I know, I know, we cruisers have plenty of grudges we could hold against Fort Lauderdale’s sometimes lack of hospitality to anchoring cruisers, however…
Water Taxi "tour" and transportation around Ft. Lauderdale
You could have a really good visit here at one of the local marinas. Some years ago, we stayed at Bahia Mar, partly because it figured so prominently in John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels… however, it is seriously pricey and after its recent renovation, does not seem to offer any recession appeal. This season, we briefly flirted with Bahia Mar but left it to the mega-yachts for whom the dockage is probably the equivalent of a tip to the fellow who fills their fuel tanks and returned to the more gently priced and very affable Hall of Fame Marina next door.
Hall of Fame marina is as good as we remembered it, clean, efficient and with friendly staff. The location is excellent — a variety of restaurants and the beach are an easy walk. The heads and showers are clean, but alas, during the brutal winter of 2009/2010 they were not heated — not something usually a concern for Florida cruising. The Hall of Fame Marina is adjacent to the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex. If there are no swim meets going on, the Hall of Fame marina will give you free passes to swim there. So far, we’ve only managed to show up during swim meet times (we are two for two on this), but have enjoyed the sound effects of the swim meets and the excitement of the college students competing there.
Also in the Aquatic complex is the Museum of Swimming at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. If you have any interest in the sport, this would make a worthy visit. Monitors show memorable moments of Mark Spitz going for and getting the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and include his commentary on his strategy for those races — I’m not a sports-focused person, so the strategies he employed were news to me.
We did walk over to Las Olas City Marina, about a fifteen minute walk from Hall of Fame Marina and check it out. It looks good and the rates are competitive with Hall of Fame, except, Boat US members get an impressive 25% off for up to 3 consecutive days and for up to 6 days per calendar year. While you are closer to a water taxi here, it is a much longer, perhaps even deterring, walk to restaurants and the beach.
Dining a short walk away.
Luckily for us, a professional captain and his partner were aboard the mega-yacht beside us and, in addition to offering us extra heaters (this was early January) gave us better dining advice than we were getting from our iPhone Urban Spoon app. They steered us away from our planned restaurant and recommended Coconuts next door to the marina. For the exercise (and I admit, to see for ourselves,) we walked to the sports bar where we were hoping to get a good fish sandwich, took one look at the seedy crowd and a whiff of the cigarettes and walked back to Coconuts where outside the entrance door a chef was cooking up a fantastic looking paella on an open fire.
The Captain and partner happened to be sitting at the table adjacent to ours and we followed their good advice to share an order of the paella (plenty and delicious!) and to take advantage of the Monday and Tuesday night half price on any bottle of wine. The paella is a special that was initially supposed to be a once a week or once in a while thing, but customer enthusiasm has made it a several nights a week special. They do sell out — and for good reason — so call ahead and come early if you want some.
Other dining advice from the Captain, who is of Greek heritage, is Greek Express, a Greek diner by the beach, also only a short walk from the Hall of Fame Marina. We had excellent falafel and souvlaki there for lunch one afternoon. The place doesn’t look like much, but the food really is good.
One more suggestion — if you like bratwurst, the Biergarten is on the way to the beach. Good, inexpensive and can hit the spot if it’s your thing.
Getting around without a car.
Sneak peek at the Museum of Swimming at the International Swimming Hall of Fame
Friday through Sunday, there is a low-cost and sometimes free trolley that can get you to many places in Lauderdale, including the Publix supermarket. The website http://suntrolley.com says it’s daily, but when we were there, we were told it’s only Friday through Sunday. We were not there on the weekend, so we cannot confirm this.
We can confirm the Water Taxi, however. From Hall of Fame Marina, two stops are equidistant. One at Las Olas and one near Bahia Mar in the other direction. The water taxi runs daily and at $15 per adult ($11 for Seniors and children and a less expensive evening only rate) we think it’s pricey unless you plan to use it for a whole day’s touring. The driver generally gives entertaining schtick about the houses and megayachts you pass and local lore — my favorite is that we’re not supposed to know which yacht belongs to Mayor Bloomberg of NYC. You can think of it as an entertaining guided tour of Lauderdale that happens to get you to somewhere you’d like to go…
We managed to get to West Marine by getting out at water taxi stop number 7 via the water taxi. It was a little more walking than we wanted but we got there and snagged a good lunch on our way back to the water taxi stop. We also stumbled upon the International Market & Wine Depot where we did a little provisioning. Proprietor Robert Pastura said he is happy to bring orders or purchases to your boat at Bahia Mar, Hall of Fame Marina and Las Olas City Marina as it’s on the way home for, if I’m remembering correctly, his sister. They have a good selection of nuts, grains, meat, cheeses, wine, etc. Their address is 1428 S. #. 17th Street and the phone number is (954) 523-1400.
For the latest information on the Fort Lauderdale Sun Trolley go to http://cruisersnet.net/fort-lauderdales-sun-trolley-captain-jane-reports/