BEST FISHING HOLE 2003 | Newport Beachside Resort Fishing Pier | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
For the sake of the senses, a brisk ocean breeze is a must for a pleasant day spent fishing. A beautiful view of the sea is an added plus, as is a truly comfortable and well-appointed pier from which to cast your line. Newport Beachside Resort's 900-foot structure, the only commercial pier in Miami-Dade, has all that. Known to old-timers as the Sunny Isles Pier, it features a funky open-air restaurant (last year's Best of Miami winner for "Best Inexpensive Waterfront Restaurant with a Great View") and a bait shop at the entrance to the fishing area. Admission for fisherfolk is three dollars ($1.50 for kids), and a buck if you just want to take in the scenery, which is impressive. During springtime, fishermen hook up with pompano, mackerel, and snook. Come summertime, most are reeling in blue runners, though some visitors from the resort might be just as content with rum runners.

On any given day South Beach has gaggles of in-line skaters rolling along Ocean Drive, but South Bayshore Drive (between McFarlane Road and Vizcaya) has the shade and the scenery. But first a word of warning: Rush-hour traffic is unpleasant and dangerous. Best time for this is very early morning or late evening. Weekend mornings are lovely. Start at Peacock Park, stick to the bike lane, and head north. After passing along Silver Bluff, the rock outcropping on the west side of Bayshore that long ago served as a landmark for sailors, you'll approach Mercy Hospital, behind which is located the Ermita de la Caridad church, a revered icon for the Cuban-exile community. Drop by for a visit. It's a perfect spot to catch your breath and a breeze from the bay. Back on Bayshore you'll continue north, frequently shaded by grand old oaks, till you reach Vizcaya. You can pull in, pay admission, remove your skates, and check out the place. Or you can continue on to the edge of the Vizcaya property and turn right at 32nd Road, then up the leafy stretch of Brickell Avenue to Alice Wainwright Park. Free admission and a wonderful view of the bay. Excellent place for a picnic before heading back. Once you're near the heart of the Grove, don't miss a detour through Kennedy Park, a sweet ending to a (roughly) five-mile trip.

Readers Choice: South Beach

Rave bowling? That's right. If you like your ten-pin experience on the freaky side, Cloverleaf offers its version of rave bowling on Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30 p.m. till 3:00 a.m., during which time the place transforms into a veritable South Beach nightclub, complete with blaring dance music and black lights that make the balls and pins glow in the dark. Beyond that, Cloverleaf boasts a wide range of attractions for everyone from novices to pros: 50 fully automated lanes, which happen to be made of synthetic wood instead of the traditional maple (it has as much to do with the environment as it does cost, says one employee); leagues for different skill levels and competitiveness; and a "Monday Night Mixer" party, where it's not how good you bowl but rather how good you look while bowling that counts. For the truly accomplished there is the Cloverrollers league, whose participants' average scores hover around 200. For the pros, there is the prestigious Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas, which Cloverleaf will host this July for the 39th year.

This is a park within a park, and it has an identity all its own. In 1980, when Metrozoo pulled out of its 30-acre facility at the south end of Crandon Park, it left behind cages, pathways, several large ponds, meandering lagoons, and a colony of iguanas. Years of neglect transformed the place into a wild jungle populated by a variety of waterfowl and a vastly larger colony of iguanas, some of which grew to enormous size. A group of devoted park advocates, led by the tireless Valerie Cassidy, took it upon themselves to transform the old zoo once again, but this time into a magnificent garden. They formed the Gardens of Crandon Park Foundation and went to work raising money and mucking around in the dirt. Slowly they redeemed the landscape and diversified the waterfowl population. The iguanas continued to thrive. Eventually the county, which owns the property, acknowledged its responsibility and joined the foundation's volunteers in refurbishing the grounds. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Today it is a wonderful place for a stroll, a bike ride, or a picnic. The birds alone are worth a visit -- not to mention the iguanas. You'll recognize Valerie Cassidy by her trademark yellow BMW, always parked under a tree near the entrance. Take a moment to thank her.

