Day Trips from Miami: Dive the Florida Reef, Skim the Everglades

    By Kevin Mims

    From tropical-fruit milkshakes to the United States’ only living coral reef to the untamed Florida Everglades, day trip destinations from Miami can be as thrilling or as laid-back as you desire.

    On a south Florida vacation and want even more? Here are 10 ideas for day trips that you can easily make from Miami.

    Christ of the Abyss, at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, with snorkelers.

    Christ of the Abyss, a 2-ton bronze statue donated to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in 1966, is a popular destination for snorkelers.

    - Peter W. Cross

    Key Largo, 67 miles

    It takes a little more than an hour to reach John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo, where you can take a guided snorkeling tour in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and explore the Florida Reef, rent a kayak and paddle through the mangroves, or book a wheelchair-accessible glass-bottom boat tour.

    Take a canal cruise on the African Queen, the boat at the center of the classic 1951 film by the same name starring Academy Award winner Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

    Six miles offshore, certified divers can descend on the Spiegel Grove, the world’s largest artificial reef.

    Historic Redland Tropical Trail, 35 miles

    For travelers of the Redland Trail, which runs from just south of Miami to Florida City, a day trip promises native fruits and vegetables, local wine and beer, flora and fauna, and arts and culture.

    Robert Is Here market, in its 61st year, is the Disney World of tropical fruits. Owner Robert Moehling can make you a milkshake from anything in the house.

    R.F. Orchids is a flower lover’s technicolor dream. Schnebly Redland’s Winery is a stunning oasis in Homestead, offering wine tastings, tropical gardens, a brewery and beer garden, and a restaurant that serves brunch, lunch, and dinner.

    For unusual stories, few can surpass the Coral Castle, a monument to one man’s unrequited love. If your love is for exotic animals, come meet the residents of Everglades Alligator Farm.

    Biscayne National Park, 40 miles

    Biscayne National Park covers 200,000 acres of ocean, coral reef, and islands off Florida’s coast. Fishing and lobstering, boating, diving, snorkeling, beaches, shipwrecks, and lighthouses are among the adventures that await the day tripper.

    Start your day at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center east of Homestead and explore the gallery and museum. Some of the best spots within the expansive park can be reached by taking one of the guided tours offered there. A great way to get your feet wet is the Maritime Heritage Trail Shipwreck Snorkel Experience.

    Everglades National Park, 50 miles

    The dichotomy is almost laughable. In roughly an hour, a person can travel from the pulsing heart of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities to the frightening silence of the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

    • “The River of Grass” of literary legend is home to alligators and panthers, ghost orchids and old-growth cypress. To get around, you can skim the surface on an airboat or baptize your senses with a swamp walk.

    For the uninitiated, the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center has educational displays and nearby walking trails.

    Big Cypress National Preserve

    At Big Cypress National Preserve, visitors can explore more than 700,000 protected acres of swamp lands that provide important habitat for endangered species, including rare and endangered native orchids and the Florida panther. Explore by kayak or canoe or check out some of the ranger-led programs.

    North of the preserve is the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Big Cypress Reservation. Visit the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and learn about the tribe’s culture and history, see nearly 200,000 artifacts, and wander a mile-long boardwalk under a cypress dome. Billie Swamp Safari has animal exhibits and offers swamp buggy rides and airboat tours of the Everglades.

    Hobe Sound, 88 miles

    The rugged natural features of Hobe Sound are just a 90-minute drive from Miami. Nowhere in Florida is quite like Blowing Rocks Preserve, where visitors flock to see and hear waves crash against the giant formations of Anastasia limestone and create the geysers — sometimes up to 50 feet high — that give the preserve its name.

    Go for a picnic six miles away at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which has bicycle and hiking trails and offers boat tours of the Loxahatchee River.

    Neighboring Jupiter, which is the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins, also has much to see and do, including beaches and a historic lighthouse.

    Deerfield Beach

    Deerfield Beach offers more peaceful pleasures such as the Deerfield Beach Boardwalk and the pet-friendly Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier that is more than three football fields in length. Even the fun sounds serene. Quiet Waters Park offers boat rentals plus the longest cable skiing course in the nation.

    Coconut Creek, 39 miles

    Kids will love a day trip to the family-friendly attractions in Coconut Creek. Butterfly World has acres of butterfly habitat, botanical gardens, and tropical bird aviaries. Fern Forest Nature Center is a real-life “Fern Gully,” a shaded park with  30 fern species, short and easy nature trails for hiking, and picnic areas to relax and take in the scenery.

    Round out the day with dinner or open-air shopping at Promenade at Coconut Creek, which has 13 restaurants, 30 stores, and a luxury movie theater.

    Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, sea turtle

    One of the missions at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is to rehabilitate sea turtles.

    - Discover the Palm Beaches

    Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, 48 miles

    For an entertaining and educational day trip, head north to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, where kids and adults can learn about the environment and south Florida’s flora and fauna. See gopher tortoises and explore Ashley Trail and the center’s butterfly garden, whose blooms peak in May and June. Check out the center’s sea turtle rehabilitation facility, which helps hundreds of sea turtles each year.

    Phil Foster Park and Peanut Island, 78 miles

    The underwater snorkeling trail at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach is easily accessible from land and is an excellent place for seeing marine life. Snorkel the more than two acres of relatively shallow and clear water teeming with tropical fish. Don’t have your own diving gear? Rent equipment from Blue Heron Bridge Scuba, which also offers guided tours.

    Pet-friendly Peanut Island, just south of Phil Foster Park, is a popular destination in Riviera Beach with turquoise waters and guarded swimming beaches. Visitors can catch a shuttle boat to the island (the shuttle is pet-friendly too), rent snorkel gear, and even shuttle their own kayaks for a small fee.

    Places to Remember

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