The South Florida weather and its many body of waters allows for tons of amazing outdoor opportunities. A few places in Miami are especially great for a quick relaxing break or workout without having to leave the city. My three favorite places and coincidentally one for Omni/Midtown, Brickell, and South Beach each are highlighted below. Pics are going to be below each place so feel free to jump to a section depending on where you are at. The order goes Venetian Causeway (Omni/Midtown and Upper South Beach), Brickell Key (Brickell), and South Pointe Park (South Beach).
Besides these three favorites I’d also recommend Key Biscayne as a great place to escape close to the city (a separate blog will be coming soon). I also have been wanting to try heavily-treed Simpson Hammock Park on SE 15th Rd and Miami Ave right next to Brickell, but haven’t had a chance yet.
The Venetian Causeway stands where the first bridge (Collins Bridge) between Miami and Miami Beach was built back in 1913- allowing for the development of Miami Beach. On the Miami side it starts at NE 15th St and on the Miami Beach side it’s 17th St/Dade Blvd. The Causeway is a series of man-made islands and little bridges. The Causeway has a lot of beautiful greenery, some incredible architecture, and amazing views of Miami, Miami Beach, the Port of Miami and the cruise ships. I go out on the Venetian Causeway almost every day for a walk or run.
The Causeway is an alternate route to South Beach so there can sometimes be some traffic but all of the side streets on the islands off Venetian Way are quiet and relaxing and many a times traffic can be sparse on the main road. Down these side streets there are also a lot of great houses to check out and some nice views between the houses or behind empty lots of Biscayne Bay that you can’t get from the Causeway. For me it also reminds me a lot of home with quiet neighborhood streets and sidewalks. In between most of the islands along the road are little green spaces, which is great to get right close to the water (which always seems to be much more blue compared to what’s next to the mainland) or sit down and relax. There also is a “park” on Biscayne Island right near the toll booth with a bit more grass on the water (from Miami the islands go Biscayne, San Marco, San Marino, Di Lido, Rivo Alto, and Belle Islands.)
Like I said I use the Venetian Causeway almost every day- partially for the convenience, but also the architecture and ability to “escape” to a lush and green place right next to the city make it a place to really enjoy. From Pace Park in Miami the walk to the end of San Marino Island and back takes about an hour round trip, while to the end of Rivo Alto Island it’s about an hour and a half. Whether you’re looking to walk, run, or bike I’d highly recommend checking out the Causeway. I’d also recommend it for those who are driving and are looking for an alternative way from South Beach (for first-time visitors to Miami I’d recommend taking the MacArthur Causeway/395 to South Beach to enjoy the view you get of it and the water). The toll is $1.50 each direction.
*Important to Note: As of February 2012 there is a good amount of construction on the Causeway. For walkers there isn’t much to be concerned about- there are sidewalks or medians most of the way. For runners the only concern is some areas of uneven pavement. For bikers you need to exercise more caution, not only because of the uneven pavement, but also in places the lanes narrow due to barriers and some drivers can be impatient or aggressive. For all non-drivers construction shouldn’t be a deterrent, but something to keep in mind.*
For a cool look at the history of Venetian Islands check out this post from Belle Island Blog with some cool historical pictures and stories about the islands- http://belleisleblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/old-views-of-belle-isle-venetian-islands-seen-a-new-way/
Venetian Causeway- 15th St (Miami) and 17th St/Dade Blvd (Miami Beach)
Brickell Key is another man-made island in Miami- a single island “gated” community with many condo buildings right off Brickell Ave (at the end of SE 8th St /Calle Ocho). There is a walking path around the entire island on the water to enjoy. While Brickell Key is more urban than the Venetian Islands, due to its proximity to Brickell and the condo towers, it is much quieter without the traffic. There also are larger park-areas than on the Venetian, a playground in the middle of the island, public art sprinkled around the island, and benches to take in the view. What’s also cool are displays at various points along the walkway that give info about the history and ecology of Brickell Key. There also is a small number of stores in the middle of the island, including a small deli/grocery if you wanted to make a pit stop along your journey (it reminds me of the Uptown Shopping Center back in Portland). Also on Brickell Key is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, whose beautiful private beach you’ll see along your walk. Great news is that on Sundays the beach is open to the public and is a great place to sit back, relax, and tan (I visited it last Spring multiple times, but if I visit again soon I’ll try and get a review and pictures up). I enjoy Brickell Key for its tranquility and would certainly visit very often if I lived in Brickell.
*NOTE: While Brickell Key is a “gated” community the “gate” and attendant do really not stop you- you stop briefly at the gate and it raises up. This doesn’t affect pedestrians at all, since there is unrestricted access for the walking paths. Cars should feel free to drive around if you’d like, but parking might be a hassle. A recommendation is to do street parking along Brickell Bay Dr, off of 8th St and then walk across the bridge.*
Brickell Key- at the end of SE 8th St two blocks from Brickell Ave
South Pointe Park is definitely the one of all three I’d recommend most for visitors to Miami. South Pointe is at the end of Washington Ave in South Beach along the canal that leads from the Port of Miami. This means you’re treated to sights of all the cruise ships that leave Miami. Unlike the Venetian and Brickell Key this is most certainly a true park, with a lot of different spaces to use- a walkway along the water, grassy areas (flat and hilly), cement plazas, beach grasslands, a pier/jetty, and a connection to the beach. The plaza to the east has a small building with a cafe that is great to stop and get something refreshing on a hot day. The walkway and areas of the park can be very busy, but it still is relaxing to walk along the water and take in all the sights despite the number of people.
On one side you have South Beach and many condo buildings, which is exciting to look at during the day and lit up at night. The beach and ocean are in front of you with the pier extending into the water and framed with palm trees and canals in the right corner of your eye. Looking directly to your right you’re staring at Fisher Island. Fisher Island was once the Vanderbilt family’s private island and today is a private community (one of the richest neighborhoods in the country) that is only accessible by ferry, which you can only use when visiting one of the homeowners or staying in a room ($900+ a night) at the hotel on the island. Looking behind you or on your walk back is the Port of Miami/downtown Miami. The entire area looks amazing in the sunset- illuminated with tones of orange and red.
South Pointe Park is part of the SoFi neighborhood (South of Fifth), which is my favorite part of South Beach. SoFi is much more quiet than the areas around Washington, Collins, and Ocean. There are a lot of Art Deco low-rises and then newer high-rises, along with some great restaurants. One way to really enjoy South Pointe Park is to eat at the Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse (http://smithandwollensky.com/sw-miami-beach), inside the park along the water (I’ll post a review when I visit again). Make sure to ask for a table outside- just be aware you’ll be entertained during your meal by a friendly family of feral cats 😉
South Pointe Park- 1 Washington Ave Miami Beach, FL