Fort Lauderdale has it all: gorgeous beaches, crystal blue water, vibrant city life, and a subtropical climate. There are a lot of epic things to do in Fort Lauderdale for travelers and locals alike. But the best part about the city is its unique position as a launching point for day trips from Fort Lauderdale to the rest of Florida’s southern tip.
To the south is the vibrant city of Miami, ripe with Latin culture and cuisine. The Florida Keys and their colorful coral reefs are a short drive further. To the west, you can discover sugar-white sand beaches sprinkled with seashells. Up north, you’ll pass through small coastal towns featuring unspoiled stretches of sand. And, of course, we can’t forget the two spectacular national parks: Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. There’s a lot to choose from!
I have lived in Fort Lauderdale for nearly four years now, spending every weekend exploring new places and recently earning my captain license so I can sail even more around the area. I’ve carefully selected this list of the absolute best Fort Lauderdale day trips to help you enjoy your time exploring the many things to do in south Florida!
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15 Best Fort Lauderdale Day Trips
👉 Need Wheels? A car is crucial for day tripping around Fort Lauderdale, as efficient public transit is nonexistent. My favorite site to find cheap car rentals is Discover Cars, as they compare rates across multiple sites with a single click.
Shark Valley in Everglades National Park
Distance from Fort Lauderdale: 1 hour + 15 minutes | Google Maps | Shark Valley Website | 👉 Book an Everglades Airboat Tour from Ft Lauderdale
Watch your step along this 14-mile loop in Everglades National Park – and no, don’t let the name fool you, it’s not shark tails you’ll be tripping over. Rather, you’ll need to watch out for Florida’s most famous reptile: the American Alligator. And lots of them!
Of all the regions to visit in Everglades National Park, Shark Valley is my favorite. Visitors can hike, bike, or take a trolley to an old fire tower for breathtaking view of the Everglades featuring miles of sawgrass peppered with cypress domes and tropical hammocks. Oh, and don’t forget to snap a picture with yourself near an alligator – just be sure to keep a safe distance!
👉 PRO TIP: If you’re visiting Florida, don’t miss that classic Everglades airboat tour experience! I suggest this airboat tour from Fort Lauderdale with nearly a thousand five star reviews and Viator’s Badge of Excellence.
Bimini, The Bahamas
Distance from Fort Lauderdale: 2 hour boat ride | Google Maps | Bimini’s Website | 👉 Book a Day Cruise to the Bahamas from Ft Lauderdale
Yes, you read that right: The Bahamas. You can take a day trip from Fort Lauderdale directly to another country! Balearia Caribbean, a massive ferry docked in Port Everglades, will jet you into the Atlantic Ocean, across the Gulf Stream and onto an island paradise known as Bimini. You will spend the day exploring lush, tropical beaches while splashing into the clearest, blue water north of the Caribbean.
⛵ PRO TIP: take motion sickness medication the NIGHT BEFORE if you’re susceptible to sea sickness!
Possibly the most underrated day trip from Fort Lauderdale is the town of Jupiter. History buffs will enjoy climbing the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse (first illuminated in 1860). Adventurers can find sport fishing, shark diving, and clear-bottom kayaking tours.
Nature lovers can explore rare ecology in Jupiter at Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Blowing Rocks Preserve. And families will love the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, where you can spend hours viewing sea turtles as they rehab for life back in the wild.
If you need more ideas for what to do in Jupiter, check out my epic post on the topic!
Biscayne National Park
In a park that’s 95% water, there’s only one way to explore: by boat. And that’s exactly what you’ll find when you visit Biscayne National Park’s visitor center in Homestead. Sightseeing cruises and boat tours will bring you to the historic Boca Chita Key & lighthouse.
Other points of interest within Biscayne Bay are the hiking trails on Elliott Key, Stiltsville (an old prohibition town in the water), Jones Lagoon, and Fowey Rocks lighthouse.
