Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

Neighborhoods

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

BEST NATURAL HIGH

Plunging into the cool waters of Biscayne Bay from the old Rickenbacker bridge (next to and below its replacement highway) is one trippy, exhilarating experience. When you just can't take another sweat bead from the summer swelter, can't tolerate the oozing burn meant for lobsters being cooked, then taking a dive is your solution. Liberating -- you're flying! -- and mind-blowing -- what if it's only two feet deep? -- the bridge free fall is the splash that refreshes. From the bridge you plummet about twelve feet into the sea, scaring hell out of any fish in the area. Time freezes, you feel gravity's mighty pull, bubbles surround you. Exhale, sink as far as your lungs allow. The yawp of the howling teens watching from the bridge is muffled, creating a psychedelic underwater soundscape. Nearby you hear the splash of another bridge jumper. You surface for air. You grin, no smile. No, you beam like a little kid catching his first fly ball. The sun bakes your marinated skin. You swim to the shoals at the foot of the bridge (sneakers while jumping are recommended) and run around to the ledge. A few more times and magically you are carefree, fresh, and feeling like the crazy kid you're behaving like.

BEST FISHING HOLE

More a jumping-off point to any number of fishing holes, Flamingo, at the south end of Everglades National Park, provides access to hundreds of catching spots. Rent a canoe and paddle through the webs of mangroves while looking to hook a snook, outsmart a mutton or mangrove snapper and, bam, dinner's almost ready. Rent a "real" boat and glide into Florida Bay for spotted seatrout, redfish, or the fierce, inedible fighters called tarpon, which usually flash by near Flamingo's marina. Drive or boat a few miles to the north and put out a line for bass or tilapia in the freshwater rivers and bays. The park provides a beautiful verdant and teal setting for all that angling. And the sunset over Florida Bay is no more tangible but endlessly more pleasurable than the lunker that got away.

BEST FISHING HOLE

More a jumping-off point to any number of fishing holes, Flamingo, at the south end of Everglades National Park, provides access to hundreds of catching spots. Rent a canoe and paddle through the webs of mangroves while looking to hook a snook, outsmart a mutton or mangrove snapper and, bam, dinner's almost ready. Rent a "real" boat and glide into Florida Bay for spotted seatrout, redfish, or the fierce, inedible fighters called tarpon, which usually flash by near Flamingo's marina. Drive or boat a few miles to the north and put out a line for bass or tilapia in the freshwater rivers and bays. The park provides a beautiful verdant and teal setting for all that angling. And the sunset over Florida Bay is no more tangible but endlessly more pleasurable than the lunker that got away.

BEST BAIT SHOP

Homestead is equal parts agricultural business headquarters, quaint tourist town, and Old South country village. Any guesses which category a shop called A-OK Fish 'n' Bait falls into? You can purchase most any kind of bait here: spinners and shiners, grubs and topwaters, even live shrimp. But the real treasure is the conversation. Homestead anglers get their goods here (not from the Orvis Website), and they're known to tell a tale or two. Stick around, and you might learn something about fishing in South Florida. Some of what you learn might even be true.

BEST BAIT SHOP

Homestead is equal parts agricultural business headquarters, quaint tourist town, and Old South country village. Any guesses which category a shop called A-OK Fish 'n' Bait falls into? You can purchase most any kind of bait here: spinners and shiners, grubs and topwaters, even live shrimp. But the real treasure is the conversation. Homestead anglers get their goods here (not from the Orvis Website), and they're known to tell a tale or two. Stick around, and you might learn something about fishing in South Florida. Some of what you learn might even be true.

BEST CHEAP THRILL FOR KIDS

Experienced anglers know to check them for live baits, but the public is generally unaware that in clumps of yellow-brown seaweed exist miniature aquariums waiting to be unveiled. Sargassum floats (thanks to spherical growths full of carbon dioxide) on the ocean currents. Early summer, when the water is calm and the sargassum gently drifts in, is the perfect time to show youngsters the marvelous bounty of the sea. Grab a clump of weed off the surface (sunken or dark brown weed is too old) and shake it over a bucket of ocean water. Like jewels from a pouch, out spills a variety of tiny creatures: juvenile versions of bigger fish that use the weed as a nursery. Crabs, shrimp, sea horses, nudibranch (called sea slugs), and other adult creatures also inhabit the weed. The most interesting resident is the sargassumfish, which looks exactly like a piece of weed until it flops away as you draw near. Sargassum's many wonders should keep the children occupied until their skin turns red and they volunteer to call it a day.

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BEST NATURAL HIGH: Jumping off the Rickenbacker Causeway on a hot day

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