Fort Lauderdale is perfectly positioned to explore southern Florida and there are a host of brilliant day-trip destinations located within 60 to 90 minutes of the city. As you can imagine, there are a large selection of fabulous beaches if you just want to spend the day soaking up the sun or testing the waters – try Biscayne Bay National Park, Deerfield Beach, Hollywood Beach or Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Nature lovers have the spectacular Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve to explore by car, air-boat, canoe or kayak.
Fabulous Miami is a many-faceted destination which offers visitors a myriad of attractions. In addition to all the above there are excellent museums, stately homes and gardens, boat cruises and much, much more to enjoy.
1. Delray Beach
Fabulous Delray Beach has been voted as the “Most Fun Small Town” by several travel publications and welcomes visitors to come and experience everything the town has to offer. Besides relaxing on the wonderful beach or strolling past the eclectic assortment of unique shops and restaurants along Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach has several other activities for day trippers. You can visit the Delray Beach Historical Society at Cason Cottage Museum, take a tour of the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, have a picnic at Veteran’s Park or grab a paddleboard from Saltfly Paddleboard Rentals. Try to visit on the third or fourth weekend of each month when you can join a free Taste History Culinary Tour.
Delray Beach, FL 33444
2. Big Cypress National Preserve
The Big Cypress National Preserve protects the massive Big Cypress freshwater swamp, which in turn provides a home for countless plants and native Florida wildlife. The preserve is located about 75 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, where it offers a fun and educational day out for the whole family. There is no shortage of fun family activities in the preserve which you can explore on foot or by bike along several trails. Wherever you go you can enjoy wonderful wildlife viewing including the opportunity to spot otters, turtles, alligators and even the elusive Florida panther. Canoeing and kayaking are other popular family activities.
Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141, Phone: 239-695-2000
3. Biscayne Bay
The amazing Biscayne Bay National Park is located approximately one hour south of Fort Lauderdale, where it offers a perfect day of water activities in pristine surroundings. The enormous marine park covers over 173,000 acres of azure waters, coral reefs, islands and keys. If it is your first visit to the park you could benefit from a guided snorkeling, boating or kayaking tour which will introduce you to the splendors of the park. Park activities include sailing (lessons available), scenic boat tours, diving and snorkeling excursions, sea-plane tours and fishing charters. You can find all the information you need at the Visitor’s Center.
Biscayne Bay National Park, 9700 SW 328th St, Sir Lancelot Jones Way, Homestead, FL 33033, Phone: 305-230-1144
4. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Located on a coastal barrier island close to central Fort Lauderdale, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens will entice visitors to step back in time to the gracious 1920’s, when the home was built by the Chicago-born artist Frederick Clay Bartlett. Today Bonnet House joyfully celebrates the artistic talents of Frederick and his third wife Evelyn, both of whose art is prominently displayed throughout the house. The gardens are impressive to say the least and visitors can admire one of the best collections of orchids the country. You can also take a walk along the nature trail where manatees can still occasionally be spotted. The home also boasts a gift shop, orchid shop and café. Arriving by water taxi adds to the fun of your visit.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, 750 Breakers Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, Phone: 954-563-5393
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5. Coral Springs
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Located just 30min from Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs has all the necessary ingredients for a great day out. Art lovers can visit the Coral Springs Museum of Art or catch a show at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. There is plenty of outdoor fun to be had in the Tall Cypress Natural Area where you can walk, hike, cycle or picnic in beautiful natural surroundings. Water enthusiasts can learn to scuba dive at No Shenanigans Dive Shop. Downtown Coral Springs offers great shopping and dining as well as regular events and a thriving Farmer’s Market.
Coral Springs, FL 33065
6. Dania Beach
Offering day visitors a long list of popular activities, Dania Beach is easily accessible from Fort Lauderdale by car or bus. One of the area’s most popular attractions if the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park which offers a great variety of beach and lagoon facilities including canoeing, swimming, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. To get a great overview of the coastline you can go on a charter boat trip with Cruzin Dania Beach. You can enroll your kids in the Live Oak Camp to learn all about the marine wonders of the Florida Coast, while fishing enthusiasts will not want to miss visiting the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum.
