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Known as the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale is a boater’s dream destination. Situated directly on the Atlantic Ocean waterfront and home to hundreds of miles of rivers, canals, and other waterways (including the Intracoastal Waterway), Greater Fort Lauderdale is shaped and styled by the water--and people that enjoy it by boat.

The area is home to one of the world’s largest populations of boats of every description--from 200-foot super-yachts to hundreds of runabouts--officials estimate the total at around 40,000 vessels! A large percentage of the world’s yachts are also bought and sold here.

In 1893, Frank Stranahan, Fort Lauderdale’s founding father, was the city’s first ferryman across the river. At the same time, a road was built connecting the area to Miami and the pioneering Florida East Coast Railway was extended to Fort Lauderdale. These were factors that led to the famous South Florida building boom in the 1920s and it was then that the canals were begun as an ever-growing grid that delineated neighborhoods and property lines for still-standing mansions--as well as unassuming cottages. Stranahan’s waterfront home, The Stranahan House, remains as one of Fort Lauderdale’s most popular and historic attractions, reachable--of course--by boat as well as land.

In the 1950s, city promoters adopted the nickname of “Venice of America.” Today, the canals and the Intracoastal Waterway divide the beach areas from the city--representing an ideal way to explore, sightsee, gawk at astoundingly large mansions and yachts, or simply enjoy the cool breezes and the lap of water on the bow.

Surrounded by high-rise buildings, Greater Fort Lauderdale's waterways cut through the very heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, divide residential neighborhoods into geometric patterns, and meander to the edges of the untamed Everglades. By day, they provide a unique and relaxing perspective on a city going about its business. By night, the lights reflecting on rippling water, the murmur of music and voices from nearby homes, restaurants and clubs, and the stars above all lend a seductive element to the romance of boating.

For most boaters, nothing tops a trip up or down the New River. The New, narrow, meandering and lined with yachts, flows through the center of Fort Lauderdale. On either side are historic landmarks and towering office buildings.

Popular Las Olas Boulevard, with its elegant shops and haute restaurants, runs parallel to the river. Fort Lauderdale’s popular waterfront Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District (www.riverwalk-ae.com) offers a number of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options, such as the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale (www.moafl.com), the Broward Center for Performing Arts (www.browardcenter.org), and the Museum of Discovery & Science (www.mods.org). River traffic is brisk and busy, with Water Taxis puttering in and out from stops along the way and bridges opening and closing for larger vessels.

For visiting boaters--whether they come by plane, car (towing a boat, of course), or boat--life on and off the water in Greater Fort Lauderdale is an experience found nowhere else in America. Greater Fort Lauderdale's marinas are definitely some of the best-equipped, liveliest, friendliest havens around. Here are a select few possibilities:

Bahia Mar Marina, 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 800/755-9558.

Cove Marina, 1754 SE 3rd Ct., Deerfield Beach, 954/421-9272.

Hillsboro Inlet Marina, 2705 N. Riverside Dr., Pompano Beach, 954/943-8222.

Pier 66 Marina, 2301 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954/728-3578.

Sands Harbor Marina, 125 N. Riverside Dr., Pompano Beach, 954/942-9100.

Sea Legs Marina, 5398 N. Ocean Dr., Hollywood, 954/923-2109.

Of course, Fort Lauderdale is know to boaters worldwide as the home of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The show is billed as the "world’s largest boat show” and typically features more than 1.6 billion dollars worth of boats, yachts, superyachts, electronics, engines, and thousands of accessories from every major marine manufacturer and builder worldwide. The boat show is owned and operated by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. The organization's website, www.miasf.org, is also good place for boaters traveling to Greater Fort Lauderdale.

There’s still time in 2006 to enjoy the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade (www.winterfestparade.com), which offers another great time for boaters to be in the Fort Lauderdale area. This annual show is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a theme of “Broadway on the Waterway.” It is truly a unique event and a special one for boaters. Hundreds of vessels, from small sailboats to mega yachts, adorn their ships with hundreds of thousands of lights and other decoration and proceed down Fort Lauderdale's waterways in a dazzling parade of light. Spectators line bridges, riverbanks and any spot they can find to watch the boats' awesome procession. It’s being held December 16, 2006 this year.

On February 4, 2007, the Super Bowl (XLI) returns to South Florida. Visiting boaters in Greater Fort Lauderdale can catch the excitement down in Miami and won't have to worry about a hotel room!

For further information, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, 100 East Broward Blvd., Ste. 200, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301; 954/765-4466 or 800/22 SUNNY; or log on to www.sunny.org. This excellent site also has links to marinas, as well as information about boat ramps and boating in general.