A Place Under The Palms
Everything Miami & South Florida
On this START HERE page we will give you an overview on Miami/SoFla. This page is very LONG, but it gives you an idea of how South Florida is laid out geographically, a little SoFla history, and introduce you to some of our neighborhoods, events, attractions, parks & outdoor activities. In our blog posts we will get down to the details. Look here if you are new to South Florida or dive right into our blog posts!
You'll get the most out of this page on desktop. It may be a bit too long for mobile, unless you really go for swiping up. Also, the images look great on a bigger screen.
A PLACE UNDER THE PALMS explores what there is to see and do in Miami & South Florida. Our posts will give you helpful descriptions, plenty of images, and insider tips to help you get the most out of South Florida without having to spend hours searching the internet.
You'll find out which beaches are great for singles and which are great for families with children. Which are the newest trending restaurants? Which are the hidden gem restaurants that only locals know about? Where can you get great food without waiting too long for a table? Which hotels are closest to what is important to you? What are the major events happening in town during your visit?
Hi, my name is Roldan. Miami has been my home since I was two months old. I want A PLACE UNDER THE PALMS to be the go-to resource for anyone planning a visit to Miami/SoFla and for locals planning a great weekend.
Miami is booming. The skyline is constantly changing. New attractions, restaurants, and hotels are popping up all the time. Older places are always getting renovated and then thriving again. People are relocating here from all over the country - from all over the world for that matter.
Great chefs are expanding with restaurants in South Florida. Dance club impresarios are opening up amazing clubs locally. Boutique retailers are flocking here as well. Art has been taking off for several years now. I want to showcase all that is happening and share it with you.
If you don't see what you are looking for, then drop me a note. Do you have some advice or tips that you think will help our blog family? Let us know if you find a special place we haven't covered yet or if there is something you'd like for us to showcase. Contact us and we will build this blog into a thriving resource for South Florida.
A Brief History of South Florida
Since prehistoric times, Florida has been alternating between being underwater and exposed to the light of the sun. About 2.5 million years ago, during the Ice Age, Florida rose out of the sea for the last time. Sea levels dropped by 400 feet and the exposed land in Florida was twice the width we now see.
Over time, animals seeking warmer climates made their way to Florida: including mammoths, mastodons, bison, saber-toothed cats, deer, giant sloths, and bears. South Florida's human inhabitants can be traced back 15,000 years when Paleo-Indians made their way down as well. Tequesta tribe settlements have been uncovered around the mouth of the Miami River and date back at least 2,000 years. They built societies and cultures that survived until the Spanish arrived 500 years ago.
Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World at San Salvador island in the Bahamas just east of South Florida. The Spanish arrived with European diseases and a hunger for gold that decimated the native populations. By the 1760s, only a few remained. Today, the Calusa, Tequesta, and other tribes no longer exist.
The first permanent, continuously occupied European settlement in North America was established by Spain in 1565 in what would become St. Augustine, Florida. After the arrival of the Spanish, control of Florida changed from native populations to Spanish, then to British, and finally to American rule. Florida became a territory in March 1822 and a state in March 1845. Henry Flagler, John D. Rockefeller's partner in Standard Oil, brought his railroad to St. Augustine, Palm Beach, Miami, and finally to the Keys. At each stop, Flagler built grand hotels for his railroad guests, ushering in more growth. In 1896, almost the entire population of Miami, then a mere 444, was on hand to welcome the train's arrival to the city. That year the city of Miami was incorporated.
The railroads brought more people to the area. Key West had been growing since it became part of Florida in 1821. It was incorporated on January 8, 1828. The Town of Palm Beach was incorporated on April 17, 1911. Fort Lauderdale also became a city in 1911.
The '20s brought a land boom that ended with the hurricane of 1926 and the Great Depression in the 1930s. After WWII, many members of the armed forces that had been stationed in South Florida decided to return and make it their home. South Florida continued to grow.
The 1960s saw an influx of Cuban refugees escaping Castro's socialist tyranny. Over the years others followed from Central and South American, and Europe. People have come from all over the world for the year-round warm climate and the lifestyle. In turn, Miami and the surrounding areas continued to expand and become a global city. Miami has become an international center for art, cuisine, entrepreneurship, and for international business & finance. Palm Beach is one of this country's wealthiest towns. The Florida Keys have become a destination for those who embrace a laid-back casual lifestyle and island living.
Today the cities of Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and all the Florida Keys are thriving. They are home to millions and a destination for millions more who vacation here. There are endless places to discover and experience. When most of the country is freezing in winter, South Florida enjoys sunshine and temperatures that rarely dip below the 50s or upper 40s. Even those temps are only going to show up once in a rare while. Surrounded by the Everglades and the beaches of the Atlantic, South Floridians enjoy a year-round summer!
The Lay of the Land
Southeast Florida consists of a long urban area along the Atlantic coast. While Florida is about 500 miles long by 160 miles wide, the urbanized areas of Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami are never wider than about 20 miles. They are bordered by the Everglades to the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the East.
This satellite image shows South Florida. Palm Beach is just east (right) of Lake Okeechobee. Below the lake are massive sugarcane fields (the reddish areas below the lake). After the sugarcane, you'll find the Everglades to the South, which in turn extend South to the Keys.
In this photo, you can see that the urban areas of South Florida are mostly in the Southeastern edge of the peninsula.
A Quick Overview of
Some of the Key Cities & Neighborhoods
of South Florida
Miami - It is hard to believe now that a little over a hundred years ago, what is now Miami, was a tiny settlement at the mouth of the Miami River. In 1896, at the founding of the city, Miami had only a few hundred residents. Today, Miami is an expansive city with a skyline that is the 3rd largest in the United States behind only New York, and Chicago. The city is tucked in between two national parks: the Everglades and Biscayne National Park.
If you are tired of bitterly cold winters, remember it has only snowed once in Miami on January 19th, 1977. The average temps in winter are between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This make Miami the warmest spot in the US to spend winters.
The people of South Florida are diverse to say the least. There are still families with deep roots going back to the early South Florida pioneer days. Over the years, many more have come into the area and made permanent homes here.
The Cuban culture is alive in the everything from art galleries, to restaurants, to music venues. There are Haitian, Jamaican, Bahamian, and other Caribbean influences here also. You will hear Creole speakers pass by as you shop in Little Haiti. You'll be greeted with a "Buenos Dias" when served a Cafecito (Cuban expresso) at the walk up windows (ventanitas) of many Cuban restaurants. You will hear Jamaican patois in the many Jamaican restaurants found throughout South Florida. Mmmmm, jerk chicken.
The Port of Miami is the world's largest cruise port by number of passengers. Miami boasts the largest number of international banks in the US. Many of the country's largest businesses house their international divisions here. Miami is also the home of the Heat, Marlins, Inter Miami CF, and Dolphins.
Many of the international events held here are the nation's largest. The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Art Basel Miami, Miami Book Fair International, the Miami International Boat Show are among the biggest festivals of their kind in the country.
Popular Miami Area
Neighborhoods & Cities
Coral Gables . Miami Beach . Wynwood . Coconut Grove . Key Biscayne
Coral Gables is a beautiful, planned city with grand homes and lush tropical landscaping just 5 miles west of Miami's downtown. Built in the 1920's land boom by George Merrick, it features beautiful Mediterranean Revival style homes and buildings. You will love the lush tropical canopy and manicured landscaping on most residential streets.
There are a number of key entrance avenues into Coral Gables that are accentuated by fountains, arches, plazas, loggias, or columns. Many Gables homes are characterized by native limestone exteriors and barrel tiled roofs. One great example of this style of architecture is Coral Gables Merrick House, the childhood home of Coral Gables founder George Merrick
Some notable landmarks include the Miracle Mile shopping & business district, the grand Biltmore Hotel, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, the Venetian Pool, the Lowe Art Museum, and Matheson Hammock Park & Beach. Coral Gables is home to the University of Miami. Shopping in the Gables is made convenient by the circular trolley route. Coral Gables is home to dozens of art galleries, a vast selection of fine dining, and many boutique shops.
