South Florida has a boat ride and celebrity gossip for every taste
The Jungle Queen gives tours of waterfront homes along the New River in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (J. Albert Diaz/Miami Herald/MCT / July 20, 2007)
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We've got fast rides, slow rides and hop-on, hop-off boat tours that you can ride all day. Ones that serve cocktails, others that don't, and some that encourage you to bring your own drinks aboard.
Most of the rides go year-round, although some cut the number of trips or the boats in their fleets during their slow season — whenever that is. The Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi, which is operated by a Massachusetts company, sent its biggest boats up to Boston for the summer right after Easter. But the Miami speedboat Thriller adds on extra runs in the summer, when there's a surge in demand from Europeans.
Many share a common soundtrack: tales of the celebrities, heirs and wealthy business people who own the region's waterfront homes and the mega-yachts. Expect some corny jokes too. But others, especially those on glass-bottom boats or along the Everglades, provide a glimpse of the region's original wildlife.
Here is a sampling of South Florida's favorite rides.
"And this is the house that Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett had built. It took 3 1 / 2 years. Unfortunately, the marriage lasted only three years. So they put it on the market and when it didn't sell quickly, they asked why. The real estate agent said that no one wants to buy a house with major faucet problems."
Yuk, yuk, yuk.
The comedian/tour guide was the pilot of the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi, but it could have been any number of South Florida's dozens of boat rides, most of which feature tour guides telling stories about the rich and famous who live — or have lived — along the waterways. The official line of the Water Taxi is that it's not a tour, it's transportation. But the captains still like to tell the tales.
The Water Taxi is a hop-on, hop-off ride. For $20 ($10 after 7 p.m.), you can ride all day, getting off for food, drink and bathroom breaks at more than a dozen stops. If you like, you can bring your drinks back on board.
Stay on, and you'll get a guided tour that takes about three hours along the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway between the 17 1 / 2+t 3 / 41 / 2+h 3 / 4 Street Causeway and Oakland Park Boulevard. We don't recommend doing the whole loop without a break, though. The seats are hard and you'll hear the same Lee Majors-Farrah Fawcett joke more than once, a fate definitely to be avoided.
A new addition is the Hollywood Water Taxi. Passengers can transfer from the Fort Lauderdale to the Hollywood water taxi at a stop under the 17 1 / 2+t 3 / 41 / 2+h 3 / 4 Street Causeway. The Hollywood boat picks up passengers there once every two hours, then makes three stops along the Intracoastal in Hollywood before making the return trip.
The Water Taxi also operates a day trip to South Beach that runs only December to April.
Two other companies give tours of Fort Lauderdale's waterways.
The Jungle Queen, a replica paddlewheeler that docks next to the Bahia Mar on A1A, heads west along the New River to an "Indian Village" with exotic birds and monkeys in cages and a snack bar. There's a daytime sightseeing cruise that takes three hours and stops at the Indian village for an alligator show, and a longer evening cruise that includes a BBQ dinner and variety show at the village. No food or drink available on the boat itself.
The Carrie B, also a replica paddlewheeler, does a 90-minute tour of sections of the New River and Intracoastal, but goes into Port Everglades, which the others do not. The ship has a full bar and snacks available for purchase.