BEST BEACH Virginia Key Beach Once the playground of the unwanted, Virginia Key has been a refuge for nudists and, during segregation, African-American bathers. The island is also home to a landfill and a big, stinky water-treatment plant. It was an environmental ghetto just a hop, skip, and jump from some of the fanciest real estate in the world, but the past few years have seen dramatic changes. A vast revitalization plan has begun to do wonders for the filthy beach. The usual exotic suspects like Brazilian pepper and Australian pine are gone, and with the tender care of naturalist Juan Fernandez and his team, the native habitat has been reborn. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also begun shoring up the beach itself to fight dreaded erosion. That effort has far to go: The war in Iraq siphoned off money earmarked for restoration, and debate rages on about how much development would be a good thing and how much would be too much. But the improvements, the sense of history, the ecology, and the genuine wonderfulness make this place special.
Readers´ Choice: South Beach
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