Often overlooked as a destination due to its bigger and more famous neighbour Miami. Located in Southern Florida, about an hour drive north of Miami, it is a perfect destination to get away from the crowds and the tourist traps. Here you will find long white sand beaches where you don’t need to fight for towel space, plenty of lifeguards on duty and numerous beachside bars in case you get thirsty. Fort Lauderdale is the yachting hub of the USA. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself sipping cocktails with some of the world’s richest people.
With so many restaurants and bars to choose from and only a weekend away, where to go?
Read on to discover my guide to having the best time in Fort Lauderdale
~ Best Time to Go ~
Warm weather year round brings the snow birds plus other tourists in the winter time. To keep crowds to a minimum head down during autumn and spring. Summertime is HOT and humid, not to mention tropical storm season.
~ Getting Around ~
Uber has recently made a reappearance in Southern Florida and is usually the quickest and most affordable to get from A-B. Download the app if you haven’t already and use the code erinm3619ue to get your first rides free.
- If you don’t mind waiting, the bus system and the Sun Trolley are only a couple of dollars per ride and run every 10-20 minutes depending on day and route. Very easy and cheap for getting around the beach and Las Olas area.
- For day trips out of Fort Lauderdale try the Tri-Rail. Running from West Palm Beach to Miami Airport, this is another cost-effective way to get around without the hassle of traffic.
~ Where to Stay ~
- Airbnb – Like taking your home on holidays with you. Stay in a private room or an entire house. Generally cheaper than a hotel and comes with all the creature comforts you get used to at home. Also, helps keep costs down as you’ll have a kitchen to prepare your own meals.
- Sea Club Resort – This beachside hotel is not only in a key location but also features modern, recently renovated rooms. Step right outside your room to lounge by the pool and have a quick bite to eat with a restaurant on site.
~ Coffee O’Clock ~
At first glance, the coffee scene in Fort Lauderdale appears to be lacking. I’ve done the hard work for you and sourced out all the hidden and not so hidden gems.
- Warsaw Coffee Company With its bustling atmosphere and an open plan layout, this cafe open all day from early until late is my go to in Fort Lauderdale. These guys sure know coffee, offering a range of styles including pour over, drip, espresso and cold brew. Pair with an affordable but delicious breakfast sandwich or burrito and you’re on to a winner.
- Brew Urban Cafe A cosy, hidden gem in the arts district of town. Sip a strong espresso based coffee while watching any filming or photo shoots behind a glass divider separating you from next doors C&I Studios. Although no kitchen there are freshly baked pastries and cookies on offer. On certain nights Brew hosts special events, including The FAT Village Art walk, movie nights and open mic nights.
- Grind Coffee Project This was the first cafe I found in Florida which did great coffee. Unfortunately, they were moving and are still undergoing construction. Offering a variety of beans with the owner happy to talk you through the differences. Keep checking in on this place for when they re-open their doors.
- The Alchemist Set in a stunning outdoor garden, this cafe is a place you can spend all day. One of the first cafes to put their twist on bulletproof coffee trend but also serving all the old favourites. Egg options for brekky but focusing mostly on lunch.
~ What to Do ~
Beach, Beach, Beach. Make sure to pack your sunscreen and a good book. I’m sure you’ll be here all day.
Have a picnic in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Spend a day relaxing in the park and getting to know the local wildlife. I saw my first Gopher tortoise here. You can hire bikes to cycle around the perimeter of the park and kayaks for use in the small lake within. On a nice calm day out at sea, staff will even take stand up paddleboards across to the beach for you.
- If you’re lucky enough to be in Fort Lauderdale on the last Saturday of the month make sure you explore Fat Village and spend a few hours supporting local artists at the ‘Art Walk’. Live music, drinks and vendors selling all sorts of goodies, you’ll be sure to have a great evening.
People watch along Las Olas Boulevard while strolling along this tree-lined riverfront street. Stop in one of the trendy boutiques and finish off the day with a bite to eat and a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants.
- Keep a look out for any events and festivals happening while you’re in town. Tortuga Festival in April, Sun Fest in May and Fort Lauderdales famous Halloween parade are a few.
~ Let’s Get Happy ~
I love a good happy hour and Fort Lauderdale is teaming with them. For a combined food and drink combo the following are my best picks.
- Market 17. Located on 17th Street, this farm to table restaurant is more on the fancier side. However, get there for happy hour between 5 and 7pm and you can act like one of the rich kids without actually dropping the coin. You’ll find an extensive beer and wine list and appetisers all at half price.
- Coco Asian Bistro. This is my most visited happy hour venue in Fort Lauderdale, Coco’s does incredible Asian food and sushi. During happy hour they have a set menu and two-for-one drinks of wine, beer, house spirits and a cocktail or two. You don’t always get given the happy hour menu so make sure to ask for it. What makes this one of the best happy hours is its 7 days a week from 4pm to 7pm.
- Are you a seafood lover? Then Coconuts is for you. Set one street off the beach, overlooking the intercoastal you’ll find all sorts of happy hour specials. Seven days a week between 4pm and 6pm you can score half a dozen oysters for $7. Mon-Fri from 4-6 are half priced appetisers and $1.00 off drinks. My pick, the coconut shrimp and spinach and artichoke dip. Happen to be in town on Monday or Tuesday? You can pick up half priced bottles of wine all day.
~ Time For Dinner ~
- Rocco’s Tacos This centrally located restaurant on Las Olas is by far my favourite place to eat out and the best margaritas in Fort Lauderdale. Book ahead or arrive early to secure a seat for taco and tequila Tuesdays. Eat unlimited taco’s for $14.99 and wash it down with $15 margarita pitchers. Other drink specials include $3 Mexican beers and $5 tequila shots.
- Southport Raw Bar Set behind 17th street with a big balcony on the water you’ll find cheap and tasty American pub grub along with fresh seafood. When the weather is good, you’ll enjoy a burger or hot dog from the outdoor grill. Come here with a group of mates and share a pitcher for $11.50 for American drafts and craft beers for $19.50.
- For the veggies and vegans out there, check out Sublime. Enjoy the decor and although a little pricey feel good while you’re dining as 100% of the profits go towards animal welfare organisations. Don’t miss the Frito Misto, a crispy cauliflower appetiser with sweet chilli and sesame. Yum!
~ For You Late Nighters ~
Not ready to go home after dinner? Ready to keep on keeping on? I thought so, and what better place to do it then the balmy Fort Lauderdale where you can drink outside in t-shirts year round.
- For something a little different you beer lovers must check out Riverside Market. With two locations this establishment is full of fridges stocked with over 550 craft beers from around the world! The fun part here is you keep all your empties and pay at the end. Lounge back on couches and catch some local musicians in a laid back atmosphere.
- American Social. American-themed gastropub will keep you hydrated with great music and regular events and specials. Mondays are $5 burger and trivia night, Tuesday $4 craft beer and Thursday ladies drink for half price.
- For something a little schmancy but also chill you can’t go past Rhythm and Vine. With a big outdoor garden, you’ll feel like you’re at a mates backyard party. Delicious handcrafted cocktails, rotating food trucks and DJ’s most weekends it’s sure to be a blast.