Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is known for its beaches and all sorts of fun water activities, thanks to its year-round warm weather and sunny skies. However, as most locals here know, it’s also the "Yachting Capital of the World." Although most people know where the best stretches of sandy coastline are, the top spots for boat watching may be less obvious.
We’ve made a list of some of the best annual events for avid boat watchers, as well as spots where you can see a range of yachts and cruise ships go by. Next weekend, take your partner, family, or friends out to one of these amazing spots to enjoy a day of boat watching while basking in the beautiful Florida sun.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Jetties
Due to its reputation as a popular cruise destination, Fort Lauderdale sees its share of cruise ships from all around the world coming into and leaving out of Port Everglades. The best place to watch them go by is at the Fort Lauderdale Beach Jetties, located at 2100 S. Ocean Lane, Fort Lauderdale.
Most people set up in the area between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., preferably on the weekend. This is when most ships arrive and depart, sailing right past the jetties as they do so. If you’ve never been there, the best place to leave your car is at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. Then, it’s about a ten minute walk to access the beach from its north side, just north of Inlet Drive.
You can also combine boat watching at the jetties with other activities. The jetties are a popular place for fishing and occasionally get some good waves for surfing. Bring a group with you to spend the afternoon in this scenic spot and enjoy the waters and boats of Fort Lauderdale.
Winterfest Boat Parade Viewing Area
This year, on Saturday, Dec. 22, get ready for the impressive Winterfest Boat Parade. Watch some of the area’s most beautiful boats go by, done up in bright neon decorations. The passing boats light up the night and create a unique, spectacular sight to behold — one that the whole family will love.
The event provides seating in the Winterfest Boat Parade Viewing Area located at Las Olas Intracoastal Promenade Park in East Fort Lauderdale. Guests are encouraged to arrive as early as possible to enjoy the enticing amenities and events, including live performances from the talented people at iHeartRadio. Don’t forget to take a break for some food and drinks at the Stella Artois Culinary Courtyard.
The boat parade starts at 6:30 p.m. along the New River and passes the viewing area around 7 p.m. However, the gates open at 4 p.m., so arrive early in order to enjoy the festivities and grab a good seat.
Why not combine an evening of boat watching with one of the most delicious meals in the area? Stop by Coconuts Restaurant, right off Seabreeze Blvd., and enjoy one of the many fresh seafood options on the menu. The fish tacos and lobster rolls are customer favorites.
The open-air restaurant faces the marina and the Intracoastal Waterway. This makes it a great place to watch jaw-dropping luxury yachts, charming boats, and bigger ships go by, all while indulging in a great meal.
This upscale restaurant has one of its three dining spaces right on the Intracoastal Waterway, where patrons can watch yachts, boats, and all kinds of ships go by while splurging on a gourmet meal. One of the perks of eating at Shooters Waterfront is the lively atmosphere of the restaurant coupled with the frequent events that take place there. On most weekends, you’ll find live music, as well as weekend brunches served both buffet style and à la carte.
Shooters Waterfront is open for brunch, lunch, happy hour, and dinner. So, no matter what time of the day you feel like boat watching, you can come by and relax in the tropical environment and decor of one of Fort Lauderdale’s best restaurants.
Blue Moon Fish Co. Restaurant
Located at 4405 W. Tradewinds Ave., Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Blue Moon Fish Co. is located right on a serene canal lined by many bars and restaurants on either side. The restaurant is known for one of the best raw bar selections in town, as well as for the locally sourced, fresh seafood used in its dishes. If you visit with a large group, make sure to share the delectable seafood tower, one of the most popular items on the menu.
Here you can watch some of the smaller boats and yachts of the area drift slowly down the canal toward open water. Some guests even arrive via the water. Many locals dock their boats right off the restaurant’s patio and walk in for a scrumptious dinner before hopping back on after eating.
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show
Check out the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show to see the largest collection of boats from all over the world during this five-day exhibit. In 2022, the event took place Oct. 26-30 in several locations around the city, including the Broward County Convention Center, Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Hall Of Fame Marina, Las Olas Marina, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Pier 66 Marina, and Superyacht Village at Pier 66 South.
The boat show goes beyond simple boat watching to provide a VIP experience for those willing to splurge on it, including upscale dining options, open bars, and a complementary water taxi service to take you around the various exhibits. Check out the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show website to see when the next show is taking place.
Have you visited any of above boat watching spots or events in the Fort Lauderdale area? If you have a suggestion that you think we missed for excellent boat watching in town, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us at the biostation and let us know where to find your favorite boat watching destination.
Image: Fort Lauderdale-Intracoastal Waterway by Daniel Piraino is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.