Best Day Trip 1999 | Boca Chita Island and Lighthouse Tour | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Some intransigent people are of the unwavering belief that a genuine day trip requires meticulous planning down to the last detail. For them a complete change in scenery from one's everyday surroundings is in order. We're a little more relaxed. A leisurely drive is nice. So is an alternate ambiance. But we aren't particularly enamored of rigid schedules. We prefer an unhurried, casual outing like Biscayne National Park's three-hour boat tour to Boca Chita Island, which is offered from January to April for a mere $19.95 plus tax ($9.95 for kids under ten years old). In the early afternoon, you and 47 other adventurers will zoom off in a glass-bottom boat to the 32-acre island. Owned by the wealthy Honeywell family from 1937 to 1945, it was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once you disembark a guide will chat about the history of the onetime playground for the moneyed set, that still includes ten structures built in the Thirties, coral-rock walls, and a cute but useless 65-foot coral-rock lighthouse. After all that structured activity, you're free to roam, snap photos, picnic, or just hang out. (If you dock your own boat on the key, you can camp overnight, but the facilities are rather austere.) After your brief, invigorating visit to a quieter place in time, you'll be ready to hop back into your car and return to hectic civilization.
Motorists speeding eastward on Gratigny Parkway might not know that behind the wall of pine trees to their right, mountain bikers are hard at work. If you bring your stump-jumper there, you'll find a frondescent labyrinth winding through the woods on the park's northern edge (or "undeveloped" side, as county employees call it). The course isn't hilly, much less mountainous, but it does have a sufficient number of drops and curves over coral rock and through dense flora to provide a distinctly South Floridian challenge. Maybe we should call it jungle biking. The foliage is tunnel-like in places, so don't forget to duck! The course is home turf of the twenty-member South Florida Dirt Dobbers racing team, which hosted the second round of the recent Sandblaster Mountain Bike series.

Tourist: "What's the name of that there river?" Local guy: "Pardner, that there's no river. That's a canal." Tourist: "Well, it sure in hell looks like the gol dang Mississippi." It's true. South of Florida City, a stretch of the C-111 canal does resemble a river. It even bends and flows alongside a dusty, unpaved road. Several years ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tore down the C-111's earthen walls as part of an effort to restore the natural flow of the Everglades. That opened up quite a vista. The fourteen-mile, canalside pathway is called the Southern Glades Trail and it's the newest installment of the South Dade Greenway Network. Bordering farmland and saw grass expanses, it connects to three other paths that were created by the Redland Conservancy. The Southern Glades Trail has two starting points. One of them is about twelve miles south of Florida City, where U.S. 1 crosses over the C-111 canal. The other is on State Road 9336, about a mile east of the Everglades National Park entrance. You can travel on foot or horse, but we suggest biking. That way you can cover ground more quickly and likely see more wildlife. Local guy: "That there's no cute little beaver. That there's an alligator head."

After fighting traffic, crowds, and auto exhaust while pedaling through the urban jungle, you'll be rewarded with a new perspective on the city. Perhaps the best route for such a point-of-view shift starts near the Rickenbacker Causeway tollbooth. Leave your car there and head back to South Dixie Highway, then go north. Detour on SE Fifteenth Street to Brickell Bay Drive. Take a left, follow it back to Brickell Avenue, and cross the Miami River. Take the bayfront sidewalk next to the Dupont Plaza Hotel and follow it to Bayside. Work your way back to Biscayne Boulevard and continue north to the I-395 on-ramp. Use the sidewalk and the emergency lane to cross the MacArthur Causeway into South Beach. Your reward: one beer. Remember, it's a roundtrip.

You would think Miami's ample public space near the shoreline and constant easterly breeze would make kite flying as popular as Rollerblading on South Beach. Well, maybe not. But some think it's hip to sail the winds with cloth and string. A few of these aviators/eccentrics can be found showing off their kaleidoscopic flights-of-fancy Sundays on the beach at Crandon; some are employees and customers of Sky Dancers, a kite shop in Coconut Grove. Besides sending aloft their rainbow-color wonders, which come in shapes ranging from a parrot to a cube, they are also willing to share a trade secret or two with novices. Some day soon this could become Miami's next big fad, as cool as Rollerblading on South Beach. Okay, maybe not.
Its location is a study in contrasts. The hut that serves as the office neighbors the Crandon Marina boat ramp. Clean sailboats, ranging from 22 to 25 feet, are dwarfed by humongous powerboats that slide from their trailers into the water. As the wind-driven craft languish, high-pitched outboards burn fossil fuel and make waves on their way to Biscayne Bay. But to seasoned sailors, the differences serve as a noisy reminder of the therapeutic qualities of their avocation. And there's a bonus: The location allows sailors to reach the shadow of the Miami skyline in less than fifteen minutes. Rates start at $27 per hour; daylong cruises go for $129 and up. Weekend packages are also offered. Basic sailing knowledge is, of course, required. And that means more than identifying port and starboard. If you don't know more, lessons are available beginning at $35 per hour.
For four bucks you can tee off at one of the swankiest clubs in South Florida. Of course for that price you have to confine your backswing to the driving range. Or you can get really fancy and splurge for a big bucket of balls, which costs seven dollars. If that's a little steep for your working-stiff budget, check out the charge for parking: free if you avoid the valet service. Then again, considering the fortune you're saving by not joining Doral, why not hire a fellow working stiff to park your car? As you head to the range, swagger like the elite. In fact swagger more than the elite. They pay $200 ($250 in winter) a pop to play eighteen holes on the Blue Monster, the most prestigious of Doral's four courses.

After a $3.9 million renovation, International Links has easily become one of South Florida's premier public golf courses. Reopened in October 1997, it is becoming incredibly popular, thanks in no small part to the redesign of several holes, most notably number four. A monstrous par five (608 yards from the black tees, 585 from the gold, 574 from the blue, and 536 from the white), the fourth hole features a split fairway. Golfers can opt for the left fork, which runs safe but long. Or they can drive down the right side, which gets them to the hole more quickly -- only if they stay away from the six fairway bunkers that protect the hole like a father chaperoning his daughter on prom night. Then there's the green: 41 yards long and 24 yards wide, which makes for a lot of long putting and sometimes an even longer afternoon.
The mini-golf at Malibu is good. If you choose the path that leads to the castle, it's particularly fun. Then there are the batting cages, go-carts, video games, and greasy pizza. Taken as a full-day adventure, it all adds up to a rollicking good time. Want to try another location? Forget about it! Malibu doesn't really have any competition south of Grand Prix Race-O-Rama in Broward. Its only peers in Miami-Dade are, to be honest, pretty darn sad. Memo to the powers that be: More mini-golf, pleeze!
As you set out across the glassy shallows of Biscayne Bay toward the mangrove-covered humps dotting the horizon, you'll know why we continue to choose this spot for superlative snorkeling. Because the place is a national park, boat traffic and commercial activity are limited. The reefs have flourished. Tangerine-color clown fish, spectral triggerfish, and barracuda, are abundant. The snorkeling boat, run by a Hollywood company called Divers Unlimited, leaves once per day at 1:30 p.m. (For scuba divers another departs weekdays at 9:00 a.m. and weekends at 8:30 a.m.) The snorkeling trips return about 4:30 p.m. The cost of $27.95 includes rental of all equipment: mask, snorkel, safety vest, and fins.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®