Matheson Hammock Park, which also harbors (no pun intended) the full-service Matheson Hammock Marina (complete with sailing and powerboating schools), offers several enticing features: Natural, native landscaping, featuring old live oaks, mangroves and palm trees. A Hammock Trail (different from the main road, which some also call a trail) for a gorgeous, scenic walk that actually leads into Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Red Fish Grill, an upscale restaurant carved into an historic coral rock building, where prime dining hours are between sunset and star shine. And a man-made atoll pool that is fed by Biscayne Bay. Shallow enough for babies and attneded by a lifeguard, it's also perfect for kite-boarders because, while it's calm and gentle, stiff breezes sweep through here. A snack bar, picnic pavilions and locker/restrooms make Matheson a convenient spot for families to take in the sun and saltwater. As a bonus, there's also an awesome view of downtown from across the bay.
Located in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, this historic, white brick lighthouse has stood sentinel since 1825, when it was originally built. It was later reconstructed in the mid-1850s, after it was attacked and burned by the Seminoles in 1836. As such, it's the oldest building in Miami, and visiting it is a great break to take from swimming, sunbathing, biking, kayaking or fishing when in the park. From the top, 95 feet off the ground, views of Biscayne Bay and beyond, where cruise ships and wildlife are frequently visible. Guided tours of the lighthouse, which features 119 iron steps, and the accompanying cottage, which housed the lighthouse keeper, occur twice daily Monday-Thursday, and Cuban fare is available for munching from the Lighthouse Cafe.
HistoryMiami doesn't sound like the name of a historical museum, which is exactly what organizers and board members had in mind. The less-bulky name signified a new direction for what was previously called the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Today, the museum, which actually began as a historical association in 1940 (George Merrick and Marjory Stoneman Douglas were members) continues to offer the exhibits that were developed throughout the previous decades, as well as incorporating new ones. Now a a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, the facility has a newfound ability to launch its own collections and publications, as well as lend and borrow traveling exhibits. In addition, the famed Miami Circle site, unearthed downtown when a new building was being planned, has been incorporated as part of the museum. Ciity tours of the Circle are offered, as well as eco-history bus, boat and walking tours of external attractions ranging from Calle Ocho to the Everglades.
Encounter the country's most exquisite ecosystems up close with Everglades Hummer Adventures. These tours through the stunning wetlands offer unrivaled adventure, perfect for enterprising, eco-minded vacationers. Whether you sign up for the four-hour off-road Hummer tour or spring for the package that includes an airboat ride and a tour of the Florida Panther Preserve, you're in for a thrill. Call in advance for reservations!
If the constant urban buzz wears thin, this park makes an ideal escape. About two hours south of Miami, it was founded in 1963 as the country's first underwater preserve. At the visitor center, immerse yourself in the area's ecology and natural history, and check out the 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. For a closer look at the reef and its inhabitants, opt for snorkeling, scuba diving or glass-bottom boat tours. Other diversions include fishing, swimming and camping.
Feeling overwhelmed by the richness and diversity of the restaurant scene? With Miami Culinary Tours you can place yourself under the expert guidance of local foodies, ensuring you don't miss a thing. Choose from four unique tours, each one showcasing a different, flavorful district. Enjoy samples from dozens of restaurants, both the renowned and the hidden gems, as you learn about the colorful cultures that have influenced the way Miami eats.
Whether you're a seasoned pro or an enthusiastic tyro, you'll find the waters off greater Miami ideal for sport fishing. Many professional companies offer charters that depart from Miami for half- or full-day trips, and Haulover Marina's fleet of individual boats can accommodate groups of any size and budget. If you want to splash out a bit, head for Key Biscayne. Prices may be higher, but boats are bigger and more luxurious. Most charters from Key Biscayne also venture farther out, which means you can potentially catch bigger fish
Teeming with natural, archaeological and historical appeal, the Deering Estate proves endlessly engaging. Excavations at the bayfront compound originally owned by Charles Deering (whose brother James built Vizcaya) have uncovered the remains of prehistoric animals, and evidence suggests that Paleo-Indians were here more than 10,000 years ago. Historic buildings also distinguish the 420-acre property the 1922 Stone House, Richmond Cottage and 19th-century Richmond Hall. For an altogether different perspective of the estate, reserve a spot on the weekend canoe tour.
A city touring service quite unlike any other, Duck Tours South Beach plays into its name sake by giving tours on both land and water. . . using the same vehicles. That's right, Duck Tours provide tours on fully amphibious duck trucks and operators drive straight into the water and right back out of. The tour begins in the heart of South Beach and before long you splashdown into Biscayne Bay and pass by Star Island, home of many rich and famous residents. There are many different tours, all of which last 90 minutes and cover a wide range of Miami.
Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Park System, offers a reprieve from the crowds that you find at most other area attractions. The majority (95%) of its over 170,000 acres is underwater. On the land that remains above water you have the option of camping, picnicking, and walking along nature trails. Or head to the underwater portion for some great snorkeling or scuba diving tours. Sunset cruises, glass-bottom boat tours, and canoe tours are just some of the boat trips available. Reservations are recommended for all tours.