Start your morning with a continental or a full breakfast
at one of the many Ocean Drive restaurants. The News
Café is a perennial favorite. Here you can
sit outside and engage in South Beachs favorite pastime,
people-watching. Afterward, take a leisurely stroll
down Ocean Drive and up Collins. You can also browse
through boutiques like the Armani Exchange, Versace
Jeans, Guess, and Vertigo.
Come lunchtime, most of the restaurants in South Beach
offer light meals: salads, cold platters, and sandwiches.
If you're on the north end you'll want to try Cardozo
Café or Café des Arts. The south end offers
excellent lunch options, including trendy Café
Tabac, funky Big Pink, and a favorite business lunch
spot, Sport Cafe. After lunch, if the weather is behaving
in a normal fashion, it will be far too hot for any
kind of real activity. So grab your suntan lotion and
hit the beach. Many of the hotels rent lawn chairs for
a few dollars, but you can also choose to lie out on
As the sun gets lower in the sky, its time to head
over to Lincoln Road, the pedestrian-only strip located
after 16th and between Collins and Alton. Everything
that makes South Beach great can be seen at this busy
open air mall. You'll find art galleries and deco furniture
stores, boutiques and salons, restaurants and bars,
and an amazingly diverse array of people. Flocks of
international tourists mingle with roller bladers, models
clutching their portfolios, and locals walking their
dogs. You could easily spend the rest of the evening
on Lincoln Road, lingering over pasta and red wine,
but if you're up to it, get dressed up and head to a
club on Washington Avenue, where you can party well
into the next morning.
Bayside Marketplace begins to wake up around 10am. The
first sightseeing cruisers depart with boatloads of
sleepy visitors, while the restaurants and shops open
their doors to early birds. If you're awake, you can
enjoy a two-hour breakfast cruise around Biscayne Bay,
the Port of Miami, Millionaires Row, and Star Island.
If you don't feel like being on a ship just yet, you
can sip a latte or, at the Latin American Cafeteria,
enjoy a full breakfast for under $5.
Take a stroll through the open-air mall, where crafts
vendors and import merchants display their wares in
stalls and carts. You can find everything from a straw
hat to an African rainstick to a tie emblazoned with
the image of Abraham Lincoln. The mall proper offers
fabulous shopping options; Art
by God and the Museum
Collection are two must-sees.
Enjoy a meal or a daquiri al fresco while watching
the ships sail in and out of the harbor. Listen to free
live music or head over to Hooters or Dicks Last Resort
for some rowdy fun. If you haven't already taken a sightseeing
cruise, catch one while the sun sets or during the evening,
when the lights of the city glimmer and sparkle.
Coral Gables' Main Attractions
Two of Miami's historic attractions are within a mile
of each other, and one of its best shopping districts
is just minutes away. Visit all three in one day for
the ultimate Coral Gables experience.
The Venetian Pool
was formed from a coral rock quarry in 1923. Take a
dip in the pool around 1pm, when the heat of the day
is at its worst. Stand under the waterfalls, hide in
a grotto, or splash around in the turquoise water. Grab
a bite to eat at the café. Then dry off, clean
up, and head over to The Biltmore Hotel.
The Biltmore is both a designated national historic
landmark and a five-star luxury hotel. Tour the grounds,
play a game of tennis, or relax and enjoy storytelling
by the fire. Sip a glass of champagne in the Courtyard
restaurant, cigar smokers can buy a stogie in the lower
lobby. Eat dinner in the Courtyard, the Palmedor (make
reservations ahead of time for either restaurant), or
head over to the Miracle Mile for some nighttime action.
If you're in the mood for regional fare, dine at Ortanique
on the Mile. Le Provencal is an excellent French restaurant,
while Caffe Abbracci is famous for its Italian cuisine.
Doc Dammers, in the Omni Colonnade Hotel, is named after
the first mayor of Coral Gables. After you've eaten,
wander down the Miracle Mile, where you'll find boutiques,
art galleries, and a thriving nightlife. Jazz lovers
should stop by the Satchmo Blues Bar, while theatre
fans can see whats playing at the Miracle Theatre.