Miami Beach is a world all its own with the Art Deco oceanfront hotels, dining, clubs, nightlife, and shopping. It is an island connected to Miami by several bridges. It is 9 miles long by 1 mile wide and is 3 miles east of downtown Miami. The southernmost tip is referred to as South Beach.
It began as a small sandbar three miles offshore, and was covered in dense mangrove. Investors in the early 1900s saw the possibilities of turning the strip of land into a resort. The island was built up by dredging Biscayne Bay. The first hotel was built in 1915. Soon a wooden bridge connected Miami Beach to Miami. The 1920s saw Miami Beach adding numerous hotels and events. Miami Beach and several surrounding islands grew by continued dredging.
The area was heavily promoted as a resort destination and continued to grow. By the 1950s, Miami Beach contained the world's largest collection of Art Deco architecture.
Lincoln Road is a pedestrian-only avenue famous for its shopping, dining, and art. Miami Beach is home to the New World Symphony, the Wolfsonian Museum, the Holocaust Museum, and an endless array of nightclubs, restaurants, and shops.
Oh, and there is that little thing called the beach, of course. There are miles of beaches. Some are packed with locals. Some are frequented by tourists and others are quiet and far less busy. There are beaches that are family friendly and others will be a real eye opener for young children. We will break down all the details in our posts and help you find the perfect beach for you.
Wynwood is one of Miami's most popular destinations for art and food. Bring your camera. If you are looking for Instagram-able spots, then you've found one here.
Once a worn-down warehouse district, it has been reimagined as an art center with the opening of many galleries and artist studios. Most buildings' exterior walls showcase ever-changing murals by local, national, and international artists. The 50 block district has over 200 wall murals. Mixed in with the art venues are eclectic shops, renowned restaurants, microbreweries, specialty coffee houses, and trendy bars.
Wynwood venues host an ever-increasing number of art, fashion, and musical events. The monthly Wynwood Art Walk showcases art galleries and the many street murals. The gathering also includes DJs, live music, a collection of gourmet food trucks, and a few thousand art lovers. Over 3 million visit the area annually.
Coconut Grove is found by heading just south along the coast from downtown Miami. The Grove is much more tropical than the urban nature of the downtown area. There is more of a lush tropical canopy here. The neighborhood is home to restaurants, outdoor cafes, boutique shops, and laid-back waterfront dining.
You will find a number of uniquely Miami attractions here. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a Gilded Age estate on 42 acres along the shores of Biscayne Bay. The 54 room Mediterranean Revival home, finished in 1916, includes a formal Italian Renaissance garden and is surrounded by a native hammock forest. Its many rooms are filled with treasures from all over the world.
The Barnacle was the home and boathouse of one of the Grove's earliest pioneers. One of Miami's oldest homes, it is one of the best places to see what early Miami living was really like.
Coconut Grove has a number of parks including the Kampong, a 9-acre garden, and winter home of renowned horticulturist David Fairchild. Miami City Hall is located in the former Pan American Airways Seaplane Terminal. The building is on the US National Register of Historic Places.
The Grove hosts many popular events throughout the year including the Goombay Festival. The festival celebrates early Bahamian settlers and their influence and cultural impact on the Grove. The annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival is held on President's Day weekend. The mile-long, 3-day outdoor event attracts about 120,000 people to enjoy the exhibits, food, and performances.
Key Biscayne is a quiet island village on a barrier island about 4 miles east of Miami and just south of Miami Beach. The village is bordered by Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on the southern end and Crandon Park to the north. Development is in the center of the island. The island has some condos and single-family homes, mostly on the luxury high-end of the scale, especially the waterfront properties.
The village is home to a number of attractions popular with locals and visitors. Crandon Park Beach and Bill Baggs' beach and lighthouse are popular with local beachgoers. The lighthouse was built in 1825 and is 95 feet tall and offers a breathtaking view of Key Biscayne and Biscayne Bay.
Crandon Gardens park is located in the area once occupied by the Crandon Park Zoo. Stroll the grounds and see hundreds of native birds, a large population of iguanas, peacocks, turkeys, raccoons, turtles, and on occasion visitors will spot a crocodile in one of the ponds. Some of the original animal cages are still on-site, though the bars have been removed.
Crandon Park Tennis Center includes 27 courts and was the home of the Miami Open from 1987 until 2019. The main venue is a 13,800 seat Stadium Court. There are also grass and clay courts. The facilities are open to the public.
Crandon Golf is a 72-hole championship course surrounded by a lush tropical landscape and views of the bay. Enjoy golfing in what is considered one of the most beautiful courses in the state.
Palm Beach - Located east of Lake Okeechobee, Palm Beach is one of Florida's wealthiest county and 3rd most populous county in Florida. The city of Palm Beach is the wealthiest city in Florida. Lake Okeechobee is the largest Florida lake and the seventh largest lake in the US.
Popular Palm Beach
Neighborhoods & Cities
Palm Beach . West Palm Beach . Wellington . Jupiter . Boca Raton . Delray Beach . Juno Beach
The Town of Palm Beach is located on an 18 mile long barrier island. The town is home to beautiful luxury mansions. Luxury . . . as in, you know, the really big kind with manicured lawns and a Rolls in the driveway. There are a number of large private clubs including President Trump's Mar-a-Lago. Worth Avenue is a four block shopping district filled with around 250 ultra lux retailers like Gucci, Hermes, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany as well as fine dining and art galleries.
Palm Beach is home to a large number of business and entertainment royalty. Forbes lists over 30 billionaires with homes in Palm Beach. Present and former residents include Rod Stewart, John Lennon, George Hamilton, Ron Perelman, Wilbur Ross, Vera Wang, Dr. Oz, Rush Limbaugh, the Kennedy family, E.F. Hutton, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Nicklaus, and many more.
It all started with Henry Flagler bringing his railroad down to Palm Beach and building Whitehall as a present for his third wife. The 75-room Gilded Age mansion was built in the Beaux Arts style and today is open to the public. Almost directly across is the palatial Breakers Hotel. This 538 room, Italian Renaissance-style hotel is on the National Historic Register and sits on 140 acres on the Atlantic Ocean.
West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is the heart of Palm Beach County. It is the county seat and includes a number of notable communities such as Boca Raton, Jupiter, Wellington, and Delray Beach. You can find Lion Country Safari, the Palm Beach Zoo, the CityPlace shopping and entertainment center, Rapids Water Park, Butterfly World, and the Palm Beach Opera. The Sunfest Music Festival attracts 275,000 music lovers in the first week in May. West Palm Beach is about 70 miles north of Miami. Virgin Trains USA links the two cities.
Wellington is just west of West Palm Beach and has about 70,000 residents. The Norton Museum of Art (Florida's largest) and Kravis Performing Arts Center are located here. However, Wellington is primarily known as one of the world's great equestrian communities. Large estates with sprawling fields and stables dot the town. Each season the USPA Piaget Gold Cup, the Nespresso U.S. Polo Open, and other high-goal tournaments are held at the Palm Beach International Polo Club. Famous home owners include Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Stephanie Seymour, Bruce Springsteen, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Jupiter is the northernmost city in Palm Beach County. The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse offers a beautiful view of the area. Built in 1860 and painted red, the lighthouse stands in bright contrast to the bright blue skies of Florida. Both the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals call Jupiter their spring training home. Coastal Living magazine named Jupiter as one of the Top 10 Happiest Seaside Towns in the USA.
Boca Raton is the southernmost city in Palm Beach County. The city has a large number of buildings in the Mediterranean Revival style. The seaside resort town provides luxury mansions in gated communities, country clubs, a number of golf courses, and five-star dining for its residents.
