Pinecrest Gardens


Miami’s Hidden Tropical Oasis

Do You Know About Pinecrest Gardens

Miami’s attractions are pretty well known to locals and most visitors. However, on occasion, there are hidden gems that most people aren’t aware of. So, don’t be surprised if you are driving down one of Pinecrest’s roads and you suddenly come up on what appears to be one of those old Florida roadside attractions.

Quietly tucked in the middle of a residential neighborhood it is one of Miami’s nicest public parks. Many people outside of Pinecrest don’t know it’s there or have heard the name but have never visited.

Pinecrest Gardens is a lush garden, canopied with native and exotic flora and a series of ponds on a meandering walkway. The path leads to an open meadow and ends in a large playground and mini zoo for kids. Built in 1936 as the original home of Parrot Jungle, it is now in the National Register of Historic Places.

A section of the path through the Lower Gardens
A section of the path through the Lower Gardens

It is hard to believe that this garden exists in an urban neighborhood. This is an outstanding park for families and for anyone who enjoys walking through nature. The garden areas have a great deal of variety with over 1000 species. There is quite a bit of wildlife in the ponds and the lake view areas as well. Mostly there are fish, turtles, lizards, iguanas, and some peacocks on occasion.

The park is divided into several areas that flow seamlessly together. You can go to any of these areas directly rather than having to follow the path through the garden to get there. Following the path to the east, you will walk past a number of Florida ecosystems including a section of hardwood hammock, a 30,000-year-old solution hole, a cypress slough, the remnants of Snapper Creek, and several small ponds.

Eventually, you will pass a kid’s splash zone and find yourself under a giant banyan tree overlooking a long open meadow to the west. There is an elevated covered walkway to the north that overlooks a lake. Continuing west past a coral rock viewing tower you will come to the playground area, a mini-zoo, and several other buildings used for events.

The park admission is only $5.00 (not counting special events, festivals, and concerts), and parking is free. Not too bad! Next, I’ll tell you what section has in store for you and there are plenty of photos to illustrate. Let’s go!


Exploring Pinecrest Garden

A short video I made during a recent visit with a brief view of what Pinecrest Gardens has to offer

Below is a detailed map of the park. Upon getting through the entrance (#1), you go right for the garden path or left towards the kid’s areas past the meadow. The entrance itself includes an art gallery, offices, and Cypress Hall which contains the Cypress Cafe. The entrance is the building at the bottom right of the map. The winding paths to the right lead you through the garden environments. On the far left of the map is the children’s playground and mini zoo.


The Lower Gardens

You’ll begin walking through the Hardwood Hammock area which is slightly more elevated and has dryer soil. The path will take you past the 30,000-year-old solution hole. As you continue there are many varieties of palms, Florida Live Oaks, Lipstick Palms, Gumbo Limbo, Strangler Figs, and Bamboo. Don’t forget to look for the 100-year-old Cocoplum. The garden sections flow into each other seamlessly. There are no divisions.

Next up is the Cypress Slough. Bald Cypress can live to 600 years. Several of the ones you’ll find here are believed to be hundreds of years old. The Cypress Slough contains some majestic trees, and the wet grounds are covered in cypress knees just starting their journeys upward.

Canopy of trees tower overhead at Pinecrest Gardens

The trees provide a canopy that covers the entire path

Everywhere you look there is such variety of plant life. You’ll see plenty of ferns, bromeliads, and heliconias. Stone benches are scattered along the path. Parrot cages and perches used to line this path when the park was the original Parrot Jungle. There is even a grotto here that used to hold alligators.

Waterways and Ponds

Water flows over and around exposed limestone. The old Snapper Creek still feeds into the series of ponds. There are plentiful numbers of fish such as the Mountain Mullets, Koi, Goldfish, and Brazilian Pacu. Turtles are usually on the rocks or swimming around on some mission only they know about.

I remember seeing quite a number of tarpons on past visits, but they seemed to be gone the last time I visited. If you visit in the summertime, be sure to bring some mosquito repellent since they thrive in this wet environment. However, I was just there in the middle of summer, and I wasn’t aware of any mosquitos on this visit.

At this point, the sound of kids laughing starts to get louder. You’ll soon come up on the Kids Splash ‘N Play. It is a small area with plenty of water pouring and splashing features to keep them wet and very happy.

The Upper Gardens

A very tall Banyan tree signals that you are in the Upper Garden and Meadow, this is the center of Pinecrest Gardens. The Banyan is trimmed and prevented from spreading. If it had been left alone, it would be several areas wide by now. Even with the trimming, it is still enormous. The Meadow area is a large open field running between the giant Banyan tree and the kid’s areas of the mini-zoo and playground.

