Located a few degrees above the Tropic of Cancer, Miami comprises a network of barrier islands, coral rock and mangrove swamps, connected by manmade additions of soaring bridges, stately causeways and panoramic roads. Miles and miles of white sand beaches hug the coastline, while the waters of the mighty Atlantic Ocean and tranquil Biscayne Bay gently envelop the city.
To the south and west, Everglades National Park, the third largest in the U.S. National Park System, is a unique 1.5 million-acre eco-system of sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps, subtropical jungle and the warm waters of Florida Bay. Nearby, the primarily underwater Biscayne National Park is teeming with sea life and plants, and features living coral reefs as well as the longest stretch of mangrove forest left on Florida’s east coast within its 173,000 acres.
Back on dry land, a colourful array of exotic flowers and plants – purple bougainvillea, yellow allamanda and pink hibiscus are everywhere, while avocados, mangos and bananas flower and fruit in backyards. Coconut palms, stately royal palms and sea grape trees are ubiquitous. The sense of being in the tropics pervades, as wild parrots alight on telephone lines and the sweet scent of night-blooming jasmine fills the air after dark.
With an unparalleled mix of ethnic and cultural groups spread throughout the sprawling city’s environs, Miami offers visitors a new perspective on every corner; a mélange of images, sounds and tastes that range from the familiar to the exotic. A live and let live philosophy prevails, an essential attitude in a large city with so many different points of view. Visitors instantly pick up on the local laid-back mood; and stress melts away upon arrival at Miami International Airport.
Greater Miami Neighbourhoods
South Beach/Art Deco District/Ocean Drive
Located at the southern end of Miami Beach, South Beach’s Art Deco District is a whimsical collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930s and 1940s, which is the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world. It has been anointed the “American Riviera” in a nod to the unmistakable air of casual chic that permeates the district. The transformation of South Beach from a downtrodden slum into a pastel wonderland of painstakingly renovated architectural treasures has brought global fame for the Art Deco District and its glorious beaches and fabled nightlife. Ocean Drive is known worldwide for its see-and-be-seen cafés, bikini-clad in-line skaters and beaches packed with beautiful young sun seekers, while trendy Lincoln Road has emerged as a lively magnet for culture, entertainment and shopping.
The rest of Miami Beach continues to thrive, reaping the benefits of its proximity to the Art Deco District’s plentiful entertainment and dining offerings. Hotels that put Miami Beach on the map during the swinging 60s, while neighbourhoods like funky Surfside and a revitalized North Beach draw many with unpretentious charms, great local restaurants and easy beach access.
Bal Harbour and the Bay Harbor Islands are quiet upscale residential communities notable for the Bal Harbour Shops, continually ranked one of the top shopping destinations in the world for its concentration of designer boutiques, including Gucci, Fendi, Tiffany’s, Roberto Cavalli and countless others.
Sunny Isle Beach
This community is a favourite with families and tourists who are drawn to the laid-back casual vibe, sea grape studded-beaches and affordable motel-style accommodations. The area is going more upscale with new luxurious accommodations and condos becoming part of the mix – including Ocean Pointe, Le Meridien Sunny Isles Beach, Trump International Miami, Acqualina Hotel and a resort and spa called Solé on the Ocean.
Downtown Miami is a hub for international business and finance, with soaring office towers and ultra-modern condominiums lining Brickell Avenue. The new Adriene Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County, American Airlines Arena (home to the Miami Heat), Bayside Marketplace (a waterfront shopping and dining destination) and Bayfront Park (an outdoor concert amphitheater) draw residents and visitors alike.
Miami Design District
Also near downtown, Miami’s Design District has become the centre of the home furnishings and interior design industry in South Florida with a dense concentration of design and furniture showrooms all within walking distance of one another. Unlike most other design centres, these are open to the public as well as to the trade. Add excellent art galleries and trendy restaurants to the mix, and the area has made it to the top of to-do lists for design-savvy visitors to Miami. Meanwhile, upscale restaurants, funky boutiques and even a gourmet hot dog shack are sprouting along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard.
Saturated with Cuban culture, Little Havana’s main thoroughfare, Calle Ocho (Eighth Street) is lined with restaurants featuring Latin specialties and cafes where men sip cafecitos and play dominos and argue about politics all day. Here, artisans still hand-roll cigars, and tailors create custom guayaberas (traditional linen shirts), while the sounds of salsa and merengue fill the air. Although Little Havana remains Cuban to the core, the area reflects the existence of many other Spanish-speaking immigrant groups in Miami. Restaurants on Calle Ocho showcase the cuisines of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia and other Latin countries.
South of downtown where the foliage becomes lush and tropical, Coconut Grove was legendary in its heyday as an arts colony. Today, the culturally diverse locality draws throngs of tourists and residents to its restaurants and cafés, art galleries, boutiques, movie theatres, farmers markets, and bookstores. Home to popular attractions like Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, (an Italian Renaissance mansion), and the Barnacle, historic home of Miami pioneer Ralph Monroe, the Grove honours its artistic roots each February with the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, the nation’s largest annual outdoor celebration of visual arts and crafts.
Designed and planned in the 1920 by early Miami developer George Merrick, Coral Gables features beautiful Mediterranean-style homes and winding waterways. Renowned for world-class dining and its flock of top galleries that present the crème de la crème of Latin American and Spanish art, Coral Gables is also home to the Village of Merrick Park, one of Miami’s most upscale shopping Mecca’s, it is also the closest shopping destination in regards to Miami International Airport. Merrick Park features more than 100 haute couture fashion and home décor shops and boutiques, as well as several gourmet restaurants in a lushly landscaped setting.
This secluded paradise is just a few miles from downtown yet worlds apart, with miles of hiking and biking trails, boating and water sports, beaches that continually rank in the top ten, top-notch tennis and golf facilities and upscale resort properties. It is home to Miami Seaquarium, which features the new Dolphin Harbour which includes the Dolphin Odyssey and Dolphin Encounter programs and the Sea Trek experience.
The agricultural bounty of Miami’s mild climate becomes apparent as visitors head south of Miami to Redland and Homestead, with vast fields of strawberries, tomatoes and other fresh produce, en route to Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. Robert Is Here is a popular stop on the way to the Parks. The roadside stand has garnered international acclaim for fresh fruit shakes and unusual produce. Many of the area’s tourist attractions are also located here, including Miami Dade Metrozoo, Monkey Jungle, Schnebly’s Winery, Everglades Alligator Farm and the Fruit and Spice Park.
If you are looking for Miami Holidays, follow the link to find the top destinations and hotels you can visit in the Miami area. We look forward to hearing from you soon!