The Boca Raton Resort and Club has over 1,000 rooms and is situated on over 300 acres. There are 7 swimming pools, 2 golf courses, and a number of fine restaurants at the resort.
Boca is also home to the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the Wick Theatre & Costume Museum, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and Sugar Sand Park. Mizner Park is a town center for shopping, dining, and entertainment. Of course, this is still Florida and the beaches are always a great destination.
Delray Beach is a seaside city in Palm Beach with a population of about 70,000 residents. Golf carts are common in parts on the streets. You can find the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray.
Juno Beach is home to the 990 foot Juno Beach Fishing Pier. Nature lovers can stop in on the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, or the Juno Dunes Natural Area 569 acre preserve.
Fort Lauderdale - Fort Lauderdale has been a popular destination for spring breakers and vacationers for many decades. The city is home to the third largest US cruise port - Port Everglades, just behind the Port of Miami and Port Canaveral. There are a myriad of recreational activities. Fort Lauderdale has over 60 golf courses, beaches, bars, nightclubs, and 100 marinas.
Yachting is big business with manufacturing and maintenance being a large part of Fort Lauderdale's economy. The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is the world's largest with over 120,000 people attending each year.
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is a multi-stage venue in the downtown Riverwalk area. The Museum of Discovery and Science is also in the area and includes an IMAX theater.
The Las Olas Boulevard Shopping and Entertainment District is an East-West thoroughfare that contains many restaurants, bars, shops, and art galleries. You can never go wrong finding a quiet stretch of beach. Stroll along the breaking surf, play some volleyball, or rent a kayak.
The Brightline Train also has a station in Fort Lauderdale, and at present links Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Construction is underway on an extension to Orlando.
The Florida Keys are unique. The Keys are a string of about 1,700 islands extending over one hundred miles from the southeastern tip of Florida between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. You can travel by road and bridges as far as Key West. The Keys are connected by over 40 bridges. The longest of which is the Seven Mile Bridge. The shortest is only about 40 feet.
They are the home of Key deer, pelicans, dolphins, sea turtles, coral reefs, Key Lime pie, seaplanes, sunken ships, and the southernmost point in the continental United States. Cuba lays just 90 miles south.
Just head south for seafood, boating, stunning sunsets, and a relaxed "Conch Republic" attitude of Key West. Traveling on the overseas highway is one of the more scenic drives you can take in South Florida. However, Key West is not the only stop worth making on your drive through the Keys. Each major key offers unique attractions. Life in the Keys is casual. Fishing, boating, and water related activities are a way of life.
The Keys are broken up into several major areas: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, the Lower Keys, and Key West. The Outer Keys are the islands that can only be reached by boat. Key Largo is the largest at 30 miles long and half a mile wide. Key West is about 4 miles long by 1 mile wide. It is the most populous city in the Keys with about 25,000 residents.
Some of the Key's great attractions include:
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo
- The African Queen from the film of the same name, Key Largo
- Glass Bottom Boat Tour, Key Largo
- Dolphin Cove, Key largo
- Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key
- Turtle Hospital, Marathon Key
- Bahia Honda State Park and Beach, Big Pine Key
- National Key Deer Refuge, Big Pine Key
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West
- Sloppy Joe's Bar, Key West
- Duval Street, Key West
- Mallory Square, Key West
- The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Key West
- Harry S. Truman Little White House, Key West
- Light House, Key West
- Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park
South Florida has a number of key attractions enjoyed by locals and visitors. They span everything from architectural gems to museums to outdoor activities. There is never a lack of places to go with your friends or family. Here is a small selection of some key attractions. We will explore them in greater detail in the blog and include many more that aren't listed here.
Zoo Miami (Miami) - A 325-acre zoo with 500 species and 3,000 animals in a lush tropical setting. The animals are located in 5 major areas: Everglades, Asia, Africa, Amazon, and Australia. The 50,000 square foot Asian aviary is the largest open-air aviary in the US. The path around the zoo's 100 exhibits is about three miles. You can rent quad-cycles and there is a tram tour or monorail if your feet start to give out on you.
Vizcaya Museum and Garden (Miami) - This 70 room gilded-age mansion sits on Biscayne Bay and is surrounded by a lush hammock forest. Vizcaya was the residence of Charles Deering (of the Deering - International Harvester company) built in 1914. The entire property is 50 acres including the house, formal gardens, and surrounding forest. The main house is in the Mediterranean Revival style and the Italian Renaissance formal gardens take up 10 acres. Vizcaya is one of Miami's true gems.
Philip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science (Miami) - A science museum, aquarium, and a 250 seat Planetarium. The building is 250,000 sq. ft. and is part of Miami's museum park.
PAMM Art Museum (Miami) - This 120,000 sq. ft. art museum is focused on 20th-century contemporary art from the Atlantic rim. The 80,000 sq. ft. exterior spaces offer amazing views of the cruise port and downtown Miami from the terraces and overhanging roof.
Miami Children's Museum (Watson Island - between Miami & Miami Beach) - A 56,000 sq. ft. educational attraction for kids with a large number of hands-on themed exhibits that allow the children to role-play. The exhibits spaces include a supermarket, a bank, a cruise ship, a firetruck, a construction zone, and much more.
Jungle Island (Watson Island - between Miami & Miami Beach) - This 17-acre attraction features a number of animal exhibits and activities. There are flamingos, parrots, gibbons, orangutans, alligators, a white alligator, baboons, and more. There are many available activities such as animal encounters, and pop-up water slides.
HistoryMiami Museum (Downtown Miami) - This is a great place to uncover the last 10,000 years of South Florida history. The museum's collection includes 37,000 items that help bring the area's story to life.
Gold Coast Railroad Museum (Miami) - This museum takes us back to a bygone era when railroad travel was widespread. There are over 30 trains including steam and diesel locomotives, freight cars, and a number of specialty cars. A large collection of model trains is also on display.
Deering Estate (Miami) - The Deering Estate recalls a Miami from the 1920s. The estate is also an archaeological site of significant historical importance. The 444-acre grounds include the oldest Paleo Indian settlement south of Lake Okeechobee. An Indian burial mound can be found on the property. The Cutler Fossil Site contains an Indian settlement site and fossils from the Pleistocene Era. The terrain gives a rare opportunity for the study of geological features such as sinkholes, solution holes, caves, and razor rock formations. There are a large number of rare or native plant species on the grounds including 89 that have been declared endangered or threatened. The Deering Estate has over 170 resident and migratory bird species.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables) - This botanical paradise contains an extensive collection of rare plants from around the world. The 83 acres can be walked or a tram tour is available. There is a significant research and conservation effort by Fairchild scientists. The Gardens also have a number of educational programs and partner with several local colleges.
Venetian Pool (Coral Gables) - The pool was born from an abandoned 4-acre coral rock quarry used for the building of area homes. It is replenished daily using over 800,000 gallons of fresh water drawn from the local aquifer. The pool was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style and contains Venetian and Moorish elements. It is the only pool in the National Historic Register.
Lincoln Road (Miami Beach) - A unique pedestrian district that features retail shops, restaurants, bars, a cinema multiplex, cafés, and galleries. Stroll this wide, 10-block avenue of over 200 retailers. You'll shop, eat, drink, and people watch.
Lincoln Road is also the home of the New World Center Concert Hall and the Colony Theatre. This district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
Holocaust Memorial Museum (Miami Beach) - A moving memorial for reflection on the Holocaust. A 40-foot outstretched hand reaches upward at the memorial's center. It is surrounded by striking sculptures crying out in pain. There is no charge for admission.
Coral Castle (Miami) - This mysterious limestone structure was built between 1928 and 1951 by Latvian-American Edward Leedskalnin. He worked alone and mostly at night. He carved and moved stones weighing many tons and built his castle. He claimed he had discovered the secrets of the pyramids. The entrance door weighs in at 9 tons and can still be swung open with one finger.
