Fort Lauderdale is a rich and vibrant city that attracts many people. It is a great spot for a relaxing vacation with a semi-tropical climate and lots of beautiful beaches and landscapes, but also has an exciting side to it with plenty of sports, outdoor activities and live entertainment options.
Fort Lauderdale is one of the top ten biggest cities in Florida and has been nicknamed the "Venice of America" because of its canal-like waterways that reach far inland. It was primarily a tourism-based city but has recently expanded to become a center for all other kinds of industries.
Here, you will find an extensive array of attractions and activities to enjoy like the best museums in Fort Lauderdale or shopping experiences you won't soon forget, but if you ever want a change of scenery you will find plenty of other things to do just outside of the city. Day trips are the best way to take a break from city life and try something new while still being able to experience everything that Fort Lauderdale itself has to offer, and the city's location gives it easy access to the rest of Florida's southern tip.
Below are a couple of ideas that you might be interested in checking out! Stow your things safely at a suitcase locker in Fort Lauderdale and get ready for excitement on the Florida peninsula.
How to get out of Fort Lauderdale
Although Fort Lauderdale has an extensive network of canals and waterways, the roads remain the most efficient way of getting around. Water taxis can be used to reach many areas around the city and you will often see locals biking around town as well. For destinations that are not within biking distance, you could take a ride on the trolley, of which many of the lines are free to use.
If you are here on a stopover before a cruise, you'll sail out of Fort Lauderdale Port, also known as Port Everglades. This port is easy to get to by taxi, and then you'll be on your way.
Staying on land? When traveling outside of the city you can take advantage of the commuter bus which has routes going around the county. There is also a train that moves between Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach. Some people suggest renting a car while visiting the city as some places can't be reached by public transit and it is nice to not have to rely on a bus or train schedule. Taxis are also available if you choose to not rent a car during your trip.
From Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach
Of course, there are plenty of beaches in Fort Lauderdale, but as one of the most iconic places in the world, you just can't pass up a visit to Miami Beach. It is its own attraction and a separate area from the city of Miami, although the two are connected by bridges. The beach is located near Biscayne Bay and offers luxury hotels, a lovely boulevard, and pristine white sands for you to sunbathe on. It is the perfect spot to sip on cocktails and dine in world class restaurants with outstanding ocean views, although there are plenty of activities and attractions to enjoy in the area as well.
Take a trip down Ocean Drive to admire all of the Art Deco buildings, many of which are now restaurants and nightclubs, or learn more about the architecture of the area at the Art Deco Welcome Center. Places like Lincoln Road, Washington Avenue, and Collins Avenue are a paradise for shopaholics, and there are great museums nearby as well. Include a visit to the Wolfsonian-FIU while you are here!
How to get to Miami Beach
Miami Beach is found on the offshore barrier islands and can be reached from Fort Lauderdale using public transit in about an hour and a half to two hours. You will have to use both the train and bus to get here, so driving yourself might be simpler. The journey by car should take just under an hour.
From Fort Lauderdale to Everglades National Park
The ultimate day trip for adventure seekers and nature lovers is the Everglades. This 1.5 million acre preserve holds one of the most diverse and interesting ecosystems in the entire world, from vast wetlands to mangroves and other areas of pristine wilderness. It is a very important place for the local fauna and flora, making it a listed UNESCO site.
Beginning your visit at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, you will be taken on an exciting tour either on land or on water. Sign up for a trolley or airboat ride, or even both! Each journey will introduce you to a different part of the national park and offer insight into the significance of both ecosystems. If you'd rather explore the park on your own you can rent a bike, and there are plenty of trails to explore. Expect to do a lot of wildlife watching on your day trip, especially if you visit the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary! The American alligator is abundant here (feel free to observe them but always keep a safe distance), as well as pythons, panthers, turtles, manatees, dolphins, and several species of birds.
How to get to Everglades National Park
The best way to reach Everglades National Park is by driving yourself. It is a simple drive that should take under an hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale.
From Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach
Along the North Coast of Fort Lauderdale is West Palm Beach which offers a wide variety of activities from shopping and dining to cultural activities like art galleries. Similarly to Delray Beach, this area has been transformed to become more than just a resort destination and is home to plenty of entertaining activities. There are also plenty of pristine beaches in the area if you'd rather just relax by the water for the day!
If you do choose to go out exploring then the Mounts Botanical Garden is a nice place to start. After seeing the oasis and observing all of the tropical plants you can head to McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary where nearly 200 animals are being rehabilitated. There are plenty of stores to browse in the Palm Beach Outlets, and the Norton Museum of Art has lots of interesting exhibits as well. You can go on a sunset cruise before hitting the nightclubs that keep this coastal city alive! If you are lucky you might be visiting during the lively SunFest event; the largest waterfront music festival in all of Florida.