Anyone whos spending a week or more in Miami should
make a point of visiting the Bahamas. These exotic islands,
known for gorgeous beaches, friendly locals, and all
manner of decadent diversions (gambling, cocktails,
all-inclusive resorts) are easily reachable by plane,
ship, or speed boat.
For a one-day excursion, book your ticket on a Discovery
cruise ship. This vessel departs Fort Lauderdale at
7am. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the dining room,
then head upstairs where you can join in the on-deck
games or gaze over the rail as you sail through blue-green
waters. The ship docks in Freeport at about 1pm, and
visitors have about four hours to wander around its
shops and restaurants. At 5pm the Discovery heads back
Guests who want to spend the night in the Bahamas have
a couple of options. Miami
Net and Discovery Tours both offer one-, two-, or
three-night tours in an economy, tourist, business,
or luxury hotel. Another option is a one-night getaway
at the finest hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
If you've got a few days and a few hundred dollars
to spare, there are a number of cruise lines and package
deals. Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean offer
several options, as do other cruise lines, both local
and national. If cruising isn't your favorite mode of
transportation, spring for a chartered catamaran. These
little yachts offer such a smooth ride, its difficult
to tell that you're on the water. You can ride to the
Bahamas on a catamaran or rent your own for a few days.
Blackbeards Cruises offer scuba diving excursions, while
Dolphin Charters lets you swim with the dolphins.
The Bahamas are known the world over as an exotic tropical
paradise, and the reputation is completely accurate.
With so many options at such low prices (any travel
agent or tour desk can present you with a few), its
a shame to miss out on the experience.
The Florida Keys
When the frenetic pace of Miami begins to wear on your
nerves, get in touch with your inner nature-lover at
one of the many lovely state parks in the Florida Keys.
The Keys are the polar opposite of bustling Miami, they
are sedate, slow-paced, and largely undeveloped. Several
state parks are located on the islands, each more breathtaking
than the last:
Indian Key State Historic Site
Indian Key was inhabited for thousands of years before
Spanish explorers, and later settlers, discovered it.
In the 1800s, this tiny island was actually the seat
of Dade County. However, piracy, war, and political
strife drove most of the original inhabitants off the
island. At present, a few ruined buildings are the only
noticeable reminders of early European colonization.
However, a more subtle reminder is present all over
the island: the lush greenery planted by Dr. Henry Perrine
in 1838 before he was killed by Native Americans presently
blankets much of the island. (Note: This park may not
be accessible by automobile.)
Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site
Several thousand years ago, this remote island was a
living coral reef. Presently, its one of the only virgin
tropical forests left in the Keys. The vegetation is
thick and exotic; there are no human inhabitants to
disturb it. Guests can take guided tours among the poisonwood
and pigeon plum trees. Only 50 people are allowed on
this island at the same time, and guests must remain
within the specified clearing areas. This key is only
accessible by private or chartered boat.
Long Key State Park
All kinds of recreational opportunities await at this
enormous state recreation area. On the 965 acres that
comprise the park, guests can hike, swim, or fish. Picnic
facilities are available, as are canoe rentals. For
those who like a little bit of expert guidance, there
are plenty of educational programs on hand. You can
learn how to snorkle, birdwatch, or commune with the
sea turtles. This is a great place to camp, and it is
accessible by automobile.
San Pedro Underwater Archaelogical Preserve
Approximately 1½ miles from Indian Key lies the
wreck of the San Pedro. The Dutch-built ship, which
was a part of the fleet of New Spain in 1733, has lain
submerged in nearly 20 feet of water for the past 250
years. Anyone who has ever yearned to glimpse a wreckage
site should make a point of visiting this stately old
sailing ship. As a designated archaeological preserve,
it has been protected by the state of Florida, which
has ornamented the site with seven replica cannons and
an anchor. This preserve is accessible by boat, but
visitors need to dive in in order to achieve the full
There are few tropical island experiences as fulfilling
as the ones offered in these parks. In addition to the
information given above, nearly all of the parks offer
swimming, boating, hiking, and of course some of the
most amazing beaches one could ever want to see. Even
if outdoor recreation isn't your priority, you can be
assured of the experience of a lifetime at any of the
state parks in the Keys.