I never quite realised how huge and diverse Florida is before this trip. There is so much to do and the state is brimming with yummy foodie scenes, a mix of cultures and so much natural beauty. Miami was our first stop in my family’s 2 weeks Florida road trip and we only had two full days here before driving to Tampa, Orlando.
In all honesty, at the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first but the longer I spent there and the more I think back on it now the more I appreciate how much character and vibrancy it has in comparison to other parts of the state.
It’s a place of two completely opposing parts separated by a couple of bridges. Whilst central Miami is heavily influenced by authentic South America, Miami Beach is pure USA at its most shiny and extravagant. In my opinion, to get the best out of what Miami has to offer you need to experience a bit of both.
Here are some of my favourite spots in Miami that you can include on your trip to the Sunshine State.
One of the nicest things to do in Miami is visiting Everglades National Park, Florida’s largest swamp. As I love nature, this was something that I definitely wanted to go to as its just such a unique national park! It’s home to panthers, alligators, snakes and birds.
We walked the Anhinga Trail which is a 0.8 miles paved and boardwalk trail along a small section of wetlands. This is where we spotted the alligators and Anhinga birds (the bird the trail is named after).
If you have time, you could also take an airboat ride through the swamps to see how many gators you can find. However, please don’t make the same mistake as we did and make sure you mosquito spray the hell outta your body! I definitely left with more than 20 bites.
The weather can be unpredictable in August – it can be so hot one minute and then pouring down with rain the next!
The Florida Keys
We then continued driving south to the the Florida Keys. The Keys stretch 190 km (120 miles) from Miami to Key West. The islands (or keys) are linked by a series of bridges. It looks like a concrete snake across the ocean between mangroves. What’s nice is that each key is different to each other – but all of them are a tropical delight. We only had time to go to the first big key – Key Largo but it was heavenly! As we didn’t do any research beforehand, we stopped off at some local shops and asked the guy behind the counter what is the best local secluded beach he knows. He said that he goes to one that not even the locals go to -it had no name, but pinpointed on the map exactly where it is. We went in between the small side streets and then some more residential streets before we discovered this gem. We met this Cuban mafia guy while swimming and my dad got excited and was talking to him for a while (while I was trying to find my escape route). We must’ve been in the sea for more than an hour, just talking, swimming etc. It was just so perfect.
The sunset was legendary.
We started off the day by exploring Little Havana. This neighboured was once largely Anglo-Jewish but then blossomed in the 1960s to the lively Latin quarter it is today when Cuban emigres settled in Miami after Castro’s conquering of Cuba.
The main street is called Calle Ocho (Eighth street) – you’ll recognise the street as soon as you go in as its full of salsa music, shops selling cigars, café con leche and the Cubano (Cuban sandwich). If we weren’t heading to Tampa that evening, it would have been nice to explore the area in the evening where it comes even more alive.
Instead of buying my brother a keychain and fridge magnet, we headed to a Cuban cigar shop and bought him a few cigars! We watched as this fella rolled up the cigar himself.
As the sun was starting to set, we parked the rental car near the South Beach strip and walked to the beach. We loved the colourful lifeguard towers dotted along the shoreline – its so Miami! We found a patch of sand, soaked up the sun and then watched the sunset.
Art Deco style
I was really excited to see the world-famous Art Deco District. As the family nerd, I took it upon myself to google the fact on every retro building that caught our eye along Miami’s art deco streets: Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know what art deco is until this trip. Art deco style started in Paris in the 1920s and then made its way to the US in the 1930s. Because it was during the time of the Great Depression, the style was more subtle than its European counterpart. The style can be described as a representation of luxury, glamour and technological progress. It features bright colours, geometric forms and chrome plating.
Do you have any questions about travelling to Miami that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂
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