It's that time of year when, once again, those of us living in the Magic City have bragging rights. By now, you've undoubtedly posted a photo of yourself wrapped in a cozy sweater with the little Instagram sticker that shows it's a brisk 65 degrees outside. Brrrr!
In all seriousness, though, it's peak outdoors season in Miami, which is perfect considering our COVID rates are out the roof. If you're looking for new adventures outside of your apartment, here are some of our favorite outdoor spots for exploring. You'll find these picks and more in New Times' Best of Miami® 2020 issue, which is online and on newsstands now.
Best mile of Miami: The paddle to Monument Island from Miami or Miami Beach. Amid the 305's hustle and bustle, it can be hard to find any peace of mind. Seems like just about every nook in our city comes packaged with honking horns. Good thing, then, that we've got Biscayne Bay, where you can easily get away from it all. Whether you're upright on a paddleboard or sitting in an inflatable kayak, the journey from Miami Beach or Miami to Monument Island (AKA Flagler Memorial Island) is a unique mile perfect for the age of social distancing. Embark from Purdy Marina or Margaret Pace Park on the mainland; depending on the current and the wind, the trek to the uninhabited island can range from laid-back to strenuous. Afterward, you'll be appropriately reinvigorated or worn out; either way, you'll be reminded of how very special this city is.
Best beach: Haulover Beach. For more than 70 years, Haulover Beach has offered a multifaceted escape for locals and visitors alike. The 177-acre park, situated between Sunny Isles Beach and Bal Harbour, first opened to the public in 1948, and over the decades has become a beloved destination. Among its diverse offerings are the 150-plus-slip Bill Bird Marina, an expansive dog park (Fido loves the beach, too, y'all!), a skate park, and fishing spots with beautiful blue vistas of the Atlantic. Any description of Haulover would be incomplete without mentioning the sandbar, an uber-popular boater hangout in the intracoastal just off the park's southwestern shore. Last but not least, the park is home to Florida's oldest and perhaps best-known nude beach. If you leave Haulover Park bored, well, that's on you.
Best urban bike ride: The Hammocks. If you already owned a bike or were lucky enough to score one during the pandemic's "bicycle boom," then you've probably avoided the chronic boredom that comes with quarantining. The key to not breaking shit in a rage during these trying times is to go outside and be active in a safe manner. For West Kendall suburbanites, the Hammocks lakes beckon with a scenic bike/jogging path surrounded by multiple lakes, mini beaches, and nature. (Although use of the waterside reprieve is technically only for residents of the Hammocks community, everyone has a cousin who lives in the Hammocks.) After a peaceful day biking the trail, unwind with a socially distanced picnic at one of the beaches. Just keep your sandwiches away from those crazy Miami ducks. For the geographically precise, the area is bounded roughly by SW 88th Street and SW 120th Street on the north and south and SW 147th Avenue and SW 157th Avenue on the east and west.
Best trail: Commodore Trail. No time like the present to enjoy some fresh air, am I right? The Commodore Trail in Coconut Grove takes hikers through a bevy of scenic locations, namely Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Peacock Park, and the Barnacle Historic State Park. You can walk, skate, or bike the five-mile trail while capturing plenty of covet-worthy photos for the 'gram. The popular trail begins near Ingraham Terrace Park in Coral Gables and concludes in Coconut Grove. Once you complete the long and winding road, you'll find diverging paths. Take a left to continue down the M-Path, future site of the Underline linear park, which is being constructed below the Metrorail tracks. Go to your right to start on the Rickenbacker Trail. Or just take a beat, chill, and enjoy the leaves waving from the nearby trees.
Best campground: Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park and Campground. Larry and Penny Thompson Park, located adjacent to Zoo Miami, offers 270 acres of fun for families and nature aficionados. Nestled between Country Walk and Cutler Bay, it's a quick and easy camping getaway — no need to drive hours out of the city to the Everglades or the Florida Keys. Among the available activities are biking or hiking on trails, horse riding, picnicking under shaded pavilions, and swimming in the freshwater lake; amenities include tent camping areas, 240 RV sites with water and electrical hookups, restroom and laundry facilities, and a camp store. The campground reopened in July, but on-site construction has caused temporary closures of the gazebo and pool cabanas; best to call for the current arrangements.
Best place to kayak: Deering Estate. Communing with sea cows is certainly one effective way to social-distance. But even when a pandemic isn't going on, we adore paddling around Deering Estate, one of Miami's treasured national landmarks. Drifting over seagrass beds and exploring mangrove forests in the calm company of the local manatees that hang around this historic oceanside venue reduces our stress levels, no matter what's going on in the peopled world. Kayak rentals are available daily between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; go to the Deering Estate website for details.
Best park: Oleta River State Park. If you're looking for a getaway after a hard work week or just an escape from the pandemic blues, there is no shortage of things to do in Florida's largest urban park. Take an easy hike on miles of dirt and paved trails, or go for an adrenaline-fueled ride on off-road biking trails. Snorkel in the water off of Sandspur Island, or prop a beach chair in the sand and read a book. Kayak or canoe surrounded by mangroves in this 1,000-acre oasis, keeping an eye out for dolphins, manatees, herons, and turtles. Currently, visitors can expect limited hours, amenities, and capacity; see the park's website for more information.
Best picnic spot: Alice C. Wainwright Park. In many ways, Alice Wainwright Park, at the northern end of Coconut Grove, contains many of the elements of South Florida outdoor public spaces that parkgoers love: a playground, a basketball court, picnic shelters, and tastefully placed benches. Any spot in Alice Wainwright Park is good enough to set up your picnic blanket, but your best bet is to descend into the park's "lower level," beneath a small limestone formation that's part of the Miami Rock Ridge; a grassy area sits right up against the lapping waters of Biscayne Bay, and picnic shelters are hidden in the nearby thicket of casuarina trees.
Best kids' thrill: Shark Valley. It's tough to know where to take the kids for entertainment these days. Plenty of indoor places have reopened, but maybe you're wary of taking your kids back to their favorite fun spot, regardless of mask policies and bottles of hand sanitizer in every corner. Pack up the car with plenty of snacks, water and sunscreen, and take a drive to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. Jump on a limited-capacity tram tour ($27 for adults and $14 for kids) or go for a bike ride, if you're feeling brave enough to endure the heat. Bring your own bikes or rent them for $20 apiece. Peeping alligators, anhingas, turtles, herons, and egrets along the way never gets old, no matter your age. (Note: Though the park is open, at press time its visitor centers remained closed; best to call for current status.)
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