Dania Beach, FL 33004
7. Deerfield Beach
Perfectly nestled between the Boca Raton and Hillsboro inlets, just half an hour north of Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach is the ideal day-trip location for the whole family. The beach has been awarded Blue Wave status for its crystal clear waters, beach facilities and eco-friendliness, but Deerfield Beach is more than just a brilliant beach destination. You can spend the day at Quiet Waters Park, one of just a handful of Florida venues where you can try cable skiing, or make your way to Sullivan Park where there is a huge splash-pad for children to enjoy. Fishing is rumored to be excellent from the International Fishing Pier and there are loads of excellent seafood restaurants to discover.
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
8. Everglades National Park
Fort Lauderdale locals and visitors are fortunate to have the amazing Everglades National Park just about on their doorstep (You can reach the Shark Valley park entrance in about an hour from Fort Lauderdale). To get a marvelous overview of the park energetic visitors can climb to the top of the observation tower (65ft high). A good way to see the sights is to join a guided 2-hour Shark Valley Tram Tour. Other activities in the park include canoe and kayak excursions, bicycle rentals, ranger-led walking tours, fishing, hiking and boating. Bird watching and photography opportunities abound throughout the park.
Everglades National Park, Shark Valley Entrance, 36000 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33194, Phone: 305-221-8776
9. Fort Myers
Fort Myers is located on the west coast of the Florida panhandle, approximately two hour’s drive from Fort Lauderdale, so you will need an early start for a day visit. The city offers many excellent activities for families, starting with the impressive IMAG History and Science Center where you can have hours of educational fun with over 60 interactive exhibits. Six Mile Cypress Slough Reserve has a brilliant boardwalk for wildlife watching, while Manatee Park offers paved walking trails and kayak rentals for some up-close manatee watching. History buffs and garden lovers will enjoy touring Burroughs Home and Gardens and the fabulous Edison and Ford Winter Estates or joining the Historic Walking Tour.
Fort Myers, FL 33913
10. Hollywood Beach
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You will find Hollywood Beach about halfway between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, where a wonderful two and a half-mile boardwalk leads you along a brilliant sandy beach. The (brick) boardwalk is perfect for walking, cycling and rollerblades, so be sure to bring yours along. Once you have enjoyed all the beach facilities you can hop aboard the free Sun Shuttle which will take you to arty and bustling Downtown Hollywood where you can do the rounds of the various art galleries, shops and boutiques. Try not to miss the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, the Arts and Culture Center of Hollywood and the Historic Downtown Walking Tour.
Hollywood Beach, FL 33020
11. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Scenically tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offers Fort Lauderdale residents and visitors a serene green coastal oasis for relaxation and recreation. You can access the park by boat from the Intracoastal Waterway or on foot via a pedestrian tunnel. Once there you can enjoy walking trails, spend some time on the beach, relax under a shady tree or go cycling. Swimming, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking are all popular park activities and many visitors bring along a picnic and stay for the day. If you visit on the weekend you can join a ranger-led interpretive walk.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, 3109 East Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, Phone: 954-564-4521
12. Jungle Queen Riverboats
One of the very best ways to get acquainted with the many splendors of coastal Fort Lauderdale is to step onboard a Jungle Queen or River Queen cruise. The fabulous riverboats offer a variety of cruises to suit all interests, starting with a ninety-minute morning sightseeing cruise through Millionaire’s Row, where you will see homes of the rich and famous, wonderful scenery and luxurious yachts. The afternoon cruise offers all the above sights plus a visit to a tropical island where you can see wildlife including alligators. The evening cruise is the best of all, including a live show and an awesome buffet on the island.
Jungle Queen Riverboats, 801 Seabreeze Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316, Phone: 954-462-5596
13. Lake Okeechobee
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A scenic drive of around eighty minutes will get you from Fort Lauderdale to Clewiston, the most convenient town for accessing Lake Okeechobee. The lake is probably best known for the outstanding fishing opportunities it offers – visitors come from near and far to try and catch some of the lake’s famous largemouth bass and perch. However, you do not have to be a fishing enthusiast to enjoy the lake area; hikers can access the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail which offers outstanding bird watching, while rafting, canoeing and kayaking are other popular activities. You could also go on a three-hour guided boat tour, do the Sugarland Express Tour of a local sugarcane farm or pop into the Clewiston Museum, located in the old police station.
