Starting now through after the show, the eateries lining the Intracoastal Waterway offer prime views of the yachts making their way to and from the annual party event. Here are the five best places to get in on the action, without actually attending the 55th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Overlooking the waterway and the docks of Bahia Mar Marina, this old Florida eatery and bar is ideal for watching the crowds without jumping into the middle of the shark pond. Snack on fish sandwiches and imbibe frozen drinks, just arm's-length away from the crazy crowds. Its close proximity, however, makes it an ideal spot to bump into the crew from yachts -- upping your chances of eavesdropping on some crazy yachtie stories straight from the horse's mouth. The bar also offers valet parking.
Right in front of the Hall of Fame Marina, just steps from one of the many docks of the show, this seafoodcentric eatery is one of the best places to eat while watching the yachts. The casual atmosphere and slightly upscale fare make it a favorite of locals, owners, and crew alike. So expect it to be packed for the next few weeks. Complimentary valet parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis -- hey, you might want to try your luck on the docks with your dinghy.
15th Street Fisheries
One of Fort Lauderdale's favorite waterside restaurants for the past several decades, this multiconcept restaurant offers two options for those looking to catch the scene on the Intracoastal. Right on the dock (just above the resident tarpons), the dual-level eatery features casual seafood like conch fritters and fish and chips. It's more polished upstairs, with elegant fare (think Key West snapper with sun-dried tomato and bacon Israeli couscous, sautéed green beans, and Peruvian Huancaina sauce). And both offer prime views of the sitting boats.
The main show may be taking place at Bahia Mar, but anywhere you find a dock, you'll find yachts for sale. The Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six will be hosting plenty of yachts as well. And its high-end dockside restaurant, Grille 66, presents panoramic views. It's easily accessible, as it sits just over the 17th Street Causeway bridge, but parking is by the hour. Reservations are highly recommended.
Nanking Asian Grill
Completely avoiding the insanity of everything on the strip, this Asian-inspired Intracoastal-fronting restaurant offers the spectacle without the hordes of people across the bridge. Nanking is set in the base of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, right off 17th Street, and the yachts parked out front will be just as impressive. But you won't have to go through the nightmare of driving and parking to get there. The indoor/outdoor restaurant is open nightly for dinner.
By Sara Ventiera, New Times