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Fort Lauderdale & The Jungle Queen Riverboat
Is there really more to Florida than Orlando?
Of course there is. We had a week in Fort Lauderdale and this is what we got up to.
First of all it’s important to say that this is several hours from Orlando, so it’s not really day trip material. We had just had a week in Naples on the Gulf Coast, prior to heading across Florida on Alligator Alley to get to Fort Lauderdale, which is just North of Miami on the Atlantic coast.
Whereas Naples was peaceful, beautiful and a little on the quiet side, Fort Lauderdale couldn’t be more different.
This is the real USA with tourists only being part of the scene. It’s a big place compared to most of the tourist areas and there’s a broad spectrum of society here, from some very run down areas, to the outrageously wealthy.
As you drive into town your first impression is very different to the beautiful approaches to places like Clearwater or Sarasota. Some of the outskirts look a little downbeat, but don’t let this put you off as things start to pick up when you hit the coast road.
Fort Lauderdale has a buzz to it. There’s a lot to do here and the place is busy. You can tell you’re not far from Miami, as it has that kind of feeling. Remember the opening sequence to Miami Vice? Well this has the same rhythm, from the numerous beach bars, the wide expanse of sand, and the obligatory bikini clad beach babes roller-skating or playing volleyball!
What we really love about Fort Lauderdale is the enormous stretches of rivers and waterways that extend behind the beachfront.
A real must when you first get there is a trip on the famous water taxis, which not only drop you all along the waterways, but you get a running commentary from the driver too. This is how you get to see how the other half live. Fort Lauderdale has some incredible waterfront properties worth many millions of dollars and is home to many famous names.
The water taxi driver gives you the history of each house and who lives or lived there, and some really great stories about them. You get to see some incredible yachts (many are more like small cruise ships) and the river on which many of the old Tarzan films were made. Legend has it that Johnny Weismueller lived at one of these waterfront properties and he used to swim home from the film set every day – this despite the fact that the waterways were then inhabited by now rare American crocodiles, which were a lot more ferocious than the Alligators that now rule the roost.
The water taxis can drop you off at Las Olas Boulevard which is a great place to go for speciality shops, really fine dining and great nightlife. We visited here on many occasions.
Having so much water in front and behind you is a real opportunity. The best trip to get you away from it all is the Jungle Queen Riverboat. This is a real old fashioned American riverboat, exactly how you’d imagine one to look. With its triple decks and white balustrades and supporting columns, it’s more of a wedding cake than a boat.
This is a real piece of history and it’s a great day out, not to mention a great way to catch some sun, as the top deck is open.
The journey is a slow meander along the various waterways and wider mangrove encrusted expanses. You get to see some really great wildlife and all you can do is relax and watch the water twinkle in the sun, and the scenery go by. A great way to knock some years off the clock as you leave the hustle and bustle behind you.
Fort Lauderdale really has a lot to offer compared to other, more sleepy destinations. We were lucky enough to be there for Independence Day, so we got the beachfront fireworks thrown in for free, whilst we lounged in a bizarre hammock bar sipping cocktails as the partying started all around.
There really is more to Florida than Mickey.
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