Fort Lauderdale is a sunny, popular destination that’s located on the southeastern coastline of Florida.
Looking out over the beautiful waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a firm favorite year-round holiday city, offering not only incredible beaches but a vibrant nightlife, culinary scene, and excellent day trip opportunities.
Fort Lauderdale is ideally situated; it’s close to the eclectic city life of fabulous Miami, while to the south and north, stretching for mile upon mile, are glorious beaches and coastal communities just waiting to be explored.
The city is within easy reach of the diverse and wild Everglades National Park – home to one of the world’s most unique ecosystems – while on the opposing coastline of the Florida Peninsula, the many beautiful national parks and beaches surrounding Fort Myers are just a day trip away.
There are many epic opportunities for day trips from Fort Lauderdale, here are the best of them:
The center of Miami is just a short 30-minute drive away to the south of Fort Lauderdale and it’s a must-visit destination for anyone staying in the region.
It’s a huge place, and you could spend more than just a day exploring every neighborhood and quirk that the city has to offer.
First-time visitors should start by heading to the famous Downtown area.
This is where life in Miami happens – where restaurants, bars, and shopping malls are found and business is conducted.
There are museums to visit and huge parks to walk around.
You will quickly realize that Miami is much more than just this area.
Head on down to Little Havana for a colorful taste of the Cuban life that has entrenched itself in the sunny shores of the city, before heading to the old and historic Coconut Grove area to experience a different side of life here too.
Save Money: Miami & the Keys Explorer Pass: 3, 4, or 5 Attractions
2. Miami Beach
Miami Beach is one of the world’s most iconic beaches.
Although it shares the same name as the city, it is, in fact, a separate area and worth a full day trip of its own from Fort Lauderdale.
Miami Beach is found on a set off offshore barrier islands, separated from the rest of Miami by the Biscayne Bay but connected by bridges.
This is the Miami that you are probably picturing when you imagine the city because this is where the long beaches, lavish hotels, and beautiful boulevards are found.
This is where you can mix with the rich and famous on the boardwalks, spend the day relaxing on the white sands or enjoying fine dining and cocktails in the evening with a sea view to match the price.
3. Biscayne Bay
Biscayne Bay is found south of Miami.
It’s a large area of water that forms a sheltered harbor and natural beauty abounds.
The northern area is fringed by the city – a bustling place where cruise ships call in and boats dock, but the southern area is a beautiful protected national park.
The Biscayne National Park is home to clear waters and barrier reefs.
This is where the Florida Keys begins; much of the national park is underwater, making this an ideal day trip for those looking to snorkel or dive.
Many companies also run glass-bottom boat tours out into the marine reserves, giving you the chance to see this colorful and diverse underwater world without getting wet.
4. The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are one of the most dramatic sights in the state.
This collection of coral reefs and islands is strung out from the southern tip of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico.
They are a truly epic natural phenomenon, with beautiful white sand beaches, tropical climes and snorkeling opportunities around every turn.
The islands are connected by roads and bridges – themselves an incredible feat of engineering.
There are many different spots to visit, with Key Largo being the closest island in the Florida Keys to Fort Lauderdale, and Key West one of the best known but most distant.
Halfway along the chain you can find Islamorada – a stunning place to visit.
You might find that you keep returning to the Florida Keys until you’ve witnessed every single island and atoll.
5. The Everglades
The Everglades are one of the world’s most unique and diverse ecosystems.
Found to the south of Fort Lauderdale, this is one part of Florida that it would be a crime to ignore when visiting the state.
The Everglades are a vast area of wilderness, mangroves, and wetlands, whose importance is recognized by its listing as a UNESCO site.
Tour operators run day trips down to the Everglades National Park, where you can experience this ecosystem in true Floridian fashion by cruising the extensive waterways on the iconic airboats.
This is alligator country, so be ready to spot these fearsome creatures in their natural habitat, as well as a huge variety of other wildlife in this special protected area.
Recommended tour: Private 4-Hour Tour to Everglades from Fort Lauderdale
6. Lake Okeechobee
Although not as well known or as visited as the Everglades to the south, Lake Okeechobee is just as diverse and beautiful.
Lying to the north-west of Fort Lauderdale, this freshwater lake is absolutely massive – it would be impossible to see the entirety of it in a day.
The lake is home to a huge ecosystem and there are many opportunities here for wildlife watching, hiking, and boating on the lake itself.
7. The Flamingo Gardens
The Flamingo Gardens is one of Fort Lauderdale’s much-loved attractions.
Found just outside the city, it makes for a casual day trip inland away from the coast.
The Flamingo Gardens are an outstanding botanic garden, home to thousands of species of plants and trees, many of which are unique to the local region.
It’s a great place to learn about the huge diversity of flora found in Florida.
Available tour: Flamingo Garden VIP Tour
8. Big Cypress National Preserve
To the southwest of Fort Lauderdale, Big Cypress National Preserve is a huge area of swampy wetland that’s full of wildlife.
The Visitor Centre is the place to start your trip; you can learn about the natural area and the Seminole Indian Tribe who still call this land home.
There are boardwalks to explore and it’s possible to take kayaks through the dense mangrove system in search of alligators and other animals that live here.
9. Delray Beach
Just a half hour drive to the north of Fort Lauderdale is Delray Beach.
As well as being home to a pristine beach – complete with white sands and bracing Atlantic Ocean views – Delray is well known as an artistic haven.
The small town is full of art galleries, public installations, and displays, as well as interesting cultural exhibits such as a Japanese tea house.
10. West Palm Beach
Further north along the coast from Fort Lauderdale lies West Palm Beach.
As well as being the site of some beautiful stretches of coastline and wonderful beaches, West Palm Beach, like Delray Beach, is fast becoming a cultural center too, with some intriguing art galleries and an ever-growing culinary scene to be experienced.
11. Fort Myers
Over on the eastern peninsula, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers is a two-hour drive from Fort Lauderdale.
This coastal city is like a laidback, smaller version of Miami and it makes for a mellow, slow-paced day trip.
There are glorious beaches and great bars and restaurants overlooking the warm waters of the gulf.
Naples is also found overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, not far from Fort Myers, and is known for its pristine beaches.
These are some of the most highly-regarded stretches of white sand in the United States and it’s easy to spend all day strolling along the shore or relaxing on the coast.
Visit the long Naples Pier too, which is found in the town itself.
13. 10,000 Islands
Off the southwest coast is one of Florida’s most incredible destinations – the 10,000 Islands.
This huge collection of islands is wild and rugged; full of wildlife and surrounded by marine life.
Much of the area is protected and the region makes for an excellent day’s exploration, especially if you love snorkeling.
Although it’s a long drive north, a day trip to Orlando is very much possible – and very much worthwhile too.
The city itself is a pleasant and enjoyable place to spend the day; however, most people associate Orlando with theme parks because the surrounding area is packed full of them.
Some of the most famous in the world can be visited here, from Universal Studios to Disney World.
These parks make for an adventurous and thrilling excursion from Fort Lauderdale.
15. Bahamas Day Trip
Not many visitors realize this, but Fort Lauderdale is actually just a two-hour speedboat journey away from the Bahamas.
Frequent fast ferries are arranged by tour companies to whisk travelers away across the Atlantic Ocean to the nearby city of Freeport – the largest city on Grand Bahama.
It’s a great way to experience island life and catch a glimpse of the Caribbean lifestyle that’s playing out just across the waves.
It’s possible to visit the much loved Pig Beach, where a resident population of friendly pigs can be seen playing in the shallow, clear waters off the island.
Remember, though, you will need a passport, so don’t forget this vital document if you want to make the trip.