Miami FloridaMiamis Wild Sides - By Land, Sea and RiverBy: Hal Peat Blessed with year-round mild climates and unrivaled ocean access,Americas southernmost resort city is also a sought-after internationalrecreation destination. Ranked the nations #1 Healthiest City by NaturalHealth Magazine in 2002, Miami caters to action-oriented visitors from aroundthe globe with some of the worlds top golf, tennis and sporting facilities. Addsparkling waters that are a magnet for boating enthusiasts, fishermen, diversand water sports aficionados to the equation and it is easy to see why Miami isa number one choice for active travelers of all ages and skill levels. But whereto start? Miamis streets are often busy, some of its attractions often attractcrowds, and a few days can leave more to choose from than you have time toinclude, so knowing the active options in advanceâ€”and how to manage yourtime and movementsâ€”is essential Miami planning. Making the best use ofwhat time you have by knowing where your points of interest are can help yousave more of your energy for the activities this city offers. Best ways to play along, above or beneath the waves This is a city closely bound up with the sea it sits besides, and no doubtits also those waters and miles of sand beaches that draw many to it. You canget out on the water in a variety of ways in proximity to the city shores,whether it be jet skiing in Biscayne Bay or sailing Miami Harbor. On practicallyevery beach you visit, you will find concessions operating water skiing; theleading beachfront hotels along Collins Avenue offer parasailing lessons, andmany have jetski, windsurfing and other sport. If you are staying at abeachfront property, check ahead with your hotel concierge about availableactivities on their stretch of beach, or nearby operators that you can contact toreserve equipment or sessions from. Different locations in and around Miami produce some very differentconditions for water sport. Windsurfing, for instance: Biscayne Bay off
Rickenbacker Causeway has winds that usually blow side-onshore, and thewater stays fairly shallow, allowing even a beginner to walk his way back toshore if necessary. If you want to go further afield, however, continue towardKey Biscayne and spots like Hobie Beach, where operators like SailboardsMiami can provide you a two-hour lesson if you are new to the sport for about$70. After that, you can rent your own board by the hour. The drive downtoward Key Biscayne is itself an experience as you gain a fantastic view ofMiamis skyline and closer by beneath you, the waters surfaces alive withsailboats of all kinds, jet skiers, or just people fishing from the boats. Thebiggest collection of rental outlets for jet skis are to be found at Virginia Key onthe way to Key Biscayne. A focal point for water action of all kinds on the Key is at Crandon Park:this two-mile long public beach also has its own full service-marina andrestaurants a short drive from the beach. Not surprisingly, since the city itselfis also an easy drive, many people make a day of coming to this lovely butaccessible area. The Park is also a launching spot for some of the kayaking andsnorkeling outings organized by Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Departmentthrough its eco-adventure program. On some of these naturalist-guided trips,you kayak out to various underwater preserves and wreck sites off the Key andsnorkel off to explore the diverse marine life that populates the dense sea grassbeds, sand flats and wreckage; local inhabitants you might observe hereaboutrange from Spotted Leopard Rays to a Bottle-nosed Dolphins, soft corals,sponges, damsel fish to enormous Pufferfish, and Gray Angelfish. Other kayakand snorkeling expeditions you can do hereabouts will take you into fossilizedmangrove reef areas formed by petrified black mangroves over 1500 yearsago, or into the artificial reefs that have been created offshore to preserve andenhance the marine eco-systems. Check ahead to book for these easy tomoderate adventures. So youre up for some deeper and lengthier underwater exploration? Thescuba diving opportunities are also plentiful around Miami waters, thanks inlarge part to the profusion of man-made reefs. Various dive shops around towncan get you out on organized weekend dives to the 10 designated offshore
artificