By Janet K. Keeler
Which one of these doesn’t go with the others? Tropical drinks, nightclubs, motocross, camping, Miami. It’s a trick question because they all coexist in South Florida, though maybe not simultaneously.
Adventure seekers will find plenty of activities to keep them busy in the Miami area, including camping, which hardly seems possible. But there are places to pitch tents and rent cabins not far from the nightclub scene. And if it’s biking (motorized or foot-powered) a traveler is after, there are trails and parks to bring visitors closer to natural Florida.
10 ways to be adventurous in the Miami area, including an excursion into Everglades National Park...
OASIS IN THE CITY
Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach is the state’s largest urban park and offers all sorts of outdoor activities to satisfy an adventuresome visitor. Miles of paved and unpaved bike trails weave through the wetlands and mangroves, including 10 miles for intermediate mountain biking. Plus there’s swimming, paddling, hiking and fishing and accommodations in 14 quaint cabins (book early). BG Oleta Outdoor Center located inside the park rents gear and offers lessons and guided tours.
There’s boating and then there’s speed-boating and the latter seems more appropriate to experiencing Florida’s most sizzling city. View plus speed equals a memorable experience and there are several companies that offer fast-boat rides. Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventure zips you past South Beach plus the ritzy homes, some of them owned by celebrities, on Fisher and Star islands. Miami Tours is another company that’s into speed. Strap into one of the seats on their cigarette boats and make like the guys on the ‘80s “Miami Vice” TV show. You might want to wear pastel like Sonny and Rico as you super cruise past South Beach and the Miami skyline.
RIDE THE RIVER OF GRASS
Marjory Stoneman Douglas dubbed the watery ecosystem of the Everglades the “River of Grass,” and today adventurers can get a first-hand look at the unique terrain in an airboat. The flat-bottom boats are powered by jet-like propellers which are loud so you’ll want the noise-cancelling headphones provided by boat operators. Among the companies that offer the thrills rides are Wooten’s, Tigertail, Osceola, and Buffalo Tiger -- all about an hour from downtown Miami.
SOAR OVER THE CITY
It’s amazing how different a city looks when you see it from above. A Miami Seaplane Tours excursion provides a sky-high view of the nation’s largest cruise port, plus city high-rises and the blue, blue water that surrounds Miami. The bustle below looks picturesque from the sky and you’ll have plenty of time to ogle since you aren’t driving through traffic. That’s the skyline tour. Other tours take passengers over the iconic stilt homes in Biscayne Bay, and to the Upper Keys and the lighthouse on the tip of Biscayne National Park. For a longer, two-hour ride, consider the two-person trip over Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades.
Outdoor lovers will find nirvana on five-mile-long Key Biscayne, including Paddleboard-ready Crandon Park beach on one end and Biscayne National Park on the tip. In between is a village of condos but that’s where visitors will find bike rental shops and sustenance. Rent a bike and safety equipment at Key Cycling in the village and pedal to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Climb the steps to the top of the 65-foot lighthouse for an amazing look at the surrounding area. The park can be explored on foot or by bike, or in typical Florida fashion, from a canoe or kayak.
Everglades National Park is one of the most unique places in the country and plenty of people simply visit for one day and leave. An adventurer should consider staying a night or two in an elevated chickee hut accessible by kayak or canoe. Permits are needed for backcountry camping and winter is the best time for hikers to visit because bugs are at bay. Pitch a tent by the water and enjoy the solitude. Want something less primitive but memorable all the same? Everglades Adventure Tours offers “glamping” in cabins fit for a king or queen. They call them swamps cabin.
NOSE TO BOTTLENOSE
Get up close to a bottlenose dolphin at Dolphin’s Harbor on Key Biscayne. The Miami Swim with Dolphins adventure includes a short lesson about dolphins and then 30 minutes of swimming with one of the beloved mammals. This is your chance for the ultimate selfie, especially during the dolphin ride. There are other activities to be had, including a more gentle dolphin encounter and a penguin meet-and-greet. The facility is open 365 days a year but it’s best to reserve a spot in advance.
SEAFARING BIG GAME HUNTER
The grouper sandwich is one of Florida’s iconic culinary specialities, and the grouper is also a prized catch by regular and visiting anglers. Black grouper is known to weight up to 70 pounds. Winter is the best time to go grouper fishing but charter outfits such as Miami Fishing Charter also fish for kingfish, sailfish, wahoo, mahi-mahi and tuna. Near-shore fishing includes working hard to hook snook near the mangroves. Other fishing charter services include Florida Native Charters, Deep Sea Fishing Miami and Shallow Tails.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
It’s understandable that a visitor might think Miami is all about the nightlife. Even so, a clubber needs something to do during the day and that will likely be on the water. Miami Water Sports is a one-stop place for the traveler who wants to hit the water before the clubs. Miami Water Sports offers parasailing experiences, Jet Ski tours, Flyboard solo flights, windsuring lessons and more. The company boasts tubing, too, but this is no lazy river trip. Participants are strapped into 25-foot “tubes,” really rafts, with three other folks and then pulled by a boat at high speed. Get ready to have your hair blown back.
FUN ON TWO WHEELS
West of the big city is Miami Motocross Park in Hialeah where visitors can rent dirt bikes and tear it up on jumps in a repurposed mining pit. Miami Motocross Park has a hard-packed track and full gear rental for visitors. The park is located off Krome Avenue, which is the main route through South Florida’s agricultural belt. (Come in the summer and stop at one of the many stands for tropical fruit.) The park attracts riders of all levels and even offers lessons for kids (or kids at heart).
Want more ideas? Check out Visit Miami's Best Attractions (miamiandbeaches.com)
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