There is no better place than Fort Lauderdale Beach for a southeast vacation with a beautiful coastline and plenty to do. Neighboring the city of Miami, you’ll find exquisite culture and charming beaches in Fort Lauderdale Beach, but without the chaos of Miami. Not to mention, the coastal city is also within a short distance of the exotic Everglades.
With 24 miles of pristine beaches and coastal communities, here are things to do on vacation in Fort Lauderdale Beach, the best restaurants, and where to stay.
Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale Beach
1. Visit the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
One of the most treasured landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens transports visitors to the beginning of the 20th century. History suggests that the grounds of the Bonnet House site have had human activity dating back to 2,000 B.C.! In 2002, it was declared a historic landmark in Fort Lauderdale Beach and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is a historic art museum and gallery, full of works owned by the original owners Hugh Taylor Birch and his wife, Helen. Self-guided tours are available using a mobile device Tuesday – Friday from 11 am to 3 pm and Saturday and Sunday until 4 pm.
2. Go On an Interactive Private Cruise
The BlueFoot Pirate Adventures is a sure-fire way of keeping the kids entertained on a night out. This one-hour themed pirate cruise is interactive, with visitors from pirates! Washable “tattoos” and face painting are available before take-off, and children get to go home with a Pirate Certificate and Treasure Bag after the experience. In addition, you’ll learn how to talk like a pirate and get to fire real water cannons!
3. See Retro Cars at the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum
With the most extensive collection of Packard cars from 1900 on, the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum is a must for car enthusiasts. Its recently expanded 30,000 square-foot building allows guests to get up close with not only these historic vehicles but also see an array of hood ornaments, vintage gas station signs and lamps, vintage magazines and photos, as well as an entire exhibit dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
4. Explore the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
Founded in 1958, the NSU Art Museum showcases exhibitions that encompass all variations of our visual history. Located in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, right near Fort Lauderdale beach, the building itself is distinct and designed by the world-renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. The permanent collection highlights the United States’ most significant collection of 19th to 21st-century contemporary art by Black and Latinx artists and African art.
General admission is only $12 for adults and free for all children under twelve years old.
5. Get Around Fort Lauderdale Beach on the Sun Trolley
Explore all of Fort Lauderdale Beach with convenience and style with the Sun Trolley. This mode of transportation is entirely free for all passengers and transports riders all around the area. Explore downtown, local communities, head to the beach, the Riverwalk, as well as Las Olas.
6. Visit Fort Lauderdale Founder’s Stranahan House
The Stranahan House was built in 1901 by the area’s credited founding father, Frank Stranahan, and his wife, Ivy Cromartie Stranahan. With a varied past, the Stranahan House has served as a trading post, post office, and of course, original home to the Stranahan family.
Visitors can take a guided tour for a glimpse into the past, which tells the story of the birth of the Fort Lauderdale Beach community.
7. Go for a Nature Walk at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Residents of Fort Lauderdale Beach and visitors come to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park for a plethora of outdoor activities and serenity. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal, you can spot gopher tortoises and watch for boats setting sail. Sidewalks and trails are perfect for hiking, biking, or even rollerblading in this vibrant oasis. What’s more, visitors can take a ranger-guided walk every Friday and Saturday to gain an understanding of the unique habitat surrounding the park.
The park is open every day from 8 am to sunset. The entrance fee is $6 per vehicle or $4 for a single-occupant vehicle/motorcycle. Pedestrians and bicyclists’ admission is only $2.
8. Enjoy Shopping at Las Olas Boulevard
There is no other place to go than Las Olas Boulevard for the ultimate shopping, dining, drinking, and entertainment in all of Fort Lauderdale Beach. You’ll find a diverse mix of cuisines, bars, cafes, shops, and salons when visiting this iconic shopping center.
What’s more, sign up for art classes at the Igal Fedida Fine Art Gallery here, or bring your pet along with pet-friendly shops and restaurants.
9. Bird Watching at the Flamingo Gardens
Get up close to native wildlife and exotic flora and fauna at the Flamingo Gardens at Fort Lauderdale Beach. The 60 acres Botanical Garden and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1927 and are one of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida.
The hearth of the gardens is a naturally-made hammock, comprised of the 200-year-old Live Oaks orchids and epiphytes that drip from the branches. The Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary surrounds the gardens and is home to 90+ different native birds and animals, including over 250 wading birds. There are also alligators, bears, bobcats, otters, panthers, peacocks, and of course, flamingos.
10. Take a Day Trip to the Florida Everglades
An essential trip for any trip to southern Florida, the Everglades is about a one-hour trip from Fort Lauderdale Beach. It’s an absolute must! There are over 2,000 species of plants and animals, making it the perfect place for world-class fishing and bird watching. Not to mention, the Everglades is the only place in the world where you can see both alligators and crocodiles in the same place.
11. Go On a Segway Tour
If you’re looking to explore the Fort Lauderdale Beach area with convenience and a bit of fun, a segway tour is the perfect way to do cross off every item on your must-see list. You can find tours available that weave through downtown, Las Olas Boulevard, Hugh Taylor Birch Park, and even some residential areas.
12. Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show
For one of the most exhilarating and delicious dining experiences in Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show has been captivating guests since 1956. The award-winning menu offers prime steaks, duck, lamb, fresh seafood, and exotic Asian dishes. Eight dining rooms reflect the different cultures and regions of Polynesia.
Besides the exquisite menu that will satisfy even the pickiest palates, the Polynesian Show at the Mai-Kai Restaurant is also the longest-running in the entire United States (including Hawaii!) Drums, Samoan fire knife dancing, and a romantic Hawaiian wedding song are just a few of the show’s features.
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale Beach
When you’re visiting the beautiful Fort Lauderdale Beach, be sure to stay at one of the best resorts or hotels the coastal city has to offer.
Marriott’s Beachplace Towers
This vacation ownership resort by Marriott Vacation Club is the perfect home away from home when visiting Fort Lauderdale Beach. Marriott’s Beachplace Towers is steps away from the Atlantic Ocean, with every room giving scenic views. Nearby other Fort Lauderdale attractions such as the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, or the Museum of Discovery and Science, guests here can enjoy a perfect vacation.
Accommodations range from standard hotel rooms to two-bedroom villas with spacious living room areas, fully equipped kitchens, and private balconies.
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Only a few miles away from the iconic Las Olas Boulevard, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort faces the Atlantic Ocean with numerous amenities for the entire family. Enjoy direct beach access from the property, an on-site full-service spa, fitness center, and on-site restaurant for added convenience. Visit Ilios, the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, or S3, which offers scenic oceanfront views and seafood.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.
Author Mia Reid is a University of Central Florida graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English – Creative Writing. She specializes in writing, editing, search engine optimization, as well as graphic design, and digital marketing.