Miami, Florida is a world away – well, at least a continent, from where I currently live. Here in Portland, Oregon, the options for getting out of town for a day are quite different from those for people in the Miami area.
So when I spent some time down in Miami on a work assignment, I was anxious to get out and explore the region. This is a collection of my five favorite trips I took out of town when I lived there, hopefully they can offer ideas to the person out to discover Southern Florida.
Everglades National Park
You might be under the impression the Everglades are just a big swamp, but you wouldn’t be doing the area justice. There’s a variety of landscapes, from islands and inlets where the line between fresh and saltwater is blurred to open grassland and pine or mangrove stands.
I went to Everglades National Park twice, once renting a bicycle at the Shark Valley entrance on the north side. The loop is interesting and there is a lot of wildlife viewing, even if it was a little crowded. I went in winter, and saw quite a few alligators.
I found the visit beginning at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center and going east out to the Flamingo Visitor Center more enjoyable, as there are opportunities to get out on trails without so many people.
Driving up the East Coast of Florida from Miami will take you past some fine Atlantic beaches, but the prize of the drive is the Space Coast and Kennedy Space Center. I couldn’t imagine going to Florida and not seeing the launching sites for America’s space program.
While a stop at one of the beaches on the Space Coast can be fun, the real draw is the Kennedy Space Center. I’ve been twice, and if I’m in Florida again, I’ll make another visit. You can see the sum total of America’s involvement in space on display. For me, it’s bittersweet. Some of what you see at KSC will leave you wondering if we as a country will ever expand the space program to it’s potential.
Yes, you can have it all, just like Bogey and Bacall. But of course, Key Largo is more than just a cheesy early 80s song. Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, billed as “America’s first undersea park.” John Pennekamp Park offers the expected snorkeling and diving opportunities.
I’m not the best swimmer in the world, and was happy to find there are glass bottom boats for passengers and canoe, sea kayak, and paddle boat rentals. The canoe rental was especially fun, slipping quietly through the mangroves.
Bahamas day cruise
One drawback to being so far south is that it’s often hard to find someplace outside where it’s not hot and humid. A way to dodge it can be getting on a boat. Combine the sea breezes with an international day trip by cruising to the Bahamas.
Departing just north of Miami from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, daily cruises leave at 9:30 in the morning and return at 10:30 in the evening. You can round trip in a day, or stay over in Freeport for a longer stay. With prices starting under $100.00 (plus taxes) which includes two buffets and access to a full casino, it’s a good short cruise deal. Just remember, you will need a passport.
Key West and Dry Tortugas National Park
Going all the way out on the Florida Keys, you come to the honorary home of Parrotheads everywhere, Key West. Before taking in the party atmosphere in Key West, visit what has been called “America’s most remote National Park.” Located 70 miles west of Key West, you can only access Dry Tortugas National Park by seaplane or boat.
In addition to diving and snorkeling, visitors can camp overnight, picnic, and visit historic Fort Jefferson.
Seaplane and ferry rides are available out of Key West, and offer fine water views on your way to the park.