Whether you’re a local or a visitor, exploring Greater Fort Lauderdale’s waterways by boat is accessible for everyone.
You know what pairs perfectly with beautiful weather and calm, clear waters? Boating — and Greater Fort Lauderdale has made a breezy lifestyle of the celebrated pastime.
With 300-miles of waterways, Greater Fort Lauderdale is a covetable water world for boating enthusiasts. Likened to Venice, the sunny destination boasts canals that weave through neighborhoods and past mega-mansions, the scenic New River in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, and of course, the busy Intracoastal Waterway that leads to the beautiful blues of the Atlantic Ocean.
Thanks to nice weather, boating is favored year-round in Greater Fort Lauderdale, perfect for cooling off in summer or enjoying the balmy breezes of winter. Boating enthusiasts should plan their visits around key water-centric events that happen every year.
Known as the “Yachting Capital of the World” with more than 50,000 registered yachts, Fort Lauderdale plays host to some of the biggest boating events around the globe. Boating events particularly ramp up in the fall and winter when the weather is usually picture-perfect.
At the end of October, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), the largest in-water boat show in the world, showcases the industry’s newest and biggest boats and superyachts. FLIBS has been around for more than 60 years, drawing an international crowd and boating enthusiasts who come for the worldwide debuts, larger-than-life superyachts tricked out with everything from helicopter landing pads to hot tubs, a medley of marine toys for the nautical lifestyle, and even exotic cars.
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s waterways shine bright in December with the annual Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, a cherished tradition for 50 years. Kicking off at the Historic Stranahan House Museum on the New River and winding along the Intracoastal Waterway to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano, the parade consisting of up to 100 vessels is the largest boat parade in the world. Families and friends gather along the 12-mile route to see the procession of mega-yachts, private boats, and even paddleboards and kayaks decked out in holiday decor and lights. The parade focuses on a different fun theme each year, and there’s always a celebrity Grand Marshal that leads the two-hour parade, which ends when Santa glides by on his (floating) sleigh.
An economical way to experience the breathtaking waterways is by hopping on the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi. The open-air boats make numerous stops along the New River and Intracoastal; or take a scenic ride with the Pompano Beach Water Taxi which also stops at key places. The water taxi captains are a wealth of knowledge, offering tips and interesting facts about mansions and landmarks along the waterways.
Spend a unique evening cruising on the Jungle Queen Riverboat where they’ll whisk you away for dinner on a tropical isle; or take a sightseeing cruise with Carrie B Cruises, a paddlewheel boat that offers a salon with picture windows and air conditioning.
If you prefer intimate, grab your squad for a relaxing sunset tour on an electric gondola with Riverfront Gondola Tours that leave from Las Olas Boulevard.
Don’t have a boat? No problem! Rent a boat to embark on a personal water adventure or charter a boat captain that will do all the work while you sit back and relax. Choose from a variety of boats and yachts that fit your desired size and style with Boatsetter, 100 Pro Boats, Aquatic Adventures, or many more. Book a private charter with Captain Ron Yacht Charters for day sails and sunset cruises, or spend a luxurious day or night on the water with Charter One Yachts.
Where to Boat
Finding a place to boat is easy in Greater Fort Lauderdale, and you could discover something new from a picturesque canal to a quiet cove every day.
For a leisurely cruise, breeze through the scenic New River, which slices through Downtown Fort Lauderdale and presents the chance to see all the high-rises and activity along the popular Riverwalk and Las Olas Boulevard.
If you’re not comfortable boating in the ocean, explore the area’s many winding neighborhood canals that are calm and easy to navigate like Harbor Beach or Las Olas Isles which can be accessed via the Intracoastal Waterway.
You’ll find the locals hanging out on Lake Sylvia in Harbor Beach, some leisurely floating on rafts attached to their boat or being pulled around on tubes.
A beautiful spot to drop anchor is off Hillsboro Beach where the water is crystal-clear and the towering Hillsboro Lighthouse is a site worthy of a postcard. The Hillsboro Inlet is also your gateway from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.
North Lake in Hollywood is another tucked-away spot to anchor; once you reach the middle of the lake, you can jump in for a swim, take off on a paddleboard, or stop at one of the many dock-and-dine restaurants like Billy’s Stone Crab or 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill. For another beloved gem, park your boat off Dania Beach for incredible views and low-key, quieter vibes.
Whatever floats your boat, don’t miss out on exploring and enjoying Greater Fort Lauderdale’s beautiful waterways.