Jogging is an introspective activity for loners. You don't need friends to jog. You don't need to coordinate your schedule or talk to anyone along the way. It's just your stamina and your thoughts and your path. Of these three, the path is about the only thing you can really control, so best to make it a good one. Park on the far side of the big William M. Powell bridge and head out toward Miami Seaquarium. The white-rippled waves and brisk breeze might help you rev up those endorphins. You can hang a left at the Seaquarium and take a long loop through Virginia Key or continue straight to Crandon Park (cut across the road at Sundays on the Bay to hook up with the park's nature trail). Either way you'll find plenty of outlets, like the brush and dunes of Bear Cut preserve, to cut your midlife angst to pieces. Kick up some dirt behind you and let your mind wander freely.

During the day, Shark Valley is a great place to rent bikes or take a tram on the fifteen-mile looping paved road through the sawgrass wetlands of the Everglades. At night, though, a different world emerges. On a clear evening the stargazing is spectacular, and the vast openness of the savannah beckons as an alluring respite from urban congestion. After official closing hours, admission to Shark Valley is free -- and legal. Of course the parking lots and concessions are closed at night, so you'll need to bring your own bicycles and park along the entrance road at Tamiami Trail. Bring a flashlight and be prepared -- you may encounter a large gator stretched across the road, soaking up warmth from the pavement.

Since management at Flamingo's tennis center changed last year, using the courts has become a more pleasant experience. A new team of pros associated with the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton have been reshaping the tennis programs, adding clinics, maintaining competitive ladders for all levels of play, and improving Flamingo's seventeen clay courts (many of those nasty lumps have been smoothed out). A very welcome improvement indeed.

Readers Choice: Sans Souci Tennis Center

Miccosukee Casino & Resort photo
As long as you're going to do something decadent like play bingo or eat fried alligator, you really owe it to the kids to let them experience similar overstimulation. Like everything else in the shiny new Miccosukee complex, the child-care center -- known as Club Egret -- is big (8500 square feet), brashly colorful, and unabashedly designed for having a good time. Before you head out to your rendezvous with fortune, just drop off the darlings (in the care of competent professionals) and they probably won't want to leave even when lady luck says goodbye. All the fun stuff is here, including jungle gym with slide, trampoline, bouncing balls, blocks, jump ropes. But no gambling.

Arch Creek Park was created around a natural limestone bridge formation that once was part of an important Indian trail, first used by the ancient Tequestas then by the Seminoles. Legend has it that the limestone had the power to absorb any dark, destructive impulses that may have infected a tribesman, leaving him purified and refreshed. So if you're feeling stressed, consider a walk through this lovely park. Arch Creek's native hardwoods, pines, shrubs, and vines -- not to mention its limestone formations -- can restore to the soul what office chairs, incessantly ringing phones, and glitchy computer screens have mercilessly drained away.

A two-and-a-half-hour trip across the Everglades (take Interstate 75 for the fast trip; Tamiami Trail for the scenic ride) gets you to Lee County and Sanibel Island. There you'll find the 6000-acre refuge, named in honor of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and pioneer conservationist Jay Norwood Darling. The mixed estuarine habitat includes open water, mangrove islands, mud flats, freshwater ponds, and hardwood hammocks. It can be explored by canoe and kayak (rental information: 941-472-8900), foot, or to a lesser degree car. The refuge will not disappoint birders, amateur or otherwise. In addition to the more common roseate spoonbills, ibis, herons, egrets, ospreys, and hawks, threatened birds such as bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and wood storks are also at home here. Many others pass through during spring and fall migrations, attracting birdwatchers from far and wide. (Roughly 238 species have been counted.) In the water you can spy alligators, American crocodiles, loggerhead turtles, manatees, and more -- 32 species of mammals and 51 of reptiles and amphibians. All of it well worth the drive from Miami.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®