The Seven Strangest Spots in Miami
Miami New Times Archive

The Seven Strangest Spots in Miami

It's safe to say Miami and its people are strange. But, hey, strange is good. Strange is what makes Miami the crazy, over-the-top, lavish, and outlandish place that it is. Our city oozes character, from the outfits on our backs to the places and structures we proudly call home.

So we're celebrating the strange with these seven places that emulate Miami's beautifully wacky culture. From 800-year-old structures to houses propped on stilts in the ocean and castles both above and under the water, get ready to get weird.

The Seven Strangest Spots in Miami
Photo provided by St. Bernard's Episcopal Church

7. Cloisters of the Spanish Monastery
One of the oldest buildings in the Western Hemisphere is right in our backyard. The Cloisters of the Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach is more than 800 years old. But the ancient construction wasn't always located in the 305. It was built in northern Spain and later dismantled and sold after a social revolution in the 1830s. In 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and the Monastery's outbuildings and shipped them to the States. It took nearly 40 more years for them to land in Florida and to be rebuilt, earning the structure the nickname “the biggest jigsaw puzzle in history.” Now the site, which is open to the public, is an active and growing Episcopal church.

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Miami New Times Archive

6. Coral Castle
This isn't the type of castle your favorite fairytale described. Said to be carved from 1,100 tons of oolitic limestone and built by one man, this castle is a colossal expanse of coral. It took nearly 30 years to build the site, which includes beds, chairs, tables, and fountains, all made from coral. Edward Leedskalnin, who stood just over five feet tall and weighed only 100 pounds, is believed to have built the castle as a tribute to his long-lost love who left him a day before their wedding. Before he died, Leedskalnin would lead tours of his castle and charge only 10 cents per person for admission. To this day, however, it remains a mystery as to how he built such a massive structure. What is for certain, though, as written on a sign at the front entrance: "You will be seeing unusual accomplishment."

Moorish architecture of Opa-locka City Hall.
Moorish architecture of Opa-locka City Hall.
Courtesy of OLCDC

5. Opa-locka City Hall
The city of Opa-locka, which was the vision of aviation pioneer Glen Curtiss, was originally named by Native Americans as “Opa-tisha-wocka-locka,” meaning “a big island covered with many trees and swamps.” The city, shortened to "Opa-locka," featured structures based on an Arabian Nights theme, which is plainly obvious thanks to a collection of Moorish architecture throughout the city and street names such as Sabur, Sultan, Ali Baba, Sharazad, Aladdin, and Sesame.Curtiss and architect Bernhardt Muller designed 105 buildings, including city hall, with an array of domes, minarets, and exterior staircases. The September 1926 hurricane badly damaged the city, but many of the Moorish-style buildings survived, giving Opa-locka its unique appearance today.

4. Aerojet Dade Rocket Facility
In the 1960s, Aerojet manufactured rocket boosters at its 25,000-acre property in Homestead. The plant was shut down in 1986 after the company lost its contract with NASA, leaving the industrial site untouched and deserted for decades. The facility remains empty and is often frequented by scrap-metal thieves, graffiti artists, and young explorers, though venturing onto the property is illegal. 

The Seven Strangest Spots in Miami
Courtesy of WEAM

3. World Erotic Art Museum
Miami may not boast as many museums as New York or Los Angeles, but what it does have is a building filled with historic, cultural, artistic, and scientific relics of all things erotic. The World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) was created in 2005 and remains the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to fine erotic art. Inside, find anything and everything sex-related, from a bed engraved with text from the Kama Sutra to dildos in every shape and size. There are more than 4,000 works of international sex art, ranging from 300 BCE to the present.

2. Neptune Memorial Reef
Located about three miles off Key Biscayne, Neptune Memorial Reef is the largest manmade reef in history. Now in its final phase, the reef will span 16 acres of the ocean, producing a marine habitat ideal for coral and marine organisms to thrive. Using 10,000 cubic yards of cement and covering more than 600,000 square feet of ocean floor, it is modeled off the legendary Lost City. It doubles as an underwater cemetery too, considered more affordable than traditional burials.

A-frame house
A-frame house
Photo by Brian F. Call

1. Stiltsville 
The pastel structures of Stiltsville — a cluster of seven wood-frame houses sitting a mile south of Cape Florida — have stood since the early 1940s, according to HistoryMiami historian Paul George. "There used to be 27 homes that were on stilts in the Biscayne Bay," George says. "But different hurricanes ended up destroying a number of them. The ones that are left are great, though. It's really fantastic to get out there and experience it." Though the houses used to be the place "to see and to be seen," in terms of lavish parties and wild outings, today the structures remain a quiet and peaceful destination for locals and tourists alike.

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