Lake Okeechobee, Florida
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For a change of pace and the opportunity to enjoy remarkable shore diving and snorkeling, Fort Lauderdale residents simply need to drive fifteen minutes north to the lovely seaside village of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. This small town has earned a wonderful reputation as a fun beach-holiday destination where small, family-owned hotels still welcome returning visitors year after year. There are a multitude of quaint beach-front cafés and restaurants where you can watch the passing parade. It is also famous for shore diving – here you can simply walk off the beach and swim to a remarkable live coral reef to see tropical fish and even turtles. Bike rentals and a free shuttle bus are available to help you explore.
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, FL 33062
No visitor to Fort Lauderdale should leave the area without spending at least a day soaking up the unique atmosphere and style of Miami. Architecture enthusiasts will love the wonderful art-deco buildings of Miami Beach, many of which have featured as the backdrop in programs such as Miami Vice. Miami’s vibrant downtown features the Perez Art Museum and the outdoor Bayside Marketplace, both of which are a must on your itinerary. Other must-see areas include the Wynwood Art District (tours available), the iconic Coconut Grove and historic Coral Gables. If you have the time you should take a drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne for magnificent views of the Miami skyline and a taste of the famous Florida Keys.
Miami, FL 33101 -33205
16. Miami Beach
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Miami Beach is well worth a visit even if you don’t want to spend time lazing on the beach or rollerblading along the famous South Beach Boardwalk Promenade. The South Beach Art Deco District will have you thinking you have stepped back in time – the best way to appreciate the nostalgic old buildings is to join an Art Deco Tour of famous Ocean Drive. Both South Beach and North Beach boast a stunning selection of beach-front cafes and restaurants where you can relax with a cocktail and watch the world go by. Family activities include a Miami Beach Segway Tour or a Splashdown Duck Tour.
Miami Beach, FL 33109-33299
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17. Pompano Beach
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Easily accessible from Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach offers a host of fabulous fun-in-the-sun activities for the whole family. A three-mile long wide sandy beach offers an ideal family-friendly environment where children can enjoy a variety of beach activities including volley-ball and water sports. Snorkeling enthusiasts and scuba divers can easily swim out to the off-shore reef and there are even 18 ship wrecks for serious divers to explore. Pompano Beach is also known for offering excellent sport fishing. You can also explore the beautiful Intracoastal Waterways on a comfortable boat cruise. Other attractions include the Isle Casino, at least four golf courses and the very popular indoor Festival Flea Market.
Pompano Beach, FL 33060-33074
18. Sawgrass Recreation Park
The Sawgrass Recreation Park is a privately-owned business which offers thrilling boat rides through the unique Florida Everglades. The park is located on the edge of the amazing Everglades in Weston, which lies about 45min west of Fort Lauderdale. Your exciting Sawgrass adventure starts with a thrilling and informative air-boat tour through the waterways and swamps, where you will learn all about the ecological significance of the Everglades and the creatures which make it their home. You will have the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of wildlife both during your boat ride and at the reptile exhibit, where you can actually hold a baby alligator.
Sawgrass Recreation Park, 1006 N. US Hwy 27, Weston, FL 33327, Phone: 954-389-0202
19. South Florida Science Center and Aquarium
© South Florida Science Center and Aquarium
Located in West Palm Beach, about an hour north of Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is a brilliant destination for a family day out. Adults and children can have hours of educational fun as they make their way through over 50 interactive science exhibits. Other exciting family activities include a rainforest adventure (indoor maze featuring many rainforest surprises), a large outdoor splash-pad, mini-golf and daily planetarium shows. The large fresh and salt water tanks in the Aquarium feature a good variety of marine life. When you need a break you can visit the café for a drink and snack.
