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The lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo: Shutterstock
The lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo: Shutterstock

Places

Miami’s best outdoor spots

Miami is consistently rated as one of the world’s best beach holiday destinations. With miles of pristine white sand and turquoise waters, it’s easy to see why.

Miami Beach, the barrier island that is the most famous part of town and where holidaymakers often end up staying, is essentially a city of 100,000 people right on the beach. On any given day, all day long – except for when heavy tropical rains briefly roll in during steaming hot summer afternoons – gorgeous, funny and wacky people can be seen walking, jogging, swimming and enjoying the sometimes unreal-looking beauty of this place.

But don’t make the mistake of plopping yourself down on South Beach, which is the most popular part of Miami Beach, and being glued there for the rest of your holiday. Miami offers so many other wonderful spots worthy of exploration.

There are the northern beaches of Miami where sea turtles nest. There is Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, where manatees frolic in the surf. And the staggering wilds of The Everglades, which is Miami’s backdoor of sorts. The list of less well-known utdoor spots to explore on your Miami trip is long. Here is a selection of the best.

Mid-Beach

Once you’re done ogling the preened, buff people on South Beach, head northward toward Mid-Beach (which starts north from 23rd Street), a much more understated and family-focused spot, but no less splendid. Bring the picnic basket and dig in for a relaxed morning or late afternoon sunbathing and swimming session.

South Pointe Park

This park, which sits right at the southern tip of Miami Beach, is a haven for those who love strolling or powerwalking. Families, joggers and dog-walkers saunter through the well-landscaped tropical gardens and sand dunes and enjoy the views over the ocean and the passing cruise ships. Kids love the splash park by the ice cream and snack shop and this is also a perfect spot for the youngest swimmers to bathe since the waters are particularly shallow here.

1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
miamibeachfl.gov

Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park

Though the name is a mouthful, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, located on the most northern tip of Miami Beach, is a glorious place for swimming, watching sea turtles, fishing and having picnics in the shade of the sea grape trees. It’s a perfectly secluded spot, even though it’s just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Miami. 

6503 N Ocean Dr, Dania Beach
floridastateparks.org/mizell

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Photo: Shutterstock

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

A must-visit beach park on Key Biscayne, just south of Miami Beach, tucked away behind a mangrove forest that is overrun with iguanas of all sizes. Have a swim by the beach before you do a tour of the lighthouse built in 1825. Then go manatee spotting and check out Stilstville, a village of wooden houses built on stilts in the water. Used as gambling dens, the properties date from the 1930s’ prohibition era when this particular vice was permissible one mile away from the coast. The stilt houses have since served as the locale for the wildest and most unlawful parties throughout Miami’s party-fuelled history. Also, do a walking loop through the mangroves to spot local wildlife – it’s pelican, egrets, butterflies and giant spiders galore – before having a drink or a bite to eat at the park’s cafe or restaurant.

1200 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne
floridastateparks.org/park/Cape-Florida

Virginia Key

On the weekends, this sandy paradise turns into a cycling destination and hundreds of bicyclers head out early morning for a workout before temperatures rise and they then jump in the sea to cool off. There’s even a mountain biking path on this key, a surprising find in a city without mountains.

Arthur Lamb Jr Rd
virginiakeybeachpark.net

Matheson Hammock

It’s rare to see surfers and windsurfers in Miami – the weather conditions just aren’t right most of the time. Instead, this is a paradise for paddle boarders. Much of the city is crisscrossed by canals that were constructed to make sure low-lying Miami isn’t flooded on a regular basis. It’s on these that paddlers quietly glide through leafy neighborhoods such as Coral Gables, south of Downtown. Many chose to end up in Matheson Hammock Park, a lovely lagoon popular with families with young kids, that connects to the ocean.

610 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables
miamidade.gov/parks/matheson-hammock.asp

Walk ways in The Everglades. Photo: Shutterstock

The Everglades National Park

Ever since white settlers laid eyes on southern Florida in 1821, they’ve tried to tame the giant swamp that covers most of the southern area of the state. Though parts of the delicate ecosystem that make up the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the US were destroyed in the 195-year process, The Glades have proved resilient and hard to control. Today, over 200,000 alligators, an array of birds and fish, as well as the endangered Florida panther (of which only 100 remain), live within these now protected wetlands.

Obviously, a Miami holiday isn’t complete without a visit to this remarkable natural wonder, the edge of which is just a 45-minute drive from Downtown. There are several entry points and pit-stops that all have their particular natural attractions. Shark Valley for example has become the stomping ground for brave hikers and cyclists who like walking along the trail that passes through miles of swamplands, with alligators crawling around on all sides. Shark Valley stays open throughout the night – but enter at your own risk.

Shark Valley, 36000 SW 8th St


Text: Liv Lewitschnik 

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