste.
At Heritage, Chef Rino Cerbone plays with his family’s traditional Italian recipes and presents something new, including unexpected appetizers like black mushroom arancini or razor baked clams. While the food is decidedly upscale, the ambiance is relaxed.
In downtown Fort Lauderdale, The Katherine, helmed by James Beard-nominated chef Timon Baloo, serves up quintessential home-style dinners infused with his Chinese, Indian and Trinidadian Roots. Enjoy a meal or a drink on the outdoor patio; the perfect way to end a day at the beach.
For a forward-thinking meal, dine at Takato at Conrad Fort Lauderdale beach. Chef Taek “Taka” Lee brings an unparallel fusion of Japanese and Korean cuisine. The upscale eatery boasts both indoor and outdoor dining, along with an open-air bar. Takato, meaning an extreme state of happiness in Japanese, is sure to follow as diners share small plates and entrees, handcrafted cocktails, and an array of fresh sushi.
If you’d like to enjoy your meal with a side of spectacular waterfront views, take your pick of beachfront restaurants in Hollywood, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach. Stop in at Oceans 234 for fresh seafood and outdoor patio seating.
Enjoy a weekend brunch complete with lobster benedict at JB’s on the Beach. In Pompano Beach, enjoy made-from-scratch dishes while taking in the ocean view. A pastry and a cup of coffee is a must at Bean and Barnacle at the Plunge Beach Hotel. For an old-time Florida feel and sweeping ocean views, head to Sea Watch on the Ocean at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. If laid back fares are what you’re after, look no further than Bo’s Beach or Lulu’s Bait Shack overlooking the beach in Fort Lauderdale.