No one ever saw him working on the structure so there is still great debate over how he was able to accomplish the building of these structures. Billy Idol's song "Sweet Sixteen" is based on Edward and his castle.
The Barnacle (Coconut Grove) - Built in 1891, it is the oldest house in its original location in Miami. The Barnacle was the 19th century home of Ralph Middleton Munroe, one of Coconut Grove’s earliest pioneers. Sitting on 5 acres on the shores of Biscayne Bay, it is a great place to see what life was like for the earliest pioneers of Coconut Grove. The original hammock is preserved with a paved path that cuts between the road and The Barnacle. When it opens into the clearing, you are entering early Coconut Grove as much of the Barnacle is in its original state.
The Kampong (Miami) - The former estate of Dr. David Fairchild, the Kampong contains a botanical garden collection from Southeast Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and many other tropical sources. There are 9 acres of lush tropical plants including an 80-year old baobab tree from Tanzania.
The Coral Gables Merrick House (Coral Gables) is another historical home that takes you back in time to life, this time to the very beginnings of Coral Gables. The Merrick House is the childhood home of Coral Gables founder George Merrick. Many of his family's furnishings, art works, and decorations fill the rooms of this lovely home. The exteriors are built from Florida pine and limestone and the home's gardens are filled with a great variety of tropical plants. The entire site is 2 acres and tours of the interiors are available on weekends.
Miami Seaquarium (Key Biscayne) - A 38-acre sea aquarium. Animals on display include dolphins, manatees, alligators, sharks, stingrays, a killer whale, sea turtles, sea lions, and seals. The Seaquarium opened in 1955 and is one of the nation's oldest oceanariums.
Ancient Spanish Monastery (North Miami) - In the city of Sacramenia, near Segovia in northern Spain, the construction of the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux began in 1133 AD. It was completed eight years later in 1141. In 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and some surrounding outbuildings. The structures were dismantled stone by stone and stored in 11,000 wooden crates. Each stone was numbered for identification in the rebuilding process. After Hearst's death, the Monastery was purchased and brought to Miami. It took 19 months and many millions of dollars to rebuild. Today it is open. It is this hemisphere's oldest building, though not originally built on its present location, of course.
Whitehall / Flagler Museum (Palm Beach) - A 75 room gilded age mansion completed in 1902. The home belonged to Henry Flagler (the former John D. Rockefeller partner in Standard Oil). It is a spectacular Beaux-Arts style 3-story home with 55 fully-restored rooms. It is situated on 5 acres on the eastern side of Lake Worth in Palm Beach near the Breakers Hotel.
Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach) - This 50,000 plus square-foot museum contains over 7,000 works of contemporary art and photography.
Worth Avenue (Palm Beach) - A very upscale shopping and gourmet dining, four-block avenue. High-end retailers, art galleries, jewelers, and boutique shops include Armani, Brooks Brothers, Cartier, Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Tourneau, Hermès, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Chanel, and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Anne Kolb Nature Center (Fort Lauderdale) - A 1,500-acre coastal mangrove nature center. There is a 68-foot observation tower, a fishing pier, nature trails, biking path, and a boat tour. You can rent kayaks and bikes. There is an exhibit hall with video presentations and nature displays.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens (Fort Lauderdale) - An artist's home built in 1920 on oceanfront land. The home's decorations and artifacts are clearly the result of an artist's touch. The grounds' buildings include the main house, the art studio, a music studio, and a guest house.
Much of the 35 acres retain their natural state. There are five different ecosystems represented within the estate; coastal dunes, mangroves, a freshwater slough, and a forest.
Lion Country Safari (West Palm Beach) - A drive-thru safari and amusement park where visitors drive for about one and a half hours through the 4-mile path with animals roaming freely around their cars. Lions and chimps are set back from the cars. However, rhinos, giraffes, impalas, etc. roam freely. There is also a walk-thru area and a petting zoo, water slides, a small train for kids, and animal encounters.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park (Fort Lauderdale) - A state park located on a stretch of acreage between the Intercoastal and A1A, just across from the ocean. Activities include camping, canoeing, fishing, swimming, hiking, and viewing wildlife.
Palm Beach Zoo (West Palm Beach) - This zoo has over 500 animals on 23 tropical acres. Animal exhibits & shows, zookeeper talks, animal encounters, and a carousel.
Butterfly Garden (Fort Lauderdale) - It is the largest butterfly park in the world with around 20,000 live butterflies. There are also birds on display including the country's largest hummingbird aviary. Other exhibits include both mounted and live insects such as scorpions, moths, spiders, and walking sticks.
There are endless beaches stretching across the South Florida coast. These beaches differ greatly in their look, the crowds they attract, and their settings. Some beaches attract locals and some attract tourists. Some are packed and some offer quieter, less crowded experiences. There are family-friendly beaches and those that may lead to an eyeful of early education for the littles ones. Our blog post will give you a more in-depth look at each of them. Nonetheless, here is a short overview of some of the key beaches.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (Key Biscayne) - A nice stretch of beach frequented by locals and families. This beach is a more natural setting without the clutter of hotels and condos. The Cape Florida Lighthouse stands at the southern edge of this beach and provides a magnificent view of Key Biscayne. From the lighthouse you can catch a glimpse of the last remaining structures of Stiltsville offshore about one mile out. BBQ is in the air as grills are always in use near the pavilions. Bike rentals are offered and there are some family-friendly bike paths. Parking is available in adjacent lots.
Matheson Hammock Beach (Miami) - Here you will find a man-made saltwater atoll pool. There is a restaurant adjacent to the beach and a walkway that circles the pool. Boats are coming and going along a channel leading to a marina. Most of the visitors are locals and families.
Crandon Park Beach (Key Biscayne) - Most locals can remember family parties on this beach since they were little. Crandon is much more of a family beach than South Beach. The waters are shallow and clear. You will look back to shore and see rows of coconut palms rather than hotels. There are plenty of amenities such as picnic tables, kiteboarding, kayaking, and paddleboard rentals. There are cabanas and pavilions available for rent. There is also a nature center, and guided Eco Tours on the northern part of the beach.
South Beach / South Pointe Park (Miami Beach) - This is the beach between 1st and 24th on Miami Beach. Probably the most photographed and filmed part of South Beach is the area from 5th street to 14th place. Lummus Park is here between the hotels, the boardwalk, and the beaches.
Ocean Drive is an art deco showcase and many of the area's key annual events are held there. This stretch of beach is popular with tourists. It can be busier than most beaches and is definitely a people-watching beach. It is not easy to find street-side parking, but there are public garages close by. Once in a while, if you are lucky, you might grab a metered space right on Ocean Drive. The quieter part of South Beach is located between 1st and 5th Street. Parking is not easy to find in this area and garages are not that close. However, the crowds are much smaller, consisting more of local residents than tourists.
South Pointe Park is at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach's South Beach. Here you will find the popular 17 acre park - South Pointe Park, and a pier which the cruise liners pass by on the way in and out of the Port of Miami.
Mid Beach (Miami Beach) - Between 25st Street and 46th Street. A trendy stretch of beach with stylish hotels like 1 Hotel South Beach, the Fontainebleau, the Eden Roc, the Miami Beach Edition, and Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
North Beach (north Miami Beach) - This is a quiet, laid-back far more residential area. Hotels and apartment buildings are still here but in fewer numbers and not as tall. If you are looking for a less crowded option, this is a nice option.
Surfside Beach (north Miami Beach) - Like North Beach, this is a quiet, relaxing, family-friendly place to avoid the crowds. This seaside community of about 6,000 has been able to retain its small-town feel. It is a bit of old-Florida which hasn't been overrun by massive condo towers.
