FORT LAUDERDALE FLORIDA

Updated March 10, 2021

Fort Lauderdale, Florida is in the southeast part of the state, about 25 miles north of Miami. 

Fort Lauderdale Vintage Postcard 1948Fort Lauderdale Vintage Postcard 1948

I lived there in 2002-2003, and the daily commute to my job in Coral Gables usually took one hour.  It must be worse now.

As in much of south Florida, I-95 is jammed up during rush hours, and rush hours sometimes seem to last all day long. If you have the time, stay off I-95 and enjoy the local roads.

If you are on the Florida Turnpike or I-95, several exits take you into Fort Lauderdale. Try Commercial Boulevard, Sunrise Boulevard, Davie Boulevard, Broward Boulevard and SR-84. Any of these roads will take you into the city.

The heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale is the area near the intersection of US-1 and Broward Boulevard. US-1 in this part of Florida is known as Federal Highway.


HISTORY OF FORT LAUDERALE


The history of the town begins about 1836. In that year, some early settlers named Cooley were murdered by the Seminoles.

They killed Mrs. Cooley, her three children and their tutor, and the Second Seminole War was under way.

Major William Lauderdale led a group of Tennessee mounted militiamen to the area, and they built a fort. The men voted to name it for their commander.

By 1842 the war was over, and the area was abandoned. It remained a "no man's land" until the 1890's.

Frank Stranahan was the first permanent resident in 1893, opening an overnight camp for travelers and operating a ferry across the New River.

Stranahan House on the New RiverStranahan House on the New River

He eventually built a larger house and general store on the New River that still stands today. It is located above the New River Tunnel.

This tunnel is one of only two I know of in Florida, and carries US-1 (Federal Highway) under the New River.

Fort Lauderdale Ivy StranahanIvy Stranahan

The town grew up along the New River. For many years, until after World War Two, the main population of the area was still in the areas north and south of the New River.

The beach communities began to grow rapidly in the years after the war.

By the time the 1960 movie, "Where The Boys Are", was made, the city was already established as the spring break capital of the country.

As a Florida history buff, I love to watch that old movie. As the opening credits are rolling, the scene is from a low flying aircraft moving north up the Intracoastal Waterway.

You can see the thousands of newly developed, empty canal front lots along the mainland side of the waterway.

As reinforcement for the idea that the history of Florida is very young, consider that I met Frank Stranahan's widow in 1969.

Frank Stranahan was the first white settler in Fort Lauderdale and his young wife, Ivy, was the town's first school teacher.


FORT LAUDERDALE TODAY


Fort Lauderdale has many interesting places. I love Pier 66, the tall hotel on the intracoastal waterway that has been renovated several times in the past 40 years or so.

Pier 66 is currently being renovated again and is scheduled to open in 2022.

Bahia Mar is also a great place, a resort and marina out on the beach. It has been there for years.

Travis McGee, the fictional hero of 21 John D. MacDonald novels, lived at Bahia Mar.

Travis lived aboard his houseboat, "The Busted Flush", at Slip F-18.  There used to be a marker indicating the location of the slip, but it has been removed in recent years.

Las Olas Boulevard is a trendy shopping district that extends from US-1 east to the Atlantic Ocean. It is loaded with great restaurants and shops, and has a centerpiece of the elegant Riverside Hotel.

Port Everglades is a major freight shipping terminal, and the origination point of many Caribbean cruise ships.

In recent years, downtown Fort Lauderdale has seen the construction of dozens of new residential high rises, many of them along the New River.

Las Olas BoulevardLas Olas Boulevard

These homes along the New River and near Las Olas Boulevard epitomize the fun of living in a walkable community.

Only a few years ago, the social center for Fort Lauderdale locals was the bar on top of Pier 66. This hotel bar rotated once every 66 minutes, and has a spectacular view of the city and the sea.

Fort Lauderdale Florida Pier 66Pier 66

The bar is now closed to the public, and is open only for special occasions, parties, wedding receptions and Sunday brunch. I really miss the place as an everyday watering hole. 

The Pier 66 resort is currently being completely rebuilt, and we hope the Pier Top lounge opens again to the public.

Home on the Intracoastal WaterwayHome on the Intracoastal Waterway

A favorite place for locals and tourists alike is Lester's Diner.  It's been in business since 1967.

Lester's DinerLester's Diner on State Road 84

The original Lester's is located at 250 W. State RD. 84, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315.  They have newer locations in Sunrise, Margate, and Pompano Beach.

FORT LAUDERDALE EVENTS

The Winterfest Boat Parade is held every December along the waterways in the town known as the Venice of America.  Enjoy the spectacular lighting and multitude of celebrities.

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show takes place the first weekend in November or the last weekend in October.  It is one of the biggest power and sailboat shows in the USA.





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Mike Miller of FloridaBackroadsTravel.com has written 25 books on Florida.  

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