Across the Meadow from the Banyan stands a large Sausage Tree. There is an area just to the north known as the Dry Garden. It is a rocky terrain containing cactus, succulents, and cycads. Steps at either end of the Dry Garden lead up to the Lakeview Terrace.

The Terrace is an elevated and covered walkway that provides a view of Swan Lake below. Here is a lake surrounded by a variety of palms, some cacti, and many iguanas. You can see lots of them sunning themselves on the grass around the lake. I’ve seen peacocks there, though they may be from the surrounding neighborhoods. The shade and the breeze on the terrace help with the Florida sun in the summertime. Then again, it seems like it is always summer in Miami.

Lakeview Terrace overlooking Swan Lake
Lakeview Terrace overlooking Swan Lake
Vibrant Red Blooms of a Brazilian Red Cloak
Mottled Toothedthread
Vibrant Red Blooms in Pinecrest Gardens
Vibrant Red Blooms in Pinecrest Gardens

The Playground and Mini-Zoo

The playground is large, and the kids love it. There are plenty of colorful things to climb and slide down. There is a view of it in the video from earlier in the post and this one that follows here. While there are always a large number of children, it is spacious enough that it doesn’t seem crowded. There are also plenty of places for parents to sit. The entrance is a large coral rock arch with a giant colorful lizard on it. You can’t miss it.

There is a large coral rock observation tower overlooking the park. The I-Guana Bites concession is built into the tower’s base.

The Playground at Pinecrest Garden

Some neighborhood parks are just a large grassy field with a few trees scattered around. Pinecrest Garden is much more. It’s a great place for anyone with little ones or people who love to walk in nature. There are also events held here all year round. The Farmer’s Market is a favorite of the community.

Events and Markets

The Garden is home to several events held throughout year. It serves as a center of activities for the community. Events spaces are plentiful. There is an art gallery space, the meadow is used for festivals, a parking lot for the Farmers Market, and the Banyan Bowl for concerts. There are Artists in Residence and visual arts displayed throughout the property.

There is something for everyone. Most of the events fall into these categories:

  • Performing Arts: Music concerts, dance, theater, children’s shows,
  • Visual Arts
  • Educational
  • Markets
  • Festivals and Special Events

There are regularly scheduled music concerts. Two special music events are the Jazz at Pinecrest Gardens and Tropical Nights. Dance is performed. Theater groups also perform.

The holidays bring more great events such as Howl-O-Ween, Night of Lights, and holiday season concert performances.

The Garden’s events calendar listings can be seen on the Garden’s website at Pinecrest Gardens Listings Page.

Since these programs change and times vary through the year, here is a link to the Pinecrest Garden Arts & Events page, so you can check out what is happening and inquire about tickets.

They do have a great variety of events. I have gone to many of these events and while they are popular, the park is large enough that I have never felt crowded.

Pinecrest Garden’s Interesting History

Franz and Louise Scherr founded Parrot Jungle in 1936. The roadside attraction was 20 areas where he carved out a path and built what looks like a coral rock cottage with a gabled roof. The entrance building still exists today. 

It was an immediate success starting with hundreds of visitors and over time growing to thousands. It was internationally recognized. The attraction was even visited by Walt Disney and Winston Churchill.

Parrot Jungle eventually moved to an island off downtown Miami and is now known as Jungle Island. The Village of Pinecrest, in 2002, purchased the attraction grounds and opened it as a park. It could easily have been lost to developers, but luckily it has been preserved for all of us to enjoy.



Pinecrest Garden’s – Hours | Admission | Location | Directions

Hours of Operation

OPEN DAILY – 9 AM to 5 PM

Parking: Parking is free

Admission:

$5.00

Hours for events and programs can change. For current hours, visit the Pinecrest Garden website. HERE

Other Hours

  • Splash ‘N Play daily from 9 AM to 4 PM
  • Mini Viewing Zoo daily from 10 AM to 4 PM
  • Cypress Café open from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM

Location

Pinecrest Gardens
11000 Red Road
Pinecrest, Florida

Directions

From Miami International Airport (MIA)
From Miami Beach
From North Miami
From South Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys

Remember: As always, it is a good idea before you visit any attraction, that you check for the most current updates on possible water quality, environmental issues, rip tides, weather alerts, weather policies, block out days & closures, scheduled maintenance, restrictions, parking, and other considerations. Visit a location’s website or call directly for current information. Stay safe and informed!


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