Haulover Beach (north of Bal Harbor) - Haulover is a 177-acre park and beach with amenities galore. This beach is the largest remaining stretch of undeveloped beachfront in Miami-Dade County. There are concessions available for renting beach chairs, umbrellas, and for grabbing a quick bite. Picnic areas with tables and grills, a marina, boat rentals and charters, and a bark park are also available.
Haulover has long been a favorite of families for kite flying. Drop by the Skyward Kites concession at the Haulover Park Kite Field or bring your own.
Haulover contains a 1.5-mile long clothing-optional beach - the largest beach of its kind in the United States. If you have an aversion to tan lines this may be an option for you.
Sunny Isles Beach (north Miami) - This is a growing area with the development of more recent hotels and condo towers. Hotels fronting the beach include Trump Towers, Turnberry Sunny Isles, Oceania Towers, Newport Beachside Hotel & Resort, Jade Ocean Condos, Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, Porche Design Tower, Trump International, Palace, & Royale. Pier Park and the Sunny Isles Pier are at 163rd Street. The beach can also be accessed at Samson Oceanfront Park at 174th Street or at any of the adjacent hotels you are staying at.
Hollywood Beach (Fort Lauderdale) - A more family-friendly beach. Visitors of all ages come here. This beach has some tall hotels and condos at points but largely maintains a small sea-side resort feel. The beach is lined with a 2.5-mile, palm-lined, paved walkway. It is pretty wide with room for pedestrians and a bike path. Parking is never very far away, usually within a block or two.
Immediately after the walkway is the beginning of the beach, so not a long way to drag your stuff. There are restaurants and shops along the paved walkway. They are close enough to walk over, grab a bite, and return to your umbrella. The Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort is among the hotels that front the beach here. You will find bigger crowds on weekends and a much smaller number of people during the weekdays. There is a small stage at Johnson Street where you can hear live music Wednesdays through Sundays, weather permitting.
Las Olas Beach (Fort Lauderdale) - Running along Las Olas Boulevard and fronting a selection of shops, restaurants, and bars. Not as crowded as Fort Lauderdale Beach. It attracts visitors of all ages. This beach is open day or night and no loud music or alcohol is allowed on the beach. Once the sun goes down the activities pickup along the restaurants and bars that line the street. Spring break still attracts a rowdy crowd, but things are far calmer than they had once been and the police is always present.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park (Fort Lauderdale) - Here you will find a beach with grills, picnic tables, a volleyball court, and a basketball court. There is also a beautiful, white, sandy beach with crystal clear water, of course, but you knew that.
These and many other beaches will be covered in more detail in the blog posts including Virginia Key Beach, Hobe Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Dania Beach, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Bal Harbour Beach, etc. To wrap up, it's a peninsula. We have 1,350 miles of shoreline in Florida (not counting the shorelines of the 4,500 islands of over ten acres in Florida). After every beach is . . . that's right, another beach. Bring your bathing suit, sunscreen, and some flip-flops!
South Florida is warm 9 months of the year and the winters are hardly cold. Indoor and outdoor events of every kind are plentiful. There are a number of major annual events in South Florida that attract national & international visitors. The events are bringing in large audiences and amazing content in wonderful South Florida venues. Many are the largest events of their type in the country. Any vacation that includes stops at local attractions should always consider the major events taking place around the time you are visiting. So here are a few of the most popular events.
The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival is a foodie's dream come true. This five day event attracts celebrity chefs, culinary personalities, and wine & spirits producers to showcase their talents and products. There are tastings, demonstrations, brunches, lunches, dinners, and much more.
Art Basel Miami - The yearly art gathering is the largest contemporary art show in the country. Over 250 galleries and 4,000 artists from across the world. The premiere event attracts international celebrities, curators, museums, collectors, and spectators. There are also a large number of local institutions coordinating events and a number of satellite fairs taking place at the same time in Miami. Over 90,000 people attend each year.
Miami Book Fair International - This event has become the largest book fair in the nation. It lasts eight days and draws around 200,000 book lovers. They gather to see the exhibitors from the major publishers, and around 300 authors giving talks, holding book signings, and showcasing their work.
The Miami International Film Festival brings together independent American & International films for a 10 day festival. There are 70,000 people attending this festival each March.
The Miami International Boat Show is a 5 day event, held in February, attracting over 100,000 people from all over the world. This show includes about 1,400 boats and 1,100 exhibitors on display.
The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is the largest boat show in the world. More than 110,000 boating enthusiasts from around the world attend this show featuring more than 1,500 boats, 1,200 exhibitors, and six miles of floating docks across multiple locations.
Sunfest, in West Palm Beach since 1982, has brought music and art to South Florida in a big way. The music festival is held annually on the first week of May attracting more than 100,000 visitors. There are multiple stages with a variety of artists performing. Parking is limited but can be purchased in advance. If you are coming from Miami or Fort Lauderdale consider the Brightline train which has a station just a few blocks from the event.
Past performers have included Death Cab for Cutie, Duran Duran, Evanescence, Flogging Molly, Snoop Dogg, Weezer, Bob Dylan, Blink-182, Garbage, Earth Wind & Fire, The Wailers, Chuck Berry, Lenny Kravitz, Patti LaBelle, Little Richard, and so many more.
There are always concerts, plays, 5K and marathon races, sporting events, food tastings, conventions, street parties, charitable fundraisers, air shows, and an endless array of events all over the area. There are also more events listed below. Note: exact month & dates can change from year to year.
Art Deco Weekend
Beaux Arts Festival of Art
Homestead Championship Rodeo
Zo's Winter Groove
International Chocolate Festival at Fairchild
Orange Bowl Championship
Polo Season at IPC
Miami International Boat Show
South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Coconut Grove Art Festival
South Miami Art Festival
Miami Marathon & Half-Marathon
Miami International Map Fair
Florida Renaissance Festival
Grand Prix of Miami
Miami Open Tennis
Miami International Film Festival
Carnival Miami & Called Ocho
Ultra Music Festival (late March)
Winter Music Conference (electronic music scene)
International Orchid Festival
Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo
Miami Marlins Season
Miami Beach Polo World Cup
Fleet Week Port Everglades
Mercedes Benz Corporate Run 5k
Miami Fashion Week
Sunfest Music Concert & Fair
Funkshion: the Retreat
Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival
American Black Film Festival
Redland Summer Fruit Festival
Swim Week Miami
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim
Zo's Summer Groove Golf Classic
Hemingway Days Festival
Key West Lobster Fest
Coconut Grove Food & Wine Festival
Miami Dolphins Season
Opa-Locka Arabian Festival
Great Grove Bed Races
Columbus Day Regatta
Fort Lauderdale Intl Boat Show
South Florida Dragon Boat Races
Aqua Girl (women LGBT events & parties - SoBe)
Key West Fantasy Fest
Miami Broward One Carnival
South Florida Intl Auto Show
Miami Heat Season
Miami Book Fair International
Wings Over Homestead Air Show
Great Grove Bed Race
Vizcaya White Party
Run Miami Turkey Trot
Art Basel Miami
King Mango Strut
Miccosukee Indian Arts Festival
South Florida is home to two of the world's busiest cruise ports. The "Cruise Capital of the World", the Port of Miami, sees over five million passengers each year. The Port is underwent major terminal renovations in 2019 and 2020. Royal Caribbean has developed a $247 million, 170,000 sq. ft. terminal. Norwegian Cruises has developed a 166,000 sq. ft. terminal to send off passengers in style. Virgin Voyages new terminal is scheduled to open in November 2021. Their lush new terminal will have an incomparable view of the Miami skyline. Access to the port is via State Road 886 causeway bridge or the PortMiami Tunnel from Waston Island.