How to get to West Palm Beach
Getting to West Palm Beach won't take too long, you can get there in about an hour by car. You can also hop on the direct train and, depending on which one you take, you might be able to reach the area in only 40 minutes!
From Fort Lauderdale to the Florida Keys
Key Largo is the closest of the Florida Keys to Fort Lauderdale, and Key West is one of the furthest and most popular. Each one offers plenty of things to enjoy, aside from the natural beauty of the islands which is reason enough to visit. Here, you can go snorkeling with sea turtles and tropical fish in the only coral reef of the continental United States, relax on stunning white sand beaches, or swim in the outstandingly beautiful turquoise waters.
As you explore Key West make sure to check out Mallory Square where street performers often put on shows with live music and entertainment! Fun fact; this island paradise is where the famous Key Lime Pie was created, so you just have to try it while you are here. Key Largo has lots to offer as well, like the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
In between the two islands is a place called Islamorada which is known for fishing and is also home to the History of Diving Museum, the fascinating Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, and the Indian Key Historic State Park. This is your chance to join in on water sports like scuba diving and snorkeling to see the sea life, coral reefs, and shipwrecks up close. You'll never be bored when you spend time in the Florida Keys!
How to get to the Florida Keys
It is impossible to visit all of the Florida Keys in one day trip so consider choosing one island to focus on or come back here more than once. Luckily the islands are not located too far from the Fort Lauderdale area and you can drive there in a bit over an hour and a half.
From Fort Lauderdale to Biscayne Bay National Park
This place is special as it is the biggest marine sanctuary in the entire National Parks Service! You may not know that 95% of the park is actually found underwater and encompasses four different ecosystems, each with a unique community of marine life species. Many of them are endangered so you can have some educational fun while learning about the animals. The Biscayne National Park is located on the other side of Biscayne Bay.
Key Biscayne is part of the Florida Keys but is located a bit closer to Fort Lauderdale than the rest of other islands. Aside from everything to see underwater you will also find hiking trails near Biscayne Bay. Some companies also offer glass-bottomed boat tours if you want to see the reefs without getting wet. Check out Jones Lagoon, the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, and Stiltsville while you are here, too! It is sure to be one of the most unforgettable Fort Lauderdale day trips.
How to get to Biscayne Bay National Park
Ready to head to Biscayne National Park? If you travel a bit over an hour south of Fort Lauderdale you will reach Biscayne Bay, and the entire trip to the park shouldn't take more than an hour and a half.
From Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers Beach
Hopefully, you aren't tired of beaches yet! There are plenty of incredible beaches near Fort Lauderdale, but Fort Myers Beach is different from the rest. Overlooking the gulf coast, this fun small town resembles a quieter version of downtown Miami. It is a great spot to unwind and relax on your Fort Lauderdale day trip! You can bathe in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, go on a walk to spot wildlife, or get more active with attractions like parasailing and kayaking.
There are some terrific bars in the area but if you are traveling with the whole family then you can focus on other kid-friendly excursions. Take a cruise to Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve where you can watch as dolphins and manatees swim by! The Imaginarium Science Center is also a marvelous activity for kids.
How to get to Fort Myers Beach
Getting to Fort Myers Beach is best done by car. It is one of the further Fort Lauderdale trips but can be reached in a bit over two hours.
From Fort Lauderdale to Big Cypress National Preserve
Have you ever had the chance to explore a wild wetland? If you visit the Big Cypress National Preserve you will! Begin your journey at the Visitor Center where you will get to learn more about the area, and you will also find out that the Seminole Indian Tribe still calls it home. Take your time walking through boardwalks to admire that natural Florida beauty or even rent a kayak to explore the mangroves up close! Paddling trips are available as well.
If you feel up to it you can try your hand at Cypress Slogging, a hiking adventure that brings you off of the trail and into the pure wilderness. You will be led by a park ranger who will help you stay safe and point out wildlife and other interesting areas. You will probably see alligators and other animals during your time in the park, like the elusive Florida panther! While encountering wildlife it is important to keep a safe distance and respect the animal's personal space.
How to get to Big Cypress National Preserve
To get to the Big Cypress National Preserve you will need to use a car but it is a pleasant scenic drive. It will take about an hour and 15 minutes to reach the park, then you are ready to explore the area!
The Top Day Trips While Visiting Florida
Fort Lauderdale sure has a lot to keep you occupied, but with so many other attractions located just a day trip away, it would be a shame to not take advantage of it. It is fun to see how much things change from one place to the next, and every nearby city and beach is different from the last.
If you are interested in checking out more day trips from Fort Lauderdale there are some other fantastic options around South Florida, like the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, Flamingo Gardens, and Sawgrass Recreation Park! You can even take a trip to explore the Ten Thousand Islands which are located off Florida's southwest coast.