Best Snorkeling Spot 1999 | Biscayne National Park | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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.
This trail system lies in the park's Long Pine Key area, which is not a key at all. It's a wooded swath of land about two miles west of the park entrance near Homestead. The terrain here is among the most varied in the Everglades. The pines are vestiges of the woods that covered South Florida long ago. There are also hardwood hammocks, saw grass prairie, restored agricultural lands, and three small lakes. The main axis of the 43-mile network of hiking paths is the Long Pine Key Trail, where bikes are also allowed. If solitude is what you seek, take one of the offshoots. Trailheads are located at the Royal Palm Visitor Center, the Long Pine Key picnic area (about six miles from the main entrance), and at four points along the main park road.

The tall, menacing black fence stretches a long eight blocks, protecting one of this area's loveliest and best-maintained stretches of beach. At the 85th Street entrance, pay a dollar entry fee (this is a state park after all), traipse through the gate, and behold the leafy sea-grape trees, which provide refreshing shelter from the sweltering South Florida sun. Walk a few feet up the path and fire up one of the many barbecue grills. Continue a few more feet and devour your carcinogenic grub under a roofed picnic pavilion. If you refuse to walk, then run. Take a brisk jog on the Vita course. After you've cooked, eaten, or perspired, hop on the creaky boardwalk and follow the crashing sound of the waves to the inviting ocean. Behold the clean white beach, the refreshing sea, and a minimum of preening naked people.
Most Florida International University students leave campus from Friday to Sunday, which makes the place perfect for strapping on a pair of blades. Concrete was king back in the late Sixties and early Seventies when FIU was built, so there are long walkways and spacious courtyards that provide plenty of room to gain momentum. Marathoners can circle the sprawling property, which covers twenty city blocks. It's not as trendy as the Beach, but parking is easy, space is abundant, and there is no gawking audience to witness your spectacular tumbles.
Surfing in Miami? Yes, occasionally we are blessed with a rideable swell here in the land of flat seas. While our Californian, Hawaiian, and Australian counterparts search for that ever-elusive perfect wave, we spend our winters hoping and praying for a set, any rideable set. Please God, let there be a cold front! Let there be a hurricane! Let there be any sort of natural phenomenon that brings us waves! It doesn't matter how disastrous to the city, state, or continent, please! When Miami surfers' prayers are answered, the beach at First Street by Penrod's is the place to go. A few days out of the year a clean, crisp five-to-seven-foot swell that rivals a good day at San Diego's Pacific Beach pier hits First Street. Although waves occasionally break off the jetty by Harbor House on 97th and Collins, they are usually smaller and sloppier. If you are a die-hard surfer with transportation and an open schedule, head north to the Delray pier, Spanish River Beach in Boca Raton, or the Lake Worth pier. Or make a weekend trip up to Sebastian Inlet, Florida's most notorious surf spot and home to several world-class pros, including ex-Baywatch heartthrob Kelly Slater.

Canter. Jog. Trot. Okay, ready to really run? This is the path of South Florida marathoners: from Parrot Jungle north along Red Road to the footbridge, then east to Old Cutler Road, north a few miles (yes, a few miles) to Cartagena Plaza, then east almost to the water, north through Coconut Grove. Take a deep breath and follow Bayshore Drive to the Rickenbacker Causeway. The route is refreshingly scenic, backdropped by some of South Florida's most regal architecture and splendid flora, including air-cleansing and gorgeous banyans, ficus, and royal poinciana. The course is competitive, but there are enough drinking fountains to keep everybody hydrated. The best time to go: early Saturday morning, when the kind souls at FootWorks prepare icy coolers of water just northeast of Cocoplum.
Forget about chasing manatees. Skip drenching sunbathers with a watery rooster tail from the rear of your personal watercraft. And don't even think of awakening Star Island residents with that wonderful buzzing sound. All that is kid stuff. You need to take Jet Skiing to a higher level. Get out there at the mouth of Government Cut and boogie with the big boys: the cruise ships, tugboats, and speedy outboards. In 1905, when dredgers carved out the shipping lane that today parallels the MacArthur Causeway, they had no idea they had created a formidable Jet Skiing arena. But these days things have taken a turn for the fast. There's always a lot of challenging chop where the cut meets the sea (cruise ships make relatively small, though jumpable, waves). And there's a steady supply of adoring fans on the ocean liners and fishing piers. Half the fun of Jet Skiing is showing off, right?
Before tree huggers and other nature lovers quashed plans for an overseas highway down the center of Elliott Key in the late Sixties, developers bulldozed a six-lane-wide opening. When the dust settled, the key emerged as part of Biscayne National Monument, which Congress reclassified as a national park in 1980. In the years since, managers of this offshore Eden have allowed the foliage to reclaim all but one unpaved lane, which now forms a seven-mile trail. There's also a one-mile loop that slices through the hammock and turns into a boardwalk with an ocean view. If you take either path between April and June, try to spy an endangered Schaus's swallowtail butterfly along with the usual herons, egrets, warblers, and hawks. Or bring your snorkel and check out the rays, sea grass, and sea cucumbers. The best way to get to Elliot Key, unfortunately, is by private boat. The park service's boat concessionaire will take you roundtrip from the Convoy Point Visitor Center on SW 328th Street and Biscayne Bay for $21 per person, but only if you stay overnight and make reservations well in advance. Park authorities recommend avoiding the island during the summer because of mosquitoes and other insects.

Best Place To Ditch The Kids While You Lunch On Lincoln Road

Scott Rakow Youth Center

There isn't much on South Beach to interest eight-year-olds. Nor is there anything constructive for your teenager to do. What to do then with the young ones when you're hankering for adults-only strolling, shopping, or lunching? The answer lies at the Scott Rakow center. It is a virtual summer camp where, for only three dollars on weekdays or six dollars on weekends (half price for Beach residents), fourth- to twelfth-graders can frolic. Among the diversions: ice-skating, swimming, bowling, basketball, and Ping-Pong. Qualified counselors provide supervision. On Sunday children of any age (including those over eighteen) can enjoy the activities. Hours are weekdays from 2:30 till 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m., and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m. A warning: Convincing the kids to leave may be difficult.

There's something to be said for regression. When (and if) a person reaches a certain age, he or she likely begins re-enacting youthful behaviors: hanging out with the gang, playing some game or another, or killing time before time kills them. Shuffleboard, the civil sport of the retirement set, perfectly suits this enterprise, reinvigorating the mind, body, and soul. All of which is fine for the geezers of Broward, where disk-shoving can still be found on land (there's a tournament in Hollywood and courts at dozens of condos). But in all of South Florida, there is only one court maker and only one retailer of cues. Susie Day of Hollywood's Beach-O-Rama, the equipment seller, sums it up: "It's a small, little market." With the graying of America, it's about time to resurrect the dying pastime outside the world of Fort Lauderdale fogies. The best bet, if you're not just being childish and really want to get into a game of skill, fun, and patience that isn't golf, is a cruise. Most major cruise ships have shuffleboard courts where you can soak up the sun and breathe sea air while showing your stroke to a broad demographic cross section. Travel agents recommend Carnival, which has thirteen ships, all with shuffleboard. Most other major liners also feature courts. (Beware day trips like Discovery; most do not offer the venerable game.) There's one catch, though. It ain't cheap. The most affordable rate on a three-day Carnival trip runs upward of $400 per person.

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Best Of Miami®