For visitors to Redland in Florida, the history and subtropical climate combine to create memorable experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
By Bonnie Gross
Visitors to Miami expect a big urban city with a sophisticated South Beach style. And all that can be found, in abundance.
Few may realize that in the southern reaches of Miami-Dade County is a rural enclave where you can pick strawberries, see groves of exotic tropical fruit trees, taste wine made from guavas and tour spectacular orchid greenhouses and gardens.
The rural area is called the Redland, named for its red soil. It is full of history and is home to long-time residents who are working to preserve its rustic charm.
For visitors to the Redland, the history and subtropical climate combine to create memorable experiences you won’t find anywhere else. The Redland is the region surrounding the main entrance to Everglades National Park, so it’s easy to combine a stop in the Redland with a visit to the park,
Here are a half-dozen ways to experience the Redland. Most visitors will pick one or two stops while enjoying the scenes along the country lanes. Driving through the Redland, you’ll see fruits and vegetables in the fields, ornamental plant and palm tree farms and family-owned businesses, such as koi farmers, banana growers and herb farmers. A Redland resident has created a map of a Redland driving tour that takes you through all the highlights.
These Redland stops are arranged from north to south.
1. Berry farms and world-famous cinnamon rolls
The Redland is the last agricultural region in Miami-Dade and has its own brand: “Redland Raised.” Farms in the Redland are family owned, and some of the most popular are the strawberry farms. You can find several you-pick-it strawberry farms, but even if you don’t want to pick fruit, you might like this: Somehow over the years, the strawberry farms started competing in creating delicious fresh-fruit milkshakes.
One strawberry farm has achieved fame in a different category: Cinnamon rolls. The Knaus family has operated a farm and bakery in the Redland for 50 years. When the storefront farm stand opens for the season in November, folks start lining up.
The cinnamon rolls are dense, rich and gooey and people go to extraordinary lengths to buy them. Because Knaus Berry Farm is closed on Sundays, there’s always a long line on Saturdays. On the busiest Saturdays, people will line up 150 deep and wait 60 to 90 minutes to buy those rolls. (There is a separate line for milkshakes and produce and it is far shorter.) To avoid the wait, visit Monday to Friday. (Knaus Berry Farm is only open from November through Mid-April.)
Knaus Berry Farm and Bakery
15980 SW 248th St. (Coconut Palm Drive), Homestead
2. A historic village under a canopy of tropical trees
Cauley Square Historic Railroad Village grew up around the railroad depot in 1903. The historic buildings and homes are now filled with shops, galleries and restaurants, all clustered under a canopy of tropical trees. The shopping is not extensive, but Cauley Square is worth a short visit for these highlights:
- The Tea Room restaurant consists of a series of rooms each decorated to achieve maximum preciousness; it’s known for its spiced tea enjoyed hot or cold and lunch sandwiches and salads.
- The Aviary Bird Shop has an enormous choice of parrots, canaries, parakeets and other birds. With birds screeching and jabbering, it’s a raucous atmosphere that will delight children.
- The Latin Corner is a colorful little yellow hut under the trees that serves Cuban coffee, sandwiches, and juices enjoyed at open-air tables.
Cauley Square Historic Village
22400 Old Dixie Highway, Goulds
3. A park devoted to exotic fruits
The Redland is all about growing things and so is this county park. At Fruit and Space Park, you can see edible foods that don’t grow anywhere else in the United States — from 75 kinds of bananas to things you’ve probably never heard of, like black sapote, eggfruit and marula. The visitor center has fruits for sampling and guided tours are included in the $8 admission.
Fruit & Spice Park
24801 SW 187th Ave.
4. Stunning orchids everywhere
Orchids love the climate in south Miami-Dade and the Redland is home several orchid growers. R. F. Orchids is a magnet for visitors because of its captivating gardens and its award-winning blooms. (It has won more than 1,000 American Orchid Society awards in 30 years.) Here, orchids grow in the trees, in the ground, around fountains and peeking out of every crevice.
The best part: Robert Fuchs, the president of R.F. Orchids, leads free tours through the gardens that surround his adjoining private residence on weekends at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Fuchs is himself “Redland Raised.” His great-grandfather bought this land in Florida in 1912. Fuchs was a middle-school art teacher who raised orchids on weekends until he started winning international awards for his orchids in the 1980s.
With a sense of humor that must have served him well as a teacher, Fuchs sprinkles his talk with anecdotes of Redland history, including a fascinating story about his personal experiences during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which devastated his property.
Today, his is the oldest South Florida orchid firm and he has decorated his orchid gardens with such items as antique Burmese temple gongs and 200-year-old Buddha statues from Thailand. In his back yard is a fern-rimmed pond with an alligator named Wally and South American pacu fish. You expect Tarzan to come swinging through the trees.
His garden tour engages all the senses: Screams of colorful parrots in cages, the fragrance of rare varieties of blooming orchids, the taste of edible orchids or a sweet wine made from lemongrass and a scorpion that Fuchs invites you to try.
28100 SW 182nd Ave., Miami.
5. Wines Florida-style – without the grapes
One of the biggest draws for visitors to the Redland is Miami-Dade’s first commercial winery, a place with sumptuous tropical landscaping, waterfalls and live music on weekends. These are wines without grapes, instead made with tropical fruits such as mango, guava, avocado, lychee, and passion fruit.
Schnebly Redland’s Winery
30205 SW 217th Ave., Homestead
6. Exotic fruit, fresh vegetables – and even emu
Stopping at Robert Is Here, a funky Florida fruit stand just outside Everglades National Park, is a 50-year tradition for park visitors. The classic thing to do is have a mouth-puckering Key lime shake. But the choice of fresh-fruit shakes is vast and includes such unusual options as a canistel mango shake, a black sapote banana shake or one made with sapodilla and pineapple.
The milkshakes are made to order with fresh fruit, and, at busy times, you’ll stand in line, place your order and wait for your number to be called.
And that’s fine. Because you’ll want to soak up the ambiance of this fruit stand, not to mention the samples of free exotic fruits scattered throughout — from the scary looking Monstera Deliciosa (looks like a pale green banana with lizard-like scales) to lychees and persimmon and kumquat.
But there’s more to Robert Is Here than the flowers, fruit stand and milkshakes. Out back there are parrots and a large pen with a variety of animals, ranging from donkeys to emus to goats and geese. For hot days, there's a water playground for kids, too.
There’s a real Robert, and he IS there every day-- and has been for a very long time.
At age 6, Robert Moehling’s parents set him up to sell cucumbers on that corner. First day, nobody bought them. His dad figured nobody saw the little boy, so he made a sign: Robert Is Here. From that day on, Robert was in business, eventually bringing his whole family into the company.
Robert Is Here
19200 SW 344th St.
Note: Some Redland spots are open only in winter, so check hours and days open ahead.
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