We’re big fans of Miami here at The Manual, but sometimes you want to experience the beautiful beaches, delectable food, and world-class shopping sans the hustle and bustle of the big city life.
To discover what the rest of South Florida has to offer, all you need to do is travel one hour north to Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding areas of Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton to indulge in gorgeous nature, an outstanding bar and restaurant scene, and some of the most breathtaking beaches in the country. Check out our guide for the best places to shop, eat and stay the next time you find yourself on this fun-filled stretch of the Atlantic coast.
Where to Stay
Fort Lauderdale has a whole range of oceanfront hotels, as well as plenty of Air B&B and VRBO options for one person or the whole family. Proximity to the beach, shops, good restaurants, and fun activities is paramount. Check out a few of our favorite options below.
W Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is known for its long stretches of beaches along Highway A1A. You can find upscale outdoor restaurants, nightclubs, and several luxury and boutique hotels along the promenade strip.
One of these luxury hotels is the W Fort Lauderdale — a beachfront hotel owned by Marriott. With a pool on the fifth floor, James Beard award-winning restaurants, and luxurious amenities like a gym and spa, you’ll enjoy your time at the W.
- Nearest Airport: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
- Time: 33 minutes
- Distance: 8.5 miles
B Ocean Fort Lauderdale
This iconic oceanfront resort has a storied history. Formerly known as the Yankee Clipper, it was a hangout for stars like Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe back in the day. Although some of the historical elements remain, the property was completely renovated in 2016 and now boasts stylish new designs and buildings, comfort-driven amenities, and a brand new restaurant from Chef Ralph Pagano, Naked Crab. The B Ocean staff is warm, helpful, and always willing to do anything necessary to make your stay more comfortable. Guest rooms offer views of the crystal blue Atlantic or the Intracoastal Waterway (we recommend a corner room — it’s breathtaking) and are equipped with comfy Blissful Beds, Aveda bath products, flat-screen TVs, and a mini-fridge to house leftovers or libations.
It’s easy to relax and unwind at B Ocean. The property is designed with a plunge pool on a sun-drenched patio and infinity pool that overlooks the hotel’s private beach. If an afternoon of sand and surf is on the agenda, take advantage of the chair and umbrella service and have drinks delivered directly to your towel. Treat yourself to B Ocean’s spa suite where you can customize a package with treatments like massages, hot stone therapy, and aromatherapy.
When cocktail hour comes around, make your way to the historic Wreck Bar, which was left unchanged during the hotel’s renovation, and catch the famous mermaid show on Friday and Saturday nights. There’s a family-friendly show at 6:30 p.m. and an adult-only burlesque version after 9 p.m. The lobby bar serves up killer tropical cocktails and a blackberry Old Fashioned that was a perfect pre-dinner aperitif. Grab a bite at Naked Crab, the poolside eatery Salty Siren or at the grab-and-go coffee bar Clipper Express that serves light bites and fresh juices. Rest easy knowing that B Ocean is committed to green initiatives and sustainable solutions.
- Nearest Airport: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
- Time: 20 minutes
- Distance: 6.1 miles
What to Eat
There are tons of different dining options in Fort Lauderdale, though fresh seafood and tiki drinks are at the top of the list.
- “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
- “$$”= average
- “$$$”= expensive
Housed inside the stunning Ritz-Carlton on Fort Lauderdale’s waterfront, Burlock Coast’s sweeping modern space makes it the perfect special occasion restaurant during your trip to the southern city. Dive into a specialty cocktail like the Rita Lavender — tequila, lime, lemon, lavender, orange liqueur, salt froth — as you snack on spicy pork rinds and marlin ceviche tacos with pickled peppers and pineapple. After you’ve perused the well-curated wine list, enjoy a main course like the black grouper with cannellini beans, kale, olives, tomato, and artichoke. Burlock Coast cares about supporting local family farms and purveyors, so you know you’re getting the best produce, meat, and fish in every bite.
- Best for breakfast, lunch, dinner
The Rebel House
You can’t make a trip to South Florida without paying a visit to one of Chef Michael Saperstein’s excellent restaurants, and we think The Rebel House is the best of the lot. A long list of munchies like pimento cheese-stuffed chicken poppers and a mini corned duck Reuben pave the way for larger dishes like a braised brisket meatloaf and country ham shank for two. The cocktails are excellent, so make sure you order one with a chaser of homemade fireball. If you get the post-drinking munchies, grab a burger — made with white American cheese, Charm City sauce, pickled tomato, and crispy onion — from the late-night menu.
- Best for dinner
Wind your way through Pizza Craft in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s bustling Himmarshee District, and you’ll find a pleasant surprise awaiting you in the back of the restaurant. Apothecary 330 is one of those speakeasies that you probably know is there, but entering the cavernous lounge will always be thrilling. Dark wood, velvet wallpaper, and oxblood leather banquettes set the mood for picking your poison, which may prove difficult considering they stock about 250 bottles with a healthy focus on bourbon.
Their classic cocktails are expertly made, so you can’t go wrong with an Old Fashioned or New York Sour if you’re feeling nostalgic. But you can’t leave without trying a specialty cocktail like Apothecary’s signature RX, a sweet-tart libation made with gin, rhubarb tea liqueur, charred strawberry, lemon juice, egg whites, and vincotto — a dense, aged balsamic vinegar that gives this drink an edge.
- Best for drinks
The Whale’s Rib Raw Bar
This seaside seafood spot has been serving the Deerfield Beach community for more than 30 years and is a true favorite for locals and snowbirds alike. Knickknacks and license plates adorn the walls, making it a perfect no-frills atmosphere for getting down to the business of eating really amazing seafood.
