Ahhhhh…the best laid plans.
As I’ve mentioned before, we like to take advantage of seeing new things at any cruise port city that we find ourselves in, and always plan a day or two on either the front or back end of a cruise (or both!).
This time it was the lovely city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and we chose to be there in January – which I understand is in the best time of year to be in Florida. It was beautiful, sunny, dry, and 75°. We decided that we’ll probably always travel to Florida in winter!
After carefully researching, Things To Do In Ft Lauderdale and assessing the time we had to spend there, we decided that we’d spend one day in Ft Lauderdale itself and one day on a Day Safari into the Everglades & Cypress Swamp (which was the thing I really wanted to do and it was my birthday after all..).
Here’s how DAY 1 went:
1). RENTAL CAR: The first thing that we needed to do was to get a rental car, so we disembarked our cruise ship and headed for the airport by cruise shuttle. We had reserved a lovely little compact that we were sure we would enjoy running around in and looking cool. What we got was a Nerdy Lime Green KIA Soul…
Oh well, it did run well and we could always find it in a parking lot!
2). ANTIQUE CAR MUSEUM: Our 1st stop was to see the Ft Lauderdale Antique Car Museum which boasts a 30,000 sq. ft. one-of-a-kind museum with the largest collection of Packards and historical car memorabilia in the country. Eddie was excited. We ‘google mapped’ our way there just to find out that it was closed that day. Why any museum would be closed on a Saturday still baffles me, but oh well. Strike two.
3). THE BONNET HOUSE: Our 2nd planned stop was at the Bonnet House Museum, and yes, we actually got to see this one! It is a beautiful and interesting home and well worth the visit. We enjoyed the house and the grounds and found ourselves with a little time to spare!
*The Bonnet House is Florida’s best remaining example of early 19th Century American Caribbean plantation-style architecture. Sitting on 35 acres, this was the winter home of Artists Frederick Clay Bartlett and Evelyn Fortune Bartlett. Frederick died in 1953 and Evelyn wintered here until 1983 when she deeded the estate to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The home maintains its original furnishings and artwork and is now open to the public. It also hosts many local events including the annual Orchid Festival.
4). THE RIVERWALK: Because we had missed the Car Museum and because we were ahead of schedule, we decided to take a walk down the Ft Lauderdale Riverwalk. Along the way we made reservations for a River Cruise, enjoyed the sights along the Riverwalk and had some lunch. The day could not have been nicer and the River Cruise was not only enjoyable, but also fun and informative! On the cruise we got to see gorgeous yachts, huge houses, lovely scenery, as well as having gotten a chance to have rum-with-new-friends, visit with other travelers and pretend that we were spotting celebrities as we viewed their elaborate homes. This unplanned excursion was the highlight of our day!
*During the time that Ft Lauderdale was inhabited by Seminole Indians, an earthquake collapsed the ceiling of a local waterway, and the ‘New River’ began rising into what would become 40 miles of rivers connecting the Everglades to the Atlantic Ocean. Frank Stranahan began trading with the Seminoles using the new waterways to move goods. That system was eventually taken over by pirates and then later used to import illegal alcohol during prohibition. Now the ‘New River’ is home to tourism and local transportation.
5). BEACH SUNSETS AND PIZZA: Next we had planned to pick up some fast food and head to the beach for a sunset supper. It seems like every time I plan a picnic on the beach, something foils my plan, and this time was no exception. Maybe it’s Eddie. He doesn’t love sand in his food. On this occasion it was a little early for supper but we didn’t want to miss some time on the beach. We found ourselves at the Ft Lauderdale Beach Park sitting in beach chairs just watching people, enjoying the comfortable sea breeze and waving goodbye to our cruise ship, the Harmony, as she headed out on her next voyage. We played in the sand and dipped our toes in the surprisingly warm ocean water as we watched the sun go down displaying a most beautiful orange sky. What a relaxing treat! And what perfect way to end the day in this lovely port city.
By dusk we were getting hungry and (of course) had opted not to eat in the sand after dark. We headed downtown with pizza on our minds. We enjoyed the drive up the coastline and I’m not sure why the car seemed to turn itself into the parking lot of Franco & Vinny’s Homemade Pizzeria, but it seemed like fate. There was a bit of a wait, but the locals know best, so we never frequent places that seem deserted. I have to say that the next time we’re in Ft Lauderdale, we’ll be happy to wait again! Franco & Vinny’s is probably some of the best pizza we’ve ever had! Always trust a long line…
6). TURNING IN: After a very satisfying meal, we returned our nerdy lime-green car to the airport rental agency and caught a hotel shuttle to the Red Carpet Inn & Suites. The inn was fine as we were on a pretty tight budget, but I was confused by the tile floors! Not a stitch of carpet – red or otherwise – in sight!
On our 2nd day in Ft Lauderdale we were picked up early by Mark in his can’t-miss-it Everglades Safari bus. We spent the next 9 hours on this safari and I can’t say enough about this tour! Mark gave us wayyy more information than we could possibly retain, but everything was very interesting! We were dropped off back at our hotel around 5:30pm.
Here’s what we saw:
*Sawgrass Wilderness: where we learned about sawgrass, Melaleuca Plants and how the government nearly destroyed the area by trying to drain the swamps.
*Everglades: where we enjoyed an air boat ride with Capt. Mike and saw many local species of birds, animals, plants, and lots of gators.
*The Great Cypress Swamp: where we learned more about the swamp ecosystem and it’s importance to the planet. We also saw swamp knees, many interesting kinds of plants and birds, and (of course) gators!
*Mangroves at Chokoloskee (10,000 Islands Wildlife Refuge): where we got to take a boat ride with Capt. Corey Mac through the beautiful Mangroves. We learned about the importance of the Mangroves as they are the nurseries and refuges for many species of birds, reptiles, fish and animals. Sadly, tho’, we saw no gators…
What an incredible day! So much beauty and so much information! We finished our day with dinner, dessert & margaritas at the hotel restaurant (which was great!) discussing everything we’d seen and done, and just taking it all in.
We left out early the next morning looking forward to being back in Ft Lauderdale!