When designer Keith De La Torre wants the ultimate staycation, he rounds up his kids and husband and takes their pontoon boat on a cruise anywhere from the Fort Lauderdale canals to South Florida’s offshore sandbars. “We bring lots of cold beverages and gourmet snacks,” he says. “And we have a grill, so we can barbecue off the back of the boat. It’s so relaxing; it’s just a beautiful place to explore.”
Venice of America. Boating Capital of the U.S. With its 300 miles of navigable canals, Greater Fort Lauderdale can rightly lay claim to both oft-heard titles. As a result of all those carefully planned man-made waterways—not to mention the plentiful sun, proximity to the Caribbean, and abundant salt- and freshwater fishing—the city is a boat lovers’ paradise.
You can experience virtually endless types of watercraft, from a three-hour sightseeing tour with Jungle Queen Riverboats to an intimate 75-minute voyage with Las Olas Gondola that will make you feel as if you’ve actually been transported to Venice.
Of course, the quintessential Fort Lauderdale boating experience is to grab some friends and captain your own speedboat from a vendor like A1A Boat Rental. The company’s most popular option is its 21-foot NauticStar, a deck boat perfect for a party of eight, with a low bow, so it’s easy getting into and out of the water. Once on the Intracoastal, you’ll see scores of similar-sized boats. The NauticStar features a Bimini top for shade and an open section in the front of the boat with bench seats for sunbathing. Another option is the 23-foot Maria, which can accommodate up to 10 people and has an anchor for sandbar hopping.
If you’re house hunting in Fort Lauderdale, you may want to consider nautical diversions when selecting a location. Designers Brett Sugerman and Giselle Loor bought and renovated a Fort Lauderdale home at the end of a canal, and it has had a major impact on their lifestyle. The couple invested in their first boat and now spend their downtime enjoying the Intracoastal Waterway with their children and their colleagues. They also find the hop-on/hop-off Water Taxi a convenient way to get to and from their favorite local spots and events— such as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show every fall.
Cognizant of prospective owners’ penchant for maritime recreation, some buildings cater to boating enthusiasts. The new Four Seasons Private Residences Fort Lauderdale, for example, maintains a staff of in-house boating experts. So even if your Tara Bernerd–designed oceanfront hideaway hovers 20 floors above the nearest marina, you’ll get assistance with slip accommodations and transportation to and from your yacht. That’s concierge service, Fort Lauderdale–style.
—by Drew Limsky