Ecotourism is generally agreed to be travel to experience nature, especially fragile or endangered areas, in a way that does not harm those places. Today, the definition is being expanded to include volunteers who travel to assist with conservation efforts. So whether you have come to see our waterways and green spaces, to help us preserve them, or just to enjoy the City, we welcome the opportunity to introduce you to the native plants and animals who live here. Wherever you are in Fort Lauderdale, you are never far from a chance to explore some of our city’s natural marvels. On land and at sea, there are many avenues for visitors to appreciate nature despite being in a bustling urban environment.
Try some of the activities listed here. Just remember not to take anything but pictures, and please leave behind only footprints! Visit our In the Area page for more information on enjoying the great outdoors and ecological wonders in Fort Lauderdale and beyond. There you will find information on everything from cycling to fishing to horseback riding, and from visiting the Everglades to trekking the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. You can also explore Greater Fort Lauderdale - Natural Wonders for more ideas and information.
Visit a native garden.
There's no better way to see the beautiful flowers and lush plants which populate our area than to wander through a garden tended by a knowledgeable native.
Explore a woodland hammock.
If you want to get an idea of what our city looked like before people settled here permanently then you don't need to go far. Right here in central Fort Lauderdale you can visit Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and see a true woodland hammock. To see another example, visit Secret Woods Nature Center, part of the Broward County Parks system. Here you will see three unique types of plantings: an inland freshwater cypress/maple wetland, a pond apple/mangrove community by the river, and a laurel oak hammock
Take an early morning walk on the beach.
Wake up before sunrise and make your way to our beautiful beaches. You'll be treated to an incredible sunrise and you will get to see the great variety of shells and wildlife which come ashore with the tides. Depending upon the time of year, you may also see a lot of seaweed. Why isn't it there later in the day? Our crews go out early in the morning to collect the seaweed and bring it to our parks for composting!
Swim a coral reef.
Fort Lauderdale has over 70 natural and artificial reefs just off of our shores, and is part of the world’s third largest coral reef system. Ranging from depths of 10 to 100 feet and from 100 yards out to abouot a mile off shore. The system provides habitat for over 6,000 marine species, including fish, eels, rays, sponges, corals and even dolphins. With our warm water temperatures, it's easy and fun to explore the ocean no matter what time of year you arrive. Whether you are a scuba diver or a snorkeler there is plenty to see. You can even skip the boat and get to some sight by walking in from the beach. Check the Greater Fort Lauderdale - Scuba webpage for complete information.
The Florida reef tract and the scuba diving here in Fort Lauderdale, FL is not to be missed. Underwater photographers and fish watchers alike will be treated to several varieties of
Get in a kayak or canoe or even a gondola.
See the freshwater side of things from a quiet ride close to the water. Kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and a variety of other non-motorized watercraft can take you into tidal creeks, wetlands, rivers, and the Intracoastal waterway. There you will be able to get a closer look at the habitats themselves and hopefully see the variety of fish, birds, reptiles and other animals that live there. Seach sunny.org for outfitters and tour guides. Some even run special ecotours.
Spot a manatee.
Manatees are here all year round but most prevalent in the winter months. Take a slow moving and quiet boat through our canals and rivers and you're likely to see one. If you're in something a little faster, we ask you to observe all signage regarding "No Wake Zones." Manatees are gentle and slow moving and at great risk for being injured by boats. As gentle as they are, please remember that they are wild. Do not approach them, touch them or feed them.
Look for sea turtle nests or hatchlings.
Sea turtles come to nest between March and October on our shores. We have Leatherbacks, Loggerhaeads and Green turtles. You will see areas of the beach cordoned off and that means there's a nest-- one created by a mother turtle who came back to build it on the very shores where she was born. Enjoy taking a peak, but do not disturb. The nest and eggs are very fragile and mama isn't around to protect it since she returned to the sea immediately after laying her eggs. Sea turtles rely on helpful and kind humans to protect there babies. Towards the end of the season you can join us for night walks and might just see the turtles hatch. It's quite a sight as the little ones look for the reflection of the moon on the ocean and head toward the water.
Discover a Tree of Distinction.
We're proud to be a Tree City USA for over 35 years, and even prouder of the great variety in our urban canopy. Every tree is a little miracle, but some deserve special attention. Trees of Distinction are those that represent the very best examples of their species, are unusual in our area, or have been planted in honor of a special person or occasion. You can see where they are and visit them.
Learn about urban farming.
We live in fabulous farming country. With hundreds of sunny days every year, limestone rich soil, and plenty of summer rain, it's possible to grow almost any fruit or vegetable. We've recently set a goal to have an urban garden in every neighborhood, but a few have been around for a very long time. Visit them for delicious local produce to add to your picnic basket and for lessons on how to grow your own. You can also enjoy the many local farmer's markets. Try the local fruits, vegetables, honey and crafts brought in for the Las Olas Sunday Market, the homegrown produce of Northwest Gardens Farmers Market produced in our area's first LEED-certified neighborhood, or the hydroponics and farm-to-table dinners of Marando Farms, as well as many other market options.