South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, 4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach, FL 33405, Phone: 561-832-1988
20. Tamiami Trail
Taking a leisurely scenic drive along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) is a wonderful idea for a back-to-nature day trip from Fort Lauderdale. The trail starts about twenty miles west of downtown Miami and before you even reach the entrance to the Everglades National Park you will have a chance to stop off for a thrilling air-boat tour. Once inside the park you might like to take a side trip through the Big Cypress National Preserve along Loop Rd, which offers excellent opportunities to spot wildlife such as alligators, otters, deer and numerous birds. If you continue on the Tamiami Trail through the amazing Everglades landscape you will find several good spots to stop and stretch your legs, have a picnic, launch your kayak or do some wildlife watching.
Tamiami Trail, U.S. 41, Florida
21. Flamingo Gardens
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Conveniently situated just a short 20min drive from central Fort Lauderdale, Flamingo Gardens is a very pleasant destination for a family day trip. The Flamingo Garden complex includes the Wray Botanical Collection, featuring fifteen acres of stunning themed gardens including the Children’s Garden, Bromeliad Garden, Croton Garden and the Butterfly Garden. From the gardens you can move on to see the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to more than 85 species of animals unique to Florida and the Everglades. There is a huge walk-in aviary where you can get up close and personal with many brilliant birds and other activities in the gardens include a narrated Tram Tour and regular Wildlife Encounter Shows.
Flamingo Gardens, 375o South Flamingo Rd, Davie, FL 33330-1614, Phone: 954-473-2955
22. The Florida Keys
The legendary Florida Keys lie off the southern-most point of Florida, approximately two and a half hours from Fort Lauderdale. Although it is possible to drive the all the way from Miami to Key West and back on a day trip, you will not have any time to stop and explore. A better idea would be to consider spending a night somewhere along the way. The over-ocean drive from Key Largo to Key West, along U.S. 1 is considered to be one of the world’s most scenic drives. The delightful islands which make up the Florida Keys each have something special to add to your adventure including sensational snorkeling and scuba diving, sports fishing, and a laid-back tropical island atmosphere.
The Florida Keys
23. The Coral Castle
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Although the famous Coral Castle is neither a castle nor composed of coral, a visit to this fascinating place would make a great day trip for anyone who enjoys whimsical and unexplained phenomenon. The structure is made up of over 1,000 tons of quarried limestone and what makes it unique is that it was entirely designed and built by a single person. You can expect to see some amazing rock shapes which were entirely hand-chiseled using rudimentary tools and then hoisted into place by what some people believed to be supernatural powers. The entire “castle” is an intriguing engineering feat and well worth a visit. Drive time from Fort Lauderdale is about an hour and the castle is open daily.
Coral Castle, 28655 S. Dixie Hwy, Homestead, FL 33033-1214
24. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
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Built around 1914 in Miami’s legendary Coconut Grove, Vizcaya was the Italianate winter residence of James Deering and was entirely surrounded by acres of subtropical forest. To say that Vizcaya is elegant and sumptuous is an understatement and you could be excused for thinking you have entered the home of royalty. The home offers stunning views out over Biscayne Bay and the extraordinary European-style formal gardens are inspiring to say the least. There are two ways to explore this magnificent estate – you can join guided tours of the main house and garden or you can purchase an audio tour which allows you to explore in your own time. Both the house and the gardens contain amazing art collections to admire. Drive time from Fort Lauderdale is less than an hour.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 3251 S Miami Ave, FL 33129, Phone: 305-250-9133
25. West Palm Beach
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There is never a dull moment in West Palm Beach, making this the ideal destination for a fun-filled day trip from Fort Lauderdale. West Palm Beach has something to offer everyone starting with a great treat for art lovers who can feast their eyes on the collections of the Norton Art Museum before heading outdoors for a stroll through the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. For retail therapy you have Palm Beach Outlets, Antique Row and City Place. Families can take the children to the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium or the Palm Beach Zoo (which just happens to be right next door). When you need a break from exploring you can make your way to one of the trendy cafes on Clematis Street to sip, see and be seen.
West Palm Beach, FL 33401-3417
What are the 25 Best Day Trips from Fort Lauderdale?
The 25 Best Day Trips from Fort Lauderdale according to local experts are: