Port Everglades, located in Fort Lauderdale, is one of the busiest cruise ports in the U.S. That means if you cruise regularly, you might become well acquainted with this South Florida city. There is plenty to keep you occupied within the reaches of Fort Lauderdale's canals, beaches and the shopping, dining and nightlife of Las Olas Boulevard. However, cruisers who routinely find themselves here should know there's a number of easy day trips from Fort Lauderdale that open up some fantastic options -- including family-friendly ones -- during a pre- or post-cruise stay in the area. The following are five perfect Fort Lauderdale day trips -- with travel times ranging from a few hours to just over a half-hour; all you need is a car and a wide-open day to explore.
By: Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor
Photo: Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock.com
Estimated travel time: 40 minutes south
Best for: Foodies, design-junkies, Havanaphiles
What to do: Although Miami is known for its international mix of edgy urbanites seeking unparalleled nightlife, there is plenty to see and do during the day for all ages. Head to Little Havana where the lively Cuban community will delight you with its mix of shopping, dining, street festivals and cortaditos (espresso with milk). Take a tour of the Art Deco District -- the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places -- and capture the photogenic candy-colored facades of old hotels and a bygone South Beach era. For a more modern take on art, head to the district known for keeping it current: Wynwood. The Wynwood Walls are an impressive display of graffiti from artists around the world. There are too many restaurants and food scenes in The Magic City to list, but to start, try the sidewalk cafes of Coconut Grove or the cheerful spots in Coral Gables.
Estimated travel time: 40 minutes north
Best for: Small-town enthusiasts, art-lovers
What to do: Voted one of the best small towns in America, and known as "Florida's Village by the Sea," Delray is a real charmer. You can find most shops and eateries along Atlantic Avenue. While the town is packed with things to see and do, it's relatively small, making it easily walkable. Delray's 2-mile stretch of sand is a peaceful retreat from the spring-break-style beaches packed with toned bodies that you might find elsewhere; typically calm waters make it great for kids. The Pineapple Grove Arts District is home to an extensive Artists' Alley with space for 30 working artists, colorful murals and eclectic cafes and boutiques.
Everglades National Park
Estimated travel time: 60 minutes to 2 hours southwest
Best for: Nature-lovers, adventurers
What to do: There are 1.5-million acres of the Everglades -- and that's only half of the wetlands that remain since city and agricultural development drained them at the beginning of the 20th century. Explore the flora and fauna of your cruise port's namesake, but due to the vastness of the area, choose an activity ahead of time for the day (that will also give you a better idea of how much you need to set aside for travel time). At the closest point to Fort Lauderdale, the Anhinga Trail is an accessible, self-guided walk through sawgrass marsh, with the chance to view birds and alligators. Similarly, Shark Valley, known as the heart of the "True Everglades," offers bike rentals, short accessible trails and guided tram tours. Both are 90 minutes from Fort Lauderdale. Flamingo Marina is just a bit farther, at the southern tip of the Everglades, and plenty of boat tours leave from this point.
Photo: Brian Lasenby/Shutterstock.com
West Palm Beach
Estimated travel time: 60 minutes north
Best for: Beach bums, indecisive families
What to do: Sure, you can go to the beach just about anywhere in the Sunshine State, but in the Palm Beach area, the sandy strips are flanked by familiar comforts like outlet malls, parks, zoos and downtown areas that will cater to the many needs of a single family looking for a day out. Palm Beach, Ocean Reef Park and City Beach (a tad north) all make for a satisfying day in the sun. McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary and Mounts Botanical Garden make for fun late-afternoon activities when the clan is feeling a bit burnt; Clematis Street is where you'll find clusters of bars and restaurants for dinner and some shopping before the drive back to Fort Lauderdale. Traveling with just the adults? Go for a drink or dinner at the swanky Breakers Palm Beach Hotel.
Photo: Jon Bilous/Shutterstock.com
Estimated travel time: 90 minutes to 4 hours south
Best for: Divers, Hemingway-heads, fish-frenzied
What to do: Just an hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale, you'll hit The Keys with Key Largo first, at the northern tip. If you're feeling bold and ready to spend a few hours in the car, head down on the scenic drive to Key West. The complete and utter laidback vibe of the southern tip of the U.S. is a magnet for anyone looking to escape with long lazy days and a couple of day drinks. But to fit some of it into a day, eat your weight in Key lime pie in Key Largo, then take a glass-bottom boat tour through the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park -- or eat slightly less pie and snorkel or dive it yourself. Consider renting a boat to go tarpon fishing off Islamorada, if that's your scene. Or, pose for pictures along the Seven Mile Bridge at a stop in Marathon. If you make it all the way to Key West, you're in for a long day, but be sure to stay through sunset to hobnob with local vendors at a nightly arts festival that takes place at Mallory Square dock. Also stop by to visit the descendants of Hemingway's cats at his house.
You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy maneuvers in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed vacation stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.