The Port of Miami is home to twelve cruise lines and almost 40 ships. Here is the list as of the beginning of 2021:
- Azamara Club Cruises
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- MSC Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Royal Caribbean International
- Viking Cruises
- Virgin Voyages
Fort Lauderdale's port has nine cruise lines but over 40 ships in total. Port Everglades is Florida's second busiest port. Cruise lines setting sail from the port include:
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Costa Cruises
- Crystal Cruises
- Holland America Line
- Princess Cruises
- Royal Caribbean International
Discover ports of call from Europe to the Caribbean to Central & South America. You can enjoy the endless entertainment onboard and plan your exotic excursions at each destination. Plan adventurous or leisurely itineraries while you lounge on deck overlooking unforgettable views of the Atlantic. You won't want to go home!
Art & Galleries
The South Florida art scene is home to a global community of artists, galleries, collectors, curators, and art lovers. There are a number of art districts throughout the South Florida area, numerous year round art fairs including Art Basel, and an endless array of galleries & museums.
The PAMM (Pérez Art Museum Miami) showcases works of international artists in a spectacular indoor-outdoor building with hanging gardens and wonderful gathering spaces set on the shores of Biscayne Bay. This spectacular building is as much an attraction as the art it houses.
The Wynwood Art District, once a run down collection of warehouses, is known for vibrant street art, ever-changing murals, artist studios, and a large number of amazing galleries. There is no shortage of acclaimed dining, live music, and regular art walks in the area as well. The mega popular monthly art walks draw large numbers for evenings of art and dining.
The Margulies Collection At The Warehouse is a 50,000 square-foot collection of contemporary photography, video, sculpture, and installation art. Martin Z. Margulies, in over 30 years of collecting, has amassed a collection of many thousands of pieces to the benefit of the South Florida art lovers who visit his voluminous exhibition space.
The Rubell Museum is one of the world’s largest privately owned contemporary art collections. The museum is housed in a 100,000 square-foot building. The over 7,000 piece collection includes works by Haring, Basquiat, Hirst, Koons, Sherman, and Warhol.
The Frost Art Museum was designed by Yann Weymouth. The 46,000 square-foot museum is located on the Modesto Maidique campus of Florida International University. The museum is also a member of the Smithsonian Affiliate Program. The FIU campus is also home to the Martin Z. Margulies Sculpture Park which is on long term loan. It is found throughout the campus and there is a self-guided tour available. There is no charge to see the museum or the sculpture park.
The Bass in Miami Beach is housed in an Art Deco building from the 1930s that was recently renovated. The museum is small but well curated and offers varied contemporary exhibits.
The Gary Nader Art Centre in Wynwood is a 55,000 square-foot contemporary art showcase that over the years has included works by Basquiat, Bermudez, Botero, Goldin, Hirst, Lam, Lichtenstein, Manet, Matisse, Miro, Monet, Picasso, and Warhol.
The Wolfsonian, in Miami Beach, is home to a collection of over 150,000 objects that illustrate the influence of design focusing mainly from the late 1800s to the end of the WWII. The items in this impressive collection include industrial objects, architectural objects, works in glass and ceramics, printed propaganda, paintings, and much more.
Other South Florida Galleries & Museums
Art Fusion Gallery
Art Nouveau Gallery
Center for Visual Communication
Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation
Diana Lowenstein Gallery
Dot Fiftyone Gallery
Fabien Castanier Gallery
Harold Golen Gallery
Irazoqui Art Gallery
Robert Fontaine Gallery
Sammer Gallery LLC
Waltman Ortega Fine Art
White Porch Gallery
Brickell / Downtown
Nina Torres Fine Art
Zenith Art & Fashion
de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space
Institute of Contemporary Art Miami (ICA)
MaMan Fine Art
Markowicz Fine Art
Mora Studio + Gallery
Little Haiti / Little River Art Galleries
Bill Brady Gallery
Fabien Castanier Gallery
Futurama 1637 Art Building
Laundromat Art Space
Little Haiti Cultural Center
Mindy Solomon Gallery
Pan American Art Projects
Rimonim Art Gallery
Bass Museum of Art
David Castillo Gallery
Peter Lik Gallery
Wolfsonian - FIU Museum
The Americas Collection
Durban Segnini Gallery
Jorge M. Sori Fine Art
ArtSpace Virginia Miller Galleries
Art Organizations & Other Art Spaces
Canale Diaz Art Center
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Lowe Art Museum
Other Miami Areas
Coconut Grove Art
Dharma Studio Contemporary Art
Bellagio International Gallery
National Geographic Fine Art Galleries
New River Fine Art
Pocock Fine Art
Alan S.Maltz Gallery
Cocco and Salem Gallery
Gingerbread Square Gallery
Guild Hall Gallery
Haitian Art Company
Hands On Key West
James Coleman Gallery
Key West Fine Art Photography & Printing
Key West Gallery
Key West Pottery
Lucky Street Gallery
Peter Lik Gallery
The Studios of Key West
Boca Raton Museum of Art
Kevin McPherrin Gallery
Stewart Fine Art
Vertu Fine Art
Arcature Fine Art
Ashley John Gallery
DTR Modern Galleries
Edward and Deborah Pollack Fine Art
Gallery of Sculpture
Holden Luntz Gallery
Ildiko Contemporary Fine Art Gallery
Lévy Gorvy Gallery
Mark Borghi Fine Art
Onessimo Fine Art (Palm Beach Gardens)
Paula Cooper Gallery
Studio E Gallery (Palm Beach Gardens)
Wally Findlay Galleries
West Palm Beach
Ashley John Gallery
Mary Woerner Fine Arts
Norton Museum of Art
Palm Gallery & Custom Framing
The Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve
Eastern South Florida has an urban core from Palm Beach to Florida City in the South to just before where the Florida Keys begin. To the West are the Florida Everglades flowing South from Lake Okeechobee into the Florida Bay at the Southernmost point in the state.
The Everglades is largely a grassy marsh but also includes cypress swamps, pine rockland, hardwood hammocks, and mangroves. These ecosystems are home to panthers, alligators, crocodiles, a large variety of birds, manatees, snakes, foxes, otters, raccoons, deer and many other animal species.
The seashore, at the base of the Everglades, brings more amazing wildlife. The shorelines and reefs are teaming with many beautiful schools of fish, dolphins, loggerhead turtles, sharks, coral, and lobster to name a few.
What makes the Everglades unique is that, unlike a typical swamp, there is a constant flow of water from North to South. It is a giant slow moving river. What conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, called "the River of Grass". The water flows at a very slow rate of about one mile every two and one half days.
The Everglades include 1.5 million acres or about 7,800 square miles, making the park bigger than a few states and 3rd largest National Park in the lower 48 states. Flying into MIA from the West of South Florida, you can get a real good idea of the expansiveness of this national treasure.
A visit to the Everglades can take many forms: by boat, car, airboat, hiking, low flying private plane tour, or even sea plane. There are some unique locations to explore in the Everglades that are popular and worth a visit.
Tamiami Trail (8th Street in Miami) and I-75 (Alligator Alley in Fort Lauderdale) cut through the Everglades and the areas just north of the park from East to West. Each includes a number of great place to explore the Everglades. Heading South along US1 to State Road 9336 provides another point of access through the Southern entrance to the park in Homestead, Florida. There is little that compares to a private airboat ride or a boat trip through the Glades but you can find numerous trails, boardwalks, and lookout towers throughout the park.
Shark Valley Visitor Center
This is an amazing place to get a great close-up view of the Everglades and its wildlife. West of Miami on Tamiami Trail (25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike), Shark Valley offers a guided tram tour, bicycle rentals, and walking trails. This is a paved 15-mile road that heads out to an observation tower and then back to complete the trip. You will pass through a variety of Everglades environments along the way.
The tram tour takes about two hours with occasional slowdowns for viewing of animals. Biking or walking are great for anyone looking to stop along the way longer than the tram allows. However, it is a long way to go in the Florida sun. Wear your sunscreen and stay well hydrated. Two important things to remember: this is not a zoo and the animals can bite or eat you. It is not just the animals you need to be aware of. The foliage can get you as well. Keep a look out for poisonwood, poison ivy, and the very sharp sawgrass. Keep your distance and be aware of your surroundings. A typical bike ride with occasional stops can take two to four hours.
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center & Everglades National Park
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is the Southern entrance road to the Everglades National Park. The Visitor's Center has a selection of educational displays, a small store, and detailed maps of the Everglades.
From the Center, taking State Road 9336 South, visitors will find a number of park stops with more visitor's centers, observation towers, trails, canoe launches, campgrounds, etc.
After leaving Ernest F. Coe Center, continuing about four miles further, you will find the Royal Palm Visitor Center. There are vending machines, bathrooms, and a small shop. There are two trails at this stop.
Royal Palm Visitor Center, The Gumbo Limbo Trail & the Anhinga Trail
At the Royal Palm Visitor Center, the Gumbo Limbo Trail is a half-mile, paved, walking path through the native hardwood hammock with a thick canopy.
Right next to the Gumbo Limbo Trail is the Anhinga Trail. The Anhinga Trail is a paved walkway and a boardwalk over a sawgrass marsh. The trail makes its way alongside a canal, then through sawgrass, and opening up to a lake before returning to the start. There usually are a large number of alligators visible and an ever changing selection of birds such as Great Egrets, Turkey Vultures, Purple Gallinules, Great Blue Herons, Tricolored Heron, Double Breasted Cormorant, White Ibis, and Wood Storks. The entire trail loop is a little under a mile.
Interestingly, they hand out tarps and elastic bands by the parking lot, since the local turkey vultures have a real liking for any rubber trim on your car. They will actually rip out the rubber around your windshield or windows if you are not careful. So cover up!
One interesting Everglades site is the HM69 Nike Missile Base. There are signs on 9336 before you get to Long Pine Key that will show the way. The missile site was used by the US government during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nuclear tipped missiles were pointed at Cuba should they be needed. The site today is a reminder of just how dangerously close we were to a nuclear confrontation during that time. The site is about 18 minutes from the Ernest F. Coe Center.
Long Pine Key Nature Trail
Continuing down 9336, you will come across Long Pine Key Nature Trail. There are campgrounds and a series of connected hiking or biking trails through Everglades pineland.
Next up as you continue South on 9336 is Pa-Hay-Okee Lookout Tower. This raised platform is a lookout over the vastness of the River of Grass. The tower is about 15 miles south of the Ernest Coe Visitor Center. There is 1/4 mile boardwalk trail through the grass and cypress trees.
The Mahogany Trail is a 0.4 miles boardwalk trail that cuts through a dense, jungle-like hardwood hammock. The hammock includes gumbo-limbo trees, sawgrass, air plants, and the largest living mahogany tree in the United States.
There are more hiking trails along the way but ultimately State Road 9336 ends up in Flamingo at the Southern tip of the Florida peninsula. Flamingo has a visitor's center, a marina, a ranger station, a public boat ramp, a marina store, and other hiking and canoeing trails. The Everglades National Park headquarters are also found here. Flamingo sits on the shores of the Florida Bay with only the Florida Keys extending Southwest and South. Flamingo is about 38 miles from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. That is about 45 minutes if you don't stop along the way.
There are many amazing locations throughout the Everglades. Loop Road breaks off of Tamiami Trail and extends West and then turns North to reconnect with Tamiami Trail again.
Clyde Butcher Big Cypress Gallery
Renowned photographer Clyde Butcher has a wonderful gallery about 36 miles west of Miami at Mile Marker 54.5, about a half mile east of the Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor's Center. There you will see some truly beautiful large format images of the Everglades as well as other locations he has photographed. There are also two cabins for rent, Eco-Walks, and photo safaris scheduled throughout the year.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve, found 45 miles West of Miami and Northwest of the Everglades (on Tamiami Trail), is a diverse landscape of 729,000 acres (larger in size than the State of Rhode Island). The Preserve is home to large Cypress strands, mangroves, and pineland forests.
The wildlife is very diverse including American alligators, Florida panthers, white-tailed deer, black bears, turkeys, wild hogs, many turtles, and over 200 species of birds. There are over 50 types of reptiles, and over 25 types of snakes that make the preserve their home. Venomous snakes in this area include Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnakes, Coral Snakes, and Florida Cottonmouth.
Approximately one million visitors visit the preserve each year. The Miccosukee and Seminole Tribes still make a home in the area of the Big Cypress Preserve and the Everglades. Big Cypress National Preserve allows for a wide range of activities including hunting, hiking, fishing, and canoeing.
Parks, Gardens, Recreational Areas, and Playgrounds
South Florida has literally hundreds of public parks, gardens, playgrounds, jogging paths, and biking trails. There are small neighborhood green spaces all the way up to large public parks with many amenities that serve large numbers of visitors. A small selection of some popular parks are included below.
Tropical Park & the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center
Amelia Earhart Park
C.B. Smith Park
Oleta River State Park
Quiet Waters Park
Tradewinds Park & Stables
Brian Piccolo Sports Park
Matheson Hammock Park
Alice Wainwright Park
A.D. Barnes Park
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Fairchild Botanical Gardens
South Pointe Park
Where to Eat - Stay - Shop
South Florida has literally a few trillion amazing places to dine, grab a snack, cater an event, treat your spouse to a romantic evening, or pack a feast for the beach. The variety of options for eating are endless. There are also a growing number of nationally and internationally renown chefs that have opened in South Florida providing great choices in fine dining. Every conceivable variety, fusion, tradition, and style are represented.
The international nature of South Floridians gives the area a rich and diverse selection of dining opportunities. Peruvian, Cuban, French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Persian, Columbian, and so many other fine traditions are represented here. Where else can you find fresh Stone Crabs, Key Lime Pie, Ceviche, Cuban Sandwiches, Mango, Star Fruit, Alligator Nuggets, Cuban Fritas, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Cuban Croquetas, and Haitian Griot?
The success of the Food Network's & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival has gotten the attention of foodies from all over the world. Over 65,000 people attend more than 100 events every year for the festival.
South Florida provides a varied selection of accommodations. Miami-Dade County has 502 hotels with 60,064 rooms as of February 2021. Now add to that the hotels from Palm Beach down to the Keys and your options are almost unlimited.
Where do we start? Some better known hotels include: St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort; Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, One Hotel; The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables; the Fontainebleau Miami Beach; Mandarin Oriental Miami; Four Seasons Hotel Miami, The Marlin Hotel; Trump National Doral Resort; The Setai Miami Beach; The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne; The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach; W Hotel Fort Lauderdale; Loews Miami Beach Hotel; The Miami Beach EDITION; East Miami; The Betsy Hotel; The Raleigh; Pillars Hotel; The Chesterfield Palm Beach, and many many more.
There is everything from very ultra luxury hotels to casual sea-side resorts between Palm Beach and the Florida Keys. There is even an underwater hotel in the Keys. You can blow a big kiss to that pretty grouper outside your porthole!
It is all a matter of tastes. There are boutique hotels, luxury hotels, full blown resorts, and each one has its own look and flavor. On the Mediterranean Revival (and very opulent) side, there are the Breakers in Palm Beach, Boca Raton Resort & Club Cloisters in Boca Raton, and the Biltmore Hotel in Miami.
If contemporary is more to your taste, consider the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, or the 1 Hotel in Miami Beach.
For smaller boutique stays, consider the Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Keys, the Raleigh in Miami Beach, or The Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach. But we can't possibly list them all here now. So please see the blog for posts covering hotels and resorts.
