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XOJET’s Guide to the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show

An aerial view of the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show

With its palatial mansions fronting quiet canals, fleets of stately yachts, and miles of stunning white-sand beach, Ft. Lauderdale has come a long way since its 1970s reputation as a spring break destination.

Today, much of the region’s 23 miles of beach have been designated at Blue Wave Beaches, luxury hotels have sprung up along the shoreline, and elegant restaurants beckon. The city has also become known as the yachting capital of the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 yachts and boats make their home in this South Florida city, where they can easily take advantage of the region’s 300 miles of navigable canals, waterways and, thanks to two wide, deep inlets, Atlantic shoreline.

From November 1st through 5th, all nautical eyes will be on the city as the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) returns for its 58th year. Just 13 vessels were on display for the inaugural show in 1959, which was produced entirely by volunteers. This year’s event will feature more than a billion dollars in boats displayed over three million square feet of space, all connected by a land and water-based transportation network. It’s a chance to not only tour vessels that are for sale, but some of the world’s most sought-after charter yachts as well. It’s the largest in-water boat show in the world.

Fly XOJET into the airport of your choice—Ft. Lauderdale International (FLL), Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), Pompano Beach Airport (PMP), or Boca Raton Airport (BCT)—and settle in for a weekend of state-of-the-art superyachts, cutting-edge sports cars, and the city’s most exclusive experiences.

WHERE TO STAY

An oceanfront suite at Acqualina Resort & Spa

Acqualina Resort & Spa: Nestled along North Miami Beach with just 98 rooms and suites, family-owned Acqualina Resort & Spa feels like a private villa, albeit one with three oceanfront pools, a bevy of restaurants (including a branch of New York’s famed Il Mulino), and a 20,000 square foot ESPA spa—the first in the U.S. Done in soothing tones of celadon, silver, gray, and taupe, suites have full kitchens with Sub-Zero appliances, one-and-a-half baths, outdoor dining porches, and private bars.

Photo: Acqualina Resort & Spa

Boca Raton Resort & Club: Renowned for its blushing pink hue, perfectly manicured gardens, and Andalusian-style main building, Waldorf Astoria’s historic Boca Raton Resort & Club is a peaceful oasis in South Florida. Tower suites are perched within Boca’s tallest building and have sweeping water views, oversized bathrooms, and easy access to the spa, a pampering retreat with its own pool built to replicate a Spanish hacienda. From November 3rd through 5th, qualified guests can indulge their speed dreams with 30 minutes behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Huracan as part of the Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences program. Following a customized drive route created by Lamborghini, guests are accompanied by a professional Lamborghini driver and possibly a member of one of the company’s GT3 race teams.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The lower deck of a Sanlorenzo yacht

For many of the vessels comprising this year’s lineup of 1,200 sportfishers, inflatables, catamarans, fast cruisers, and superyachts, it’s all about rewriting the rules—of range, of comfort, and of style. Sanlorenzo, for instance, creates megayachts with timeless, bespoke design and high-concept flourishes like floodable tender garages, which transform storage space into a pool, and club-worthy gyms. Adler Yacht’s Suprema can make the run across the Atlantic with hybrid engines; features like heated floors, an expansive flybridge, and freshwater showers on the swim deck keep guests happily occupied.

Then there’s Abeking & Rasmussen’s Cloudbreak, a 72-meter “explorer yacht” equipped with a heli-deck (and its own custom helicopter), a ski room, fireplace, a glass-enclosed elevator, and a sauna. French designer Christian Liaigre was responsible for the luxurious but minimalist interiors. Hatteras’ new M90 yacht is equipped with the company’s first hydraulic side balcony; Heesen’s 50-meter yacht Home takes silent cruising to new levels.

FLIBS is also the place to check out industry trends. Expect to see oversized beach clubs—large sun decks positioned at water level—outfitted with full-sized lounge chairs, shaded seating areas, and even infinity pools and Jacuzzis. Today’s yachts are also built with jet-ski docks, steam chambers, underwater security cameras, basketball courts, cinemas, and high-tech entertainment systems with invisible speakers and HD laser projectors that remove the need for a television on the wall. Captains can control navigation, monitor equipment and manage other onboard functions remotely from an iPad.

You’ll also find new innovations for exploring both the ocean and ports of call, including motorized sport SUPs, personal electric swim motors, drones, portable electric bicycles, air tenders, and Universal Hovercraft. Superfast tenders—some can reach speeds well past 70 knots—are equipped with Champagne coolers, underwater lights, grills, and concert-quality sound systems.

As always, the show’s famous floating cocktail lounges will be up and running. For an upgraded experience, book the Windward VIP Experience, which includes a private open bar, food, water taxi service, and a dedicated concierge. It’s air-conditioned, too.

Photo: Sanlorenzo’s 52-meter Seven Sins; credit Guillaume Plisson

WHERE TO EAT

Restaurants along Las Olas Blvd in Ft. Lauderdale

Las Olas Boulevard, a former pathway to the beach, is now lined with elegant boutiques, trendy galleries, and an array of gourmet restaurants. This being an ocean resort, you’ll find no shortage of tiki bars, authentic seafood restaurants, and everything in between.

George Jousma, President & CEO of yachtmaker Sanlorenzo Americas and a long-time resident of Ft. Lauderdale, shared with us his favorite place along Las Olas—Lobster Bar Sea Grille—along with two other recommendations to enjoy the city’s vibrant culinary scene:

Lobster Bar Sea Grille: Modeled after Grand Central Terminal’s iconic Oyster Bar, Lobster Bar Sea Grille serves showstoppers like a 1.5-pound lobster stuffed with roasted shishito peppers in a chic, urbane setting.

Grill 66: Watch yachts go by on the Intracoastal Waterway as you indulge in crab cakes, aged steaks, and oysters Rockefeller at Grill 66.

Valentino Cucino Itaniana: Chef Giovanni Rocchio’s fresh, creative Italian dishes—veal tenderloin with celery root “risotto”, diver scallops with preserved lemon—are a long way from spaghetti and meatballs.

Photo: Steve Sutherland

Featured Photo: Forest Johnson


By Katie McElveen

Travel and lifestyle writer Katie McElveen discovered the joy of wandering when, as a teenager, she made a wrong turn in rural South Carolina on the way to a family vacation and ended up taking back roads nearly all the way to the beach.  Since then, she hasn’t stopped exploring, although she now travels with a map and more than $3.00 in cash. Based in Columbia, South Carolina, Katie has shared her discoveries through her work in magazines such as Real Simple, Business Traveler, Modern Bride, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Town & Country, Southern Living, Spa and Tennis.