If you're a surfer, this is not exactly news: There is no surf here. Or virtually never is there surf here. With the exception of the occasional surge of storm swells during hurricane season, about the best anyone can hope for is a muscular easterly wind kicking up sloppy but surfable sets now and then. Under those conditions Third Street (and a bit to the north and south) is the best spot. The south side of the Haulover Cut jetties offers an (unpredictable) alternative. A sleeper of a location is 23rd Street, where a fairly stable sandbar can pump up some decent surf when the swell is from east to northeast. Otherwise you'd best get in the car and head for Juno Beach, in Palm Beach County. Or better yet, down to Barbados, where those in the know go.
So you think you were quite the pinball wizard way back when? Maybe you've even been bragging about just how good you were? Of course you have -- because in this day and age you can't find a pinball machine anywhere. Okay, maybe there's one or two crammed into a few dismal bars, local arcades, and bowling alleys -- but even Dave and Buster's only has three. Well now it's time to put your tokens where your mouth is, Tommy. Boomers has two arcades, with at least five pinball machines in each. You can bust the silver ball from 10:00 until 6:00 a.m. on weekends (2:00 a.m. during the week), and the action includes everything from old-school flippers to the latest hybrids, not to mention hundreds of arcade games that will take you on a trip into your legendary past. Remember that time in the Eighties when you made it to the fourth level of Tron? Boomers has it all: They've got Q-bert, for chrissakes! And if you go on a Tuesday, you get unlimited game play for only ten bucks -- just about what you'll need to earn back that rad reputation.

Raised not 50 miles away, and sadly, as of last year, she could still count on one hand the number of times she'd been to the national park and its surrounding wild areas. Since then, though, she's been making up for lost time, exploring what she soon could be missing. She's bumped along Loop Road with only the vultures for company; airboated the vast River of Grass with the gators; set up a tent at land's end in Flamingo; kayaked along shore with the seabirds; watched from a canoe, near the shrieking rookeries, as the moon rose while the sun set; visited the Miccosukee Village with its bare wooden planks jutting into the swamp and scanned the museum's black-and-white photos of the land from back when it actually was a three-million-acre native wilderness. She's been overtaken by a sullen sense of peace. She's bought the $25 pass that allows unlimited entrance throughout the year. She knows it's late, that the parched ecosystem is shrinking and shriveling, that the invasive melaleuca trees are flourishing, that many threatened and endangered species are struggling to survive, that there is about one bird for every ten that roosted there a century ago, that the government will spend eight billion dollars over the next several decades trying to fix its manmade mess, that activists and scientists are skeptical of this plan, that eight billion dollars is one expensive Band-Aid, and that right this very moment, still, it is all unbelievably lush to her eye.

About four miles past the Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park, the Tamiami Trail (SW Eighth Street) makes a sharp bend to the northeast. Just at that point (look for a small church) an unmarked road peels off to the south and then veers eastward. This is the Loop Road, so named because it curves around to rejoin the Trail some 22 miles later. In between, however, lies an adventure, and you don't need an off-road vehicle to enjoy it. The first couple of miles are paved and punctuated by the homes of Miccosukee families. A little further along is a scattering of more rugged houses occupied by loners and weekend hunters. At the site of a secluded National Park Service environmental-education center the pavement ends and the real fun begins. From here the road is hard-packed dirt, which is quite passable except after heavy showers. It is dirt, though, so expect dust. Also expect a few fishermen, along with some of the most lovely scenery this side of a Clyde Butcher swamp photo. The south side of the road is the wet side, and it pays to get out and stroll now and then to take in the lush vegetation, deep pools, lazy gators, and cypress groves. Pack a lunch, bring a folding chair, relax. During the warm months, be sure to bring insect repellent.

