With the final season of Dexter quickly approaching -- it starts this Sunday! -- it's only fitting to pay tribute to the city where it all began: our vibrant Miami. Even though Dexter himself (Michael C. Hall) says in the pilot: "Miami is a great place for me, great place for me to hone my craft -- viva Miami," filmmakers took the filming of the series out of Florida after the first few episodes.
Yes, Dexter Morgan still works for the Miami Metro Police -- but filming takes place more than 2,000 miles away, in and around Los Angeles.
Generic aerial shots mixed with the Miami skyline and some street signs cleverly inserted into various scenes give the show enough credibility to fool the average viewer. But Miamians know better, and so do L.A. natives, like Gary Wayne of seeing-stars.com.
Wayne runs the popular website that tracks down the real-life locations of the places seen on television or in movies. His interest in Dexter began when he drove past a film shooting in San Pedro, California, and was told it was for the Showtime series. After watching the first season on DVD, Wayne discovered most of the filming was done in Long Beach, California, an area he is very familiar with and that also greatly resembles Miami.
But tracking down the exact location where scenes were filmed wasn't as breezy as a walk on a beach. "I had to do a lot of detective work," Wayne says. With online searches, aerial photos, and spotting the details -- or "clues," as he says -- Wayne has uncovered an impressive number of sites seen on Dexter. Lately, his work has gotten easier with the help of his growing network of fans/tipsters, who often send him pictures of what they see.
"There are no real Miami locations after the first season," he says, "at least none with the cast present." The establishing shots seen throughout the series are filmed here -- or at least were. According to Wayne, and to his knowledge, "everything after the first few episodes was filmed in the L.A. area -- mostly Long Beach and the Hollywood area around their studio, Sunset-Gower."
Despite Wayne having never visited Miami, his favorite Miami-filmed scene was his first find: the Pepper Fountain at Bayfront Park. The fountain appears in the pilot episode and is the scene in which the second victim of the Ice Truck Killer is found. "It's a rather memorable scene in its own right," Wayne says.
Here are some other familiar spots you might have noticed during the first season of Dexter:
1420 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach
The series opens with Dexter cruising down Ocean Drive with neon signs blurring the background, but one particular sign, "Crescent," clearly stands out. Ocean Drive is used various times throughout the series as a backdrop, but it is mostly seen in season one when Dexter drives or walks up and down the street.
Seven Seas Motel
5940 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
In season one, Miami is plagued with a serial killer who goes after prostitutes. The first time we encounter one of his victims -- or at least her dismembered body -- is at the pool of the Seven Seas Motel. And that's not the location's only brush with Hollywood; the motel also had a starring role in Pain & Gain earlier this year.
Colony Hotel & Johnny Rockets
736 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach
When Debra (Dexter's sister) discovers the ice truck that the Ice Truck Killer has been using, it's parked across the street from the Colony Hotel on Ocean Drive. Inside the truck, the painted fingertips of a victim are frozen in a block of ice, like a cold and colorful high-five.
Bay Harbor Club
1155 103rd St., Miami
While in the show, Dexter's apartment is located in fictional "Palm Terrace," in reality the condo community is the Bay Harbor Club. The gorgeous view of the water cannot be faked, but the inside of the apartment can. After getting initial exterior shots in Miami, a replica of the condo was built in L.A..
301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Dexter and Rita (his then girlfriend and future wife) go out on a Friday night to some place where they publicly smash crab bits and eat 'em; this location is actually Bayfront Park by Bayside. The second victim of the Ice Truck Killer is also found here in front of an easily recognizable fountain in Bayfront Park. If you notice how the yellow police tape is positioned in the scene, it mirrors the round shape of the fountain.
Guadalupe Dollar Store
1801 NW 17th Ave., Miami
When Dexter goes to a local flea market to look for Jeremy Downs (the kid who reminds Dexter of himself), a pair of great big eyes stare back at you from the green building of the Guadalupe Dollar Store.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
In episode four of season one, the Ice Truck Killer gets personal with Dexter by recreating moments from his childhood. One photograph he mimics was taken when Dexter was a boy on "Rand Beach," which was later renamed "Petrie Beach," but in reality it's just a part of our very own South Florida coastline.
1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
One of Dexter's fond memories is going with his dad and sister to a pumpkin patch, complete with a hayride. In the flashback and crime scene shots, you can catch a great view of the Miami skyline, which can only be seen from Bicentennial Park.
Doral Park Country Club
5001 NW 104th Ave., Doral
Remember that creepy looking valet character who would abduct women, then rape and kill them, and film it for his even creepier website? Well, he worked at the Doral Park Country Club, which we get a glimpse of while Dexter creeps on him in the first episode.
4201 SE Rickenbacker Cswy., Key Biscayne
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Dexter meets up with Debra for a quick bite and to talk shop at some hole-in-the-wall fish restaurant, which turns out to actually be a local gem: Jimbo's. Since then, Jimbo's has closed down, but it's a sight worth mentioning and remembering.
The eighth and final season of Dexter starts Sunday, June 30, at 9 p.m. on Showtime. Don't forget to set your DVRs, or catch our weekly recaps starting Monday.
--Carolina del Busto