Start with a cup of homemade conch chowder or lobster bisque, and be sure to grab fish dip and whale fries — their signature freshly cut potato chips — for the table. Peel and eat rock shrimp are a must, and you might as well order some oysters while you’re at it, too. Finally, sink your teeth into the Fresh Dolphin Key West sandwich, which is topped with Swiss, purple coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing. Pro-tip: it’s great for breakfast the next day if you can’t finish it in one sitting.
- Best for lunch, dinner
Riverside Market and Cafe
When you walk into this laid-back hangout, it feels like you’ve found a secret craft beer clubhouse where the people are friendly — the food is delicious, and there are more than 550 cold brews waiting to be sipped. Peruse the self-serve coolers, divided by types of beer, for your perfect bottle or can, and enjoy the outdoor picnic tables or overstuffed armchairs and couches if you’re in need of AC. Come hungry to enjoy one of Riverside’s excellent pizzas — we recommend the barbecue chicken — or go for one of the overstuffed sandwiches that will no doubt get you through two meals.
- Best for breakfast, lunch, dinner
Surf and turf is the name of the game at this brand new restaurant in the B Ocean Resort. Helmed by Chef Ralph Pagano — who’s competed on Iron Chef and already has two successful Miami eateries — the menu focuses on quality ingredients and a wide variety of dishes to please everyone in your party. The menu is a shellfish lover’s dream. Guests are presented with a daily “Fish Scorecard” for the self-serve seafood bar that is packed with oysters, clams, lobster, and seasonal crab; you can also opt for a three-tiered seafood tower that ranges from $50 to $98. Carnivores can choose from seven different cuts of steak and add a lobster tail or king crab for only $10 more. If you want to splurge, try Chef Pagano’s Crabster, a two-pound king crab stuffed with shrimp, lobster, and more crab.
- Best for breakfast, dinner
JB’s on the Beach
This beautiful oceanfront restaurant is everything you could possibly want on a warm Florida day. We suggest gathering in the sunny dining room for a weekend brunch with family and friends — or posting up on the patio if you want to catch a live band. Start with crispy calamari and the tuna poke stack before indulging in the lobster and shrimp salad or a massive plate of fish and chips. Ask which catch is the freshest that day because those dishes are always the best.
- Best for lunch, dinner
What to Do
Relaxing on the beach and enjoying activities like surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and the like are perfect for a Fort Lauderdale trip. Here are a few great options.
If you’re looking to add a little nature to your trip, this animal and plant sanctuary is the perfect daytime activity for all ages. It was originally founded as a citrus orchard in 1927, and today it’s one of the last natural jungle growths in South Florida with more than 3,000 tropical and subtropical plants and trees. The main attraction is — of course — the flamingos, a friendly bunch that will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. But you’ll also find habitats for a number of other native creatures, including Florida panthers, otters, alligators, and peacocks, most of which are too injured or endangered to be released back into the wild. Proceeds from ticket sales help care for the park and animals, so it’s a fun activity that’s also a great cause.
Island Water Sports
This family-owned shop has been serving the Deerfield Beach surf and skate crowd since 1978, and it’s our go-to spot for everything fun and sun-related. If you’re in the area and want to hit the waves, they offer surfboard, stand-up paddle, skim, and bodyboard rentals from one hour up to one week.
They have a great selection of menswear if you’re shopping for the best sneakers, board shorts, or a bright, printed button-down. If you’re looking to brush up on your skills, check out Island Camps where you can learn alongside pro surfers and skaters. Early risers can take advantage of free surf, skim, and stand-up paddleboard lessons every Saturday at 7 a.m. But the best part about Island Water Sports is the staff who are friendly, knowledgeable and genuinely love what they do, so you’ll always have a special experience when you shop with them.
Radio Active Records
Audiophiles can get their fix at this independent record store that specializes in new and used vinyl, turntables, and accessories. Their well-curated selection is thoughtful and organized, perfect if you’re looking for something specific or if you want to discover an unfamiliar sound. The employees are helpful, knowledgeable and will let you play records on the in-store system before you buy them. We found a cool 1960s Cambodian pop compilation that’s been spinning on our turntable nonstop.
How to Save Money on Your Trip to Fort Lauderdale
Thankfully, enjoying the ocean is free (for the most part). Find free parking, claim your piece of beach, then relax on the sand or go swimming. No money needed. If you’re hoping to get into snorkeling or surfing and don’t already have the gear, consider renting. This can be cheaper than buying all new gear, and if you’re traveling from out-of-state, way easier logistically. If renting, ask if there are any discounts for multi-day rentals.
Additionally, some lodging options come with beach gear. Before booking, see if your Air B&B or hotel provides snorkeling gear, a kayak or SUP, beach chairs, bikes, or buckets and shovels for the kids. You’re going to pay for a place to stay, it might as well come with some of the things you’ll need to enjoy your trip.
Booking early will always save you money. So, if you’re planning a trip to Florida, book now!
Other money-saving options would be to bundle your flight, hotel, and car rental. Of course, hotels are not the only lodging available. Check out Air B&B and VRBO which might offer cheaper stays than a hotel. Traveling in the off-season will always be cheaper than visiting when it’s busiest.
Bundling your vehicle rental with your flight and hotel will save money allowing you to visit locations such as Key West or Disney World located in Orlando Florida. And the further in advance you book, the better. As with hotels, traveling in the off-season will often be cheaper than renting during the busiest time of the year.
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