Alice C. Wainwright Park
Courtesy of the GMCVB
Alice Wainwright has an amazing view of Biscayne Bay. Not Alice herself; the venerable lawyer and devoted conservationist left this world in 1991 at age 83. But the 25-acre park aptly named in her honor in 1974 is one of the only waterfront havens left that offers a glimpse of pre-bulldozer Miami. With just a short drive or healthy walk from the condos and office buildings of Brickell, you can be in one of the last subtropical hardwood hammocks in the area. The seawall is a work of art and a perfect perch for a picnic basket.
Island View Park
By the mangrove bushes at the southern edge of the park runs a little catwalk. Beneath the catwalk are the fast-running waters of Biscayne Bay. A low bridge just to the south blocks boat traffic, while the currents bring baitfish through. Waiting for the baitfish are any number of lunkers, snook, tarpon, snapper, sea trout. And you're standing over it all, literally and figuratively atop the food chain. A beautiful green park behind you, the colorful winding bay in front of you, and all kinds of possibilities beneath you.

You can bet a hand brake this bike path never would have been allowed in a hardwood hammock. In the Seventies developers dug a large swath of land off the MacArthur Causeway. When their plans for an Epcot-like trade center were abandoned, the State of Florida stepped in and bought the 1043-acre site. Opened to the public in August 1986, the Oleta River State Recreation Area became Florida's largest urban park. Although the land itself was preserved -- a good thing -- much of its native vegetation had been destroyed. A bad thing -- unless you're an Australian pine or a mountain biker. The fast-growing invader tree overtook the cleared berms and gullies left by developers. And mountain bikers scored big with more than eleven miles of narrow trails through which to bump, roll, curve, whip, and make hairpin turns. Here riders can race through dense woods thickly carpeted with pine needles, past stands of pampas grass with their feathery plumes, overlooking mangrove preserves and lagoons. Some purists say the bike trails at Markham Park in Sunrise surpass these, but tack this on to Oleta's allure: a 1000-foot-long sandy beach on Biscayne Bay, several covered picnic pavilions, fourteen primitive cabins, kayaks and canoes for rent, and a couple of miles of paved trails for Rollerbladers and less rugged two-wheelers.

Now that Bill Clinton is out of the White House, he'll probably spend a lot more time golfing in South Florida, and you can be sure one of his priorities will be improving his approach to the sixth hole at the Biltmore. Hole number six is deceptively difficult, playing 401 yards from the blue tees, 383 from the white tees, and 350 from the ladies' tee. Although the fairway is straight, a water hazard runs down the left-hand side and then cuts across the fairway in front of the green. An L-shape sand trap also awaits you in front of the green, leaving little room for error. But even once you reach the green, your work isn't done, as its two-tiered expanse offers more uncertainty. The mental challenge the sixth hole presents is yet another component of its appeal. Golfers know as they near it that it will be the first of a difficult three-hole series likely to make or break a player's entire round. Staying focused, and not letting the water hazards turn you paranoid, makes this a signature hole worthy of even the former president's utmost, ah, powers of negotiation.
On a spring morning, eight o'clock or so, sun still low in the pale sky and the traffic on Twentieth Street only beginning to get noisy, the track is a peaceful proving ground. It is Curtis Park's well-maintained central attraction (there also is a great basketball court and a swimming pool). Two banks of stadium seats rise on the track's eastern and western sides, all the better to observe afternoon and nighttime track-and-field competitions among nearby schools and clubs. And above the seats rise the old shade trees that have beautified Allapattah for decades; they enfold the park, shielding but not removing it from its very urban setting just north of the Miami River in the middle of a seamy, down-at-the-heels garment district.
Okay, okay, the experts haven spoken, and even we, professional naysayers that we are, can't deny it: South Beach is one of the nation's best beaches. It possesses miles and miles of shimmering white sand, a travel-poster blue-green slice of the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention a herd of hard, sweaty, beautiful bodies absorbing the rays. Fine. But does going there have to entail fighting rush-hour-caliber traffic in every direction at every hour of the day, every day of the week, competing with a million motorists for what seems like the last open parking space on the planet, before having to lug your crap six blocks to the water? Nope. Go south, people, go south, far from the maddening crowds on Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth streets, and toward the relative peace of lower SoBe. Located across from a residential area, this prime stretch of sand and water caters to the serious beachgoer, there not to be seen but to soak up sun, not to watch but to wade. And you can usually find parking.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®