🍊 LOCAL TIP: after a day on the water, I highly recommend visiting Robert Is Here in Homestead. This unique market offers the rarest selection of tropical fruit, homemade jams, sauces and some of the best milkshakes you’ll ever slurp on.
West Palm Beach
Visitors can find tons of things to do in West Palm Beach for a fun day trip. Some of the many popular tours include half day fishing aboard Miss Blue Heron or snorkeling at the world famous Blue Heron Bridge. The bridge is a unique site for wildlife viewing as snorkelers frequently spot rare species like manta rays and seahorses!
Seeking a beach day? Head to Ocean Reef Park just north of town – it’s my favorite spot to soak up the sun when visiting for the day. For those more inclined to explore a museum, the city has plenty of those too. The Norton Art Museum is the best of the bunch with art galleries and sculpture gardens spread throughout the property.
🛎️ Wondering where to stay in Fort Lauderdale? I wrote up a detailed guide on the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels to stay in the Fort Lauderdale area. Check it out here.
Contrary to prevailing opinion, Miami offers more things to do than just nightlife. Miami’s Frost Museum of Science has one of the world’s most amazing aquariums. Art districts like Wynwood offer some fantastic walking tours for an affordable, and safe, exploration of the streets of Miami.
Bayside Marketplace is the perfect combo of high-end shopping and scenic views of Biscayne Bay. And let’s not forget the food: Miami is a culinary haven for Latin America with Versailles in Little Havana as the best display of this influence.
And, ok, I must say that Miami’s nightlife is pretty epic too. Check out the nightclubs, restaurants, bars, breweries and salsa clubs spread throughout neighborhoods like Brickell, Little Havana, and Wynwood.
📚 Related Reading: The Best Day Trips Around Miami.
Distance from Fort Lauderdale: 45 minutes – 1 hour | Google Maps
Miami Beach is the postcard image you see of South Florida: art deco, the rich and famous, gorgeous stretches of sand, and wild nightlife. South Beach is the epicenter of the action. Sip a margarita at one of the bars and restaurants here before sinking your toes into the white sand across the street. A block away check out Collins Avenue, where you can find shops, fancy restaurants, art deco hotels and the night clubs that make South Beach so famous.
🏖️ Local Tip: for a more relaxing day trip to Miami Beach, plan your beach day for South Pointe Park. The crowds tend to avoid this spot – making it a locals’ favorite.
Distance from Fort Lauderdale: 45 minutes – 1 hour | Google Maps
Just south of Miami lies Key Biscayne – a surprising escape to nature from the big city. Locals and tourists alike flock to the island to view wildlife, relax in turquoise waters and secluded beaches, and enjoy water sports like paddling or sailing.
You can rent a bike to explore the island more thoroughly before climbing a 19th century lighthouse in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. And honestly, the scenic drive is worth the trip alone with stunning views of Biscayne Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and downtown Miami.
Key Largo / The Florida Keys
Many people conflate all of the Florida Keys with Key West, but there’s so much more to be explored. The Florida Keys is made up of multiple, and distinct, cities spanning the length of 100+ miles. Key Largo is the first of the bunch, and one of the best options for day trips from Fort Lauderdale.
Home to the only coral reef in the continental United States, you’d be remiss if you didn’t go snorkeling, scuba diving, or climb aboard a glass bottom boat during your Key Largo visit. After your boat tour, be sure to stop at Sharkey’s, a local watering hole with some delicious Caribbean-style bites like fresh fish, conch chowder and key lime pie.
🚗 Local Tip: if you’re wanting to visit Key West, I recommend making the trip for multiple days (as opposed to a day trip). Key West simply isn’t as near as you’d think – Fort Lauderdale to Key West is a full five hour drive. To give Key West its due justice, plan on staying for a few days, and book one of Booking’s top Key West hotels for your stay.
