Surfside Beach
Jessica Gibbs

It's a good problem to live in a place with too many quality beaches. Every shore in Miami-Dade offers something unique, from party vibes to family fun. But if you're looking for a relaxing and uncrowded day on the sand, head to the peaceful oceanfront haven known as "Miami's Uptown Beachtown": Surfside. The unspoiled one-mile stretch from 88th Terrace to 96th Street is a slice of paradise that's clean and serene with a locals-only aesthetic. Rest assured, you won't see an "I'm in Miami Bitch" T-shirt here.

Readers' choice: Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Best Weekend Getaway
Gary J. Wood / Flickr

Miami offers plenty of beaches, but if you're looking for a real escape, head north on I-95 for four hours and pull off at the exit for New Smyrna Beach. It's one of the few Florida beaches where you can park your car on the sand, making it easy to stake out a spot for your umbrella, chairs, and cooler. Because the surf is unquestionably better in New Smyrna than Miami Beach, take advantage with a lesson from the Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy, which offers private classes for $60 per person or classes for groups of three or more for $40 per person every Saturday from May through September. Then take a stroll along Flagler Ave, dotted with charming surf shops, ice-cream spots, and the city's famed Coronado/Mainland Shuffleboard Club. For dinner, grab a blue cheese burger from the Breakers, a casual oceanfront dining spot that's similar to the West Palm Beach resort in name only. Cap off your day by completing the Flagler Stagger, a do-it-yourself bar crawl on the main strip.

First dates can be awkward: If the conversation comes to a halt, you'll need something to talk about. Watching the sun set over Biscayne Bay is a great icebreaker, and there's no better place to do that than at the Wetlab, part of Salt Waterfront Restaurant at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. This campus watering hole offers spectacular views from its waterfront veranda. Head there after work on a Friday, when there's usually a live band playing until things wrap up at 9 p.m. The Wetlab deserves major kudos for its wide variety of beers, including 17 local craft brews on tap, but its best selling point is the price: For just $20, you can make a mix-and-match bucket of five craft beers. It's a spot that hits all the marks of a good first date: inexpensive, easygoing, and memorable.

Tropical Vinyasa
Amy Dannheim

After opening less than three years ago in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood, Tropical Vinyasa has quickly established itself as the go-to spot for South Florida yogis. Community vibe is front-of-mind for this small but welcoming studio, which offers special events throughout the year for couples, kids, and moms-to-be. Prices start at $24 for one class, but new students can buy a three-class package for $50 or try 30 days of unlimited yoga for $79. The instructors at Tropical Vinyasa are warm, engaging, and helpful without being too corrective. And it's a great workout too: Prepare to leave the studio drenched in sweat and feeling satisfied. For an extra treat, book a class with a sound bath ($24), where you'll sink into savasana under the spell of deeply meditative noise vibrations from Tibetan singing bowls and gongs.

Readers' choice: Yoga Joint

Sunset Harbour Yacht Club
John Webster

Not long ago, Sunset Harbour was primarily an industrial area made up mostly of gas stations and tow yards. Now it's one of Miami Beach's hippest neighborhoods, packed with restaurants, boutiques, and, of course, beloved local bar Purdy Lounge. The Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, with 125 slips for boats from 45 to 150 feet long, puts you right in the middle of it all. Set on two acres that overlook Biscayne Bay, the private club offers a fitness center, Olympic-sized pool, and barbecue area. If all of that isn't enough, it's also designated a clean marina by the state, meaning it has voluntarily implemented measures designed to protect Florida's waterways. So you can enjoy the views and feel good about tying your boat up here.

