Travel Story Jay-walking and jumbo-size ships in Fort Lauderdale

Photo of Niall McIlroy

A flying visit can give you a feel for a place. Fun first impressions of Fort Lauderdale have certainly lasted long in the memory.

Few places have benefited from the cruise ship industry as much as the Floridian city of Fort Lauderdale. The city’s population was falling in the 80s but as cruising has enjoyed a worldwide boom, Fort Lauderdale has reaped the rewards. 

Known as the Venice of America, for its 266km of canals, the city is a gateway to the Caribbean, the Bahamas are just 80km east. Its harbour at Port Everglades is home to the world's two biggest cruise ships, Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas and 15 of the world’s major cruise lines are using it as a terminus. 

An incredible 3.7 million cruise passengers come through each year, thankfully not all at once and on the day I was in town. But a good many had arrived early or stayed on after their voyage to explore the city which centres on the classy downtown area of Las Olas Boulevard with its succession of boutiques, art galleries, shops, nightclubs and bars.

Riven by canals lined by big houses and in some cases bigger catamarans and private yachts, the area has been home to the likes of duos Sonny and Cher, Lucille and Desi, the Million Dollar man Lee Majors and the man who couldn’t spell potato Dan Quayle.

For the record, Fort Lauderdale also has on the biggest flea markets on the plant and the world’s biggest drive-thru. The cities of Miami and West Palm Beach are nearby and immediately to the west is the sponge of swamp and sawgrass that is the world-heritage listed Everglades National Park.

With littIe more than 24 hours to recover from jet lag, I hadn’t much time to explore Fort Lauderdale but took a liking to the thick wet breeze that sweeps in off the Atlantic and the laid-back people that seem typical of many of the world’s ports. There are apparently 4000 restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and there seemed to be a busy eatery on every street corner. There could be four million palm trees. The place is like Riverside Drive gone troppo.

Musings from the States

It’s often said that Australia is becoming more like America, but each time I visit the States I’m struck by the differences rather than the similarities. Here are a few random notes.

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