Fort Myers Beach
Distance from Fort Lauderdale: 2 hours | Google Maps
Surprisingly, the Gulf of Mexico is closer than you think. Fort Myers Beach is definitely one of the best day trips from Fort Lauderdale for wildlife viewing! On your way over, make a stop at Big Cypress National Preserve to catch a glimpse of the rare Florida panther.
Once in Fort Myers, our favorite stop is Lovers Key State Park, where you’ll see endangered gopher tortoises while hiking through tropical hammock. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and manatees as you paddle through mangrove channels. And finally, sift for sand dollars along the state park’s white sand beach. Great fun for the whole family!
Big Cypress National Preserve
Speaking of Big Cypress National Preserve, this place is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. It’s one of the few places left in Florida that encapsulates what natural Florida used to look like. And honestly, you could spend days camping, hiking, paddling, wildlife viewing and birding in the park. Oh, and if you’re lucky, you might just encounter the elusive Florida Panther.
👉 Ever Heard of a Cypress Slog? It’s a term you’ll commonly hear in these parts, and it’s essentially hiking through the mud. Dirty? Obviously. Fun? Extremely! This suggested Everglades Swamp Walk tour combines slog hikes with airboat tours throughout Big Cypress and the Florida Everglades. The tour has earned Viator’s coveted Badge of Excellence for its stellar review. Definitely a full yet fun day trip for the family!
Delray Beach mixes the flair of South Florida with the vibe of Florida’s north Atlantic towns. The beach itself is gorgeous – free of the towering condos often found along Florida’s coasts. For more fun after the beach, head up to Atlantic Avenue. Foodies and drink aficionados will enjoy the wide array of gastropubs, taquerias, breweries, and local seafood joints. End the day at the Tin Roof for karaoke and live music before heading back to Fort Lauderdale!
👉 Read Next: The Best Fort Lauderdale Beaches
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
I can honestly say this is Fort Lauderdale’s most interesting day trip.
I had to include the Hard Rock Casino in my list of day trips from Fort Lauderdale because this place is an architectural wonder. The world-famous building is literally a guitar jetting upwards from the urban sprawl. And yes, the inside is equally as astounding as the outside, resembling a city rather than a hotel. Inside you’ll find high end shops, restaurants, art galleries, night clubs, concert venues and even a lagoon with island bungalows.
For those of you sick of the sun, sand, and salt, you’ll be pleased to know you can find a change of pace by visiting Orlando for the day. It’s a quick three hour drive up Florida’s Turnpike where you can explore any of Disney World’s theme parks, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and many more of Florida’s top attractions. It definitely makes for a lengthy day, but it’s totally worthwhile as one of your day trips from Fort Lauderdale. Alternatively, consider booking one of these resorts in Orlando and crashing for the night.
📚 Related Reading: If you’re spending more time in Orlando, be sure to check out our local writer Katie’s epic post rattling off all the best Orlando day trips!
The ocean is always a sail away in Fort Lauderdale!
As a Captain and sailor myself, I must say this is the ultimate day trip in Fort Lauderdale. For most, you come to Fort Lauderdale to enjoy the water – what better way to do so than to hop on a boat?
The easiest place to find and rent a boat is on Sailo. It’s sort of like Airbnb but for boats, and Fort Lauderdale is one of their busiest hubs with many different vessels to choose from.
Don’t worry, you can also hire a captain with the boat if you don’t feel comfortable sailing on your own! If sailing isn’t for you, try a fishing charter, sunset cruise, wildlife paddle, or a city booze cruise. Regardless, in some capacity, you definitely need to get out on the water!
🛥️ Read Next: The Best Fort Lauderdale Boat Tours
Which of these day trips from Fort Lauderdale are you most excited for? Which tour seems like the most fun? Should I add any beaches to the list?
My favorite place is Jupiter while my favorite activity is sailing (I may be biased though). But let me know what you think in the comment section below!
Have fun on your Fort Lauderdale day trip!
👉 Read Next: When to Visit Fort Lauderdale for the Best Weather