Cruising The Venice Of America

Story by Bobbye Kenyon / Photos by John Kenyon

Fort Lauderdale welcomes you to discover its downtown excitement, historic locales, and mesmerizing seascapes.

The dog days of summer have faded into fall, delivering cooler temperatures and lower humidity. This terrific combination for an optimal cruising experience can be found along the waters of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With over 300 miles of navigable canals, channels, and waterways, this stunning locale, also known as "The Venice of America," is a unique boating destination.

photo of the entrance to Alsdorf Boat Launching Park
photo of a kayaker at Alsdorf Boat Launching Park

Local boaters enjoy this "downtime" season as less traffic on the waters, available dockage, and shorter lines also provide a slower boating pace, while crisp autumn winds usher in Northerners making their way to warmer breezes. "We are getting our folks who trailer their boats down from Canada and the Northeast back," Matt Domke, Downtown Dockmaster with City of Fort Lauderdale/New River Marine Facility, said. "We've had a lot more visitors than last year." This time of year, be sure to incorporate manatee season (November 15 to March 31) into your cruising itinerary as you cautiously navigate and share the waters with these gentle creatures. Manatee zones are areas designated along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) with Idle Speed/No Wake signs posted; it can be costly if you're caught speeding!

What's really neat is that if you check the calendar, you can plan a boating getaway that might include internationally recognized marine happenings like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) October 27-31 and Winterfest Boat Parade on December 10.

Cruising Advice

Heading south, it's an eight-mile run dotted with five bridges down the ICW from Pompano Beach to Port Everglades. The scenery is spectacular — canals, mega mansions with mega yachts, landmarks like Pier 66, and the natural beauty of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. A bevy of restaurants including a pair of popular dockside dining spots offer a temporary port along the way: Chart House, south of the Oakland Park Bridge, is a great place for lunch with its wonderful Intracoastal view, as casual dining and feeding the tarpons at 15th Street Fisheries provide a delightful dinner stop.

BoatUS Cooperating Marina dockmaster Matt Domke

If you tie up at the Forth Lauderdale New River Marina (a BoatUS Cooperating Marina) chances are good that you'll meet dockmaster Matt Domke

Cruising south, the Southeast 17th Street Causeway Bridge with a 55-foot vertical clearance paves the way to the deeply chiseled inlet at Port Everglades. The Port not only provides a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean for boating and fishing adventures, it's a bustling center of commercial activity with cargo and military vessels, while cruise-ship terminals offer a home to some of the largest passenger ships bringing visitors to the area. Fort Lauderdale is an incredible boating venue that invites you to come aboard and explore its many faces as you cruise this stunning segment of the ICW.

Thinking of a ride uptown and don't want to miss a thing? Then you might consider boarding the Water Taxi (Channel 68) for a delightful detour off the ICW, cruising along the New River as it weaves on a westerly route and cuts its way through the heart of the city. The pulsating Riverwalk beckons boaters to indulge in an exciting mix: the best of today with plenty of restaurants, trendy shops, and entertainment along with a sprinkling of local history at The Downtowner Saloon and Stranahan House Museum.

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TowBoatUS Ft. Lauderdale

Established as Offshore Marine Towing, Inc. in 1989 by Larry Acheson, TowBoatUS Ft. Lauderdale's corporate office (headquartered in Pompano Beach) oversees a vast area of operations. Their fleet ranges from 26 to 96 feet, servicing boaters who traverse these South Florida waters through two working locations: Lighthouse Point Marina and Fort Lauderdale at Lauderdale Marina.

"Our office handles the area from Boynton Inlet to Haulover Inlet, with extended coverage 130 miles into the Bahamas rather than the standard 25 miles," Barney Hauf, Director of Sales and Personnel, explained.

Not only does it assist boaters in distress, TowBoatUS Fort Lauderdale is a member of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida and is actively involved in the community through its Winterfest Boat Parade and Waterway Cleanup efforts. "It's great to do something for the community," Hauf added.

More Information For The Boater

Recommended Charts

11467 & 11470

Things To See And Do

Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau,

Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show,

Winterfest Boat Parade,

Boat Ramp Listings

Ft. Lauderdale and Broward County Boat Ramps Directory


Bahia Mar Yachting Center – Working Channel 16

City of Fort Lauderdale/New River Marine Facility – Working Channel 16

Riverfront Marina, 954-527-1829


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