Shark Valley
U.S. National Park Service

Taking your out-of-town friends and family to the beach is so basic. Instead, let them get up close and personal with the Sunshine State's other famous attraction: alligators. The toothy beast is the state's official reptile, but it might as well be its mascot. There are more than a million — so many that the state publishes a guide on how to coexist with them. And, of course, almost every Florida Man story includes a gator sidekick. You'll find few places that offer a closer look at the famed creatures than Shark Valley. Despite the name, there are no sharks here. But the area, which features a 15-mile paved loop inside Everglades National Park, teems with birds, turtles, and plenty of alligators that make it well worth the $30 admission per car. You can rent a bike for $9 an hour or bring your own; there's also a tram tour that costs $25 for adults, $19 for seniors, and $12.75 for children. Whatever your mode of transportation, you'll get a kick out of seeing your visitors' reactions — whether delight or terror — to Florida's favorite predator. Gators are sure to be lounging in the water alongside the loop. If you're lucky, they might even be on the loop. Just remember: Don't get too close. Park hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; the visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Readers' choice: Wynwood Walls

A.D. "Doug" Barnes Park

The beauty of a picnic is that you can have one almost anywhere. The beach? Sure! At the edge of a bike trail? Absolutely! But if you want to take your picnic to the next level, you'll want to set up somewhere with tables, grills, and restrooms. A.D. Barnes Park fits the bill. Since 1977, the 65-acre park has been an oasis for busy Miamians looking to reconnect with nature. Located on the corner of Bird Road and SW 72nd Avenue, the park includes a nature trail through a pine forest, a pond for fishing, a children's playground, and, of course, multiple picnic areas. Picnic tables are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis, but if you'd like to reserve a pavilion for your group, you can do that too. All-day rates for picnic shelters range from $100 for a 50-person pavilion to $225 for the largest, which can accommodate up to 200 people. The only thing left to decide is what you'll pack in your picnic basket.

Boca Chita Key
U.S. National Park Service

Ever wanted to run away to your own private island? Even in overpopulated South Florida, you've got options. Not to be confused with Boca Chica Key, its Florida Keys neighbor more than 100 miles to the southwest, Boca Chita Key is an island getaway in Biscayne National Park. Guests who plan to camp overnight can access the island only via private vessel and must adhere to the rules. Pets are not allowed on Boca Chita or on the boats docking on the island because they could cause harm to the plover population there. Mosquitoes are out for blood from June through September, so the park waives its docking and camping fee ($15) those months. Toilets are available to campers, but the island has no running water. This is camping, after all. If that all sounds a little too Survivor, test the waters on Biscayne National Park Institutes's guided tour of Boca Chita. Guests depart from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead and return three hours later. Be sure to visit the observation deck at the island's 65-foot-tall lighthouse for a breathtaking view of the national park.

Miami Circle National Historic Landmark
South Florida Photograph Collection / HistoryMiami Museum

Deep in the heart of condo-laden Brickell lies a hidden monument harking back to an equally bustling civilization that occupied Miami tens of thousands of years before it became the city we know today. The Miami Circle was discovered in 1998. The sacred site was built by the Tequesta several millennia ago, though estimates of its time of origin vary greatly. The 38-foot Miami Circle was unearthed during the building process for — what else? — a luxury condo. Public outcry halted construction. After plans to relocate the site fell through, Miami-Dade County paid $26.7 million for the property in 1999. Today the Miami Circle remains buried in an effort to preserve it. But markers around the site delineate the vibrant culture that once flourished where modern Miami stands today.

Readers' choice: Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club
Christian Horan

The Surf Club opened on New Year's Eve 1930 with help from business tycoon Harvey Firestone and became an oceanside retreat for the rich and famous. Tennessee Williams, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, and Frank Sinatra all walked through its doors. But by the turn of the millennium, the club lost its cachet and fell into disrepair. That's until it underwent an extensive five-year renovation and reopened in 2017. The Surf Club still operates as a private club, with membership fees undisclosed but no doubt exorbitant. However, the best way to enjoy the remodeled property is by staying at the 77-room Four Seasons Hotel. The Studio Cabanas, which are part of the original Surf Club building designed by Russell Pancoast, are a must if you want to experience the property the way it was originally intended. These rooms come at a premium, going for more than $1,000 per night depending upon the season. You can also stay in the Surf Club Rooms, the least expensive accommodations, starting at $500 if you’re able to score a deal. Also not to be missed is the resort's restaurant, Le Sirenuse Miami. The staff is handsomely dressed and provides white-glove service that’s surprisingly rare in Miami.

Readers' choice: 1 Hotel South Beach

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®