Online shopping is great, but there are shopping venues that provide shopping experiences that will have you returning to brick and mortar stores. Miami & South Florida have a number of shopping districts to fall in love with. At Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, you will find eight blocks of shopping and dining in a pedestrian-friendly avenue. BCBG Max Azria, Zara, Madewell, John Varvatos, Steve Madden, Urban Outfitters, Intermix, Anthropologie are here, as well as independently owned boutiques and galleries. There are many great places to refuel at the many outdoor cafes.
For luxe brands, head to Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, the Bal Harbour Shops, or Miami's Design District.
Miami's Design District has rapidly become a luxury brand shopping destination with stores like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Cartier, Emilio Pucci, Louis Vuitton, & Hermes in an upscale outdoor setting. Bal Harbour Shops is one of Florida's finest high-end shopping malls. Here you will find Audemar Piguet, Bottega Veneta, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Stella McCartney, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Chanel, Chloe, Bvlgari, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabana, Dior and many more. Whoa, can you feel your wallet getting lighter! The setting is open-air with lush garden foliage and tropical ponds.
Worth Avenue is Palm Beach's renowned collection of exclusive shops & dining in the heart of Palm Beach. The avenue was established in the 1920s. Today there are high-end shops, jewelry, antique, and art retailers including Stubbs & Wootton, Cartier, Neiman Marcus, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Tourneau. All that shopping can be tiring. You will need to keep your energy up with a strategic break at Costa Palm Beach, Café Boulud, Sant Ambroeus, Honor Bar, TooJays, Coyo Tacoor, or Ta-boo. Remember to venture down the side street "Vias" for even more shops in European inspired courtyards, adorned with palms & vine covered walls.
The Brickell City Centre is a one billion dollar recent arrival to downtown Miami with shopping, dining, entertainment, and residences. It offers a 3 level, indoor-outdoor environment with a sleek and elegant contemporary design. This is a 9-acre "city within a city". It is accessible by car, by Metromover (at the Brickell City Centre station exiting at level three) on the Brickell Loop, or even from the Metrorail (exiting 2 blocks away at the Brickell Station exit). Of course, you can walk on over if you are staying nearby.
There are endless shopping options all over South Florida. Streets such as Coral Gable's Miracle Mile, or malls such as the Dolphin, the Falls, Sawgrass Mills, CityPlace, the Village of Merrick Park, Aventura, the Galleria, CocoWalk, Lincoln Road, or Dadeland. We can't possibly list all the dining, lodging, and shopping options here now. See our blog posts for all the details.
Pro Sports Teams
Miami Dolphins (Football)
Florida Panthers (Hockey)
Miami Heat (Basketball)
Miami Marlins (Baseball)
Inter Miami CF (Soccer)
Climate & Seasonal Information
South Florida summers are hot and humid and winters are warm and dry. August is the hottest month and June is the wettest. January is the coldest month. December is the driest month. Winters in South Florida are the warmest in the country. In the winter, temperatures in South Florida usually range between the fifties for the lows and mid-seventies for highs. During the summer months, temperatures range between highs of mid-nineties to lows in the mid-seventies.
On average there are about 135 days of rain in South Florida. Tornados and waterspouts can occur from time to time. Hurricane season runs from June through November. For those of you that have never been through one, they are to be taken seriously. Category 5 hurricanes are monsters.
In other words, in the winter we are hanging out by the pool in shorts. In the summer, when not at the beach, most of us are looking for air conditioning. We don't get a white Christmas. Water skiing - YES, snow skiing - NEVER.
Yes it did "snow" in Miami, once, on January 19, 1977. However, by 9:30 am, it had all melted away.
South Florida is spread out and we don't have mass transit as developed as, for example, in New York. The urban areas have grown very quickly and weren't always as planned out as they could have been. There are a few major highways that you'll need to be familiar with to travel around South Florida. See the map below for a better idea of the location of major highways.
South Florida cities along the coast are joined by a great many towns, villages, municipalities, and neighborhoods. For example, Miami-Dade County, the county that Miami and Miami Beach are part of, includes 27 municipalities.
Finding your way around South Florida can be daunting for first time visitors and us locals too. The American Society of Civil Engineers lists Florida in the top ten states with the best infrastructure. But Orlando and Miami are pretty congested.
Here's the good news, Miami is no longer in the top 10 cities with the worst traffic. Major infrastructure improvements have made great strides in reducing commute times. However, traffic is this slow at rush hour. Luckily, there are a number of transportation options and tips that will help you find your way.
Rush hour is clearly something to be avoided when using any of the major expressways. Heading north from 6:30am-9:00am or south from 3:30pm-7:00pm, means you can expect traffic. The same times on SR 836 heading east towards downtown and west to suburbia in the evening is snail paced. The Florida Turnpike is generally less backed up than I-95. I-95 during the above mentioned rush hour times should be avoided. The SR 826 is also something that slows down quite a bit during rush hours. GPS can help to determine what is flowing and which alternatives routes are available to go around slowdowns. In any case, traffic accidents can cause the whole system to completely stop and raise your blood pressure to new heights.
One important thing to note is that the street numbering system changes completely within the city of Hialeah. It has its own numbering system that doesn't match up with the rest of the greater Miami area. Coral Gables and Coconut Grove have named streets that can be confusing if you are not familiar with them.
In Miami, there is an elevated rail - the Metrorail. It doesn't go everywhere. If your destination is near one of its stations then you may consider it as an option. It connects with a smaller rail system, the Metromover, that loops around downtown Miami and the Brickell area.
MiamiCentral is a hub in downtown Miami adjacent to the Government Center Metrorail station. The Government Center Metrorail station links the Brightline to the Metrorail, MetroMover, and the bus lines. Brightline runs a high-speed rail between Miami, West Palm Beach, and soon will be expanding service to Orlando. South Florida also makes use of Water Taxis, Airboats, Trolleys, Buses, Bicycles, and Boats. Around here, your cell phone and its GPS are your friend. Below are some of the main roads in South Florida. We will cover more of the transportation details in our blog posts.
North - South
Interstate 95 (highlighted in orange) is the main north-south highway along the eastern side of urban South Florida. I-95 travels down through Palm Beach, continues south to Miami, and finally feeds into US1. US1 continues all the way down through the Keys.
The Florida Turnpike (highlighted in green) is the next major north-south highway. It heads south through West Palm Beach until it hits North Miami and then turns west about 8 miles before turning north-south again until it connects to the Florida Turnpike Homestead Extension (SR 821) (also highlighted in green). The Turnpike Extension (SR 821)continues down to Florida City and empties into US1.
In Miami, there are two smaller freeways that carry a large amount of traffic in and out of downtown to the west and south - SR 826 & SR 836. SR 826 (highlighted in blue) travels north from US1 in Pinecrest and then turns east to A1A in Sunny Isles Beach, north of Miami. SR 826 travels for 30 miles and handles over 200,000 cars daily. SR 826 is commonly referred to as the Palmetto Expressway.
East - West
SR 836 (highlighted in red) travels east to west for 15 miles between SW 137 Avenue at US Highway 41 in the west to I-95 in the east. Once at I-95, SR 836 connects to I-95 (north - south) or continues east to Miami Beach on I-395. This highway is commonly used by people traveling between downtown Miami and the suburbs to the west. It is also used to travel east to Miami Beach. It travels by the Miami International Airport and intersects with SR 826 just west of the airport. SR 836 is commonly referred to as the Dolphin Expressway by locals.
I-75 (highlighted in yellow) runs north from SR 826 until just west of Fort Lauderdale before turning west through the northern Everglades to Naples on Florida's western coast. I-75 then turns north and continues for 1,400 miles until it hits the Canadian border in Michigan. Hey, we only cover South Florida, so if you keep driving . . . you are on your own!
SR 41 (highlighted in yellow - also known as 8th Street or Tamiami Trail), runs East - West from downtown Miami across the state through the Northern part of the Everglades to Naples. SR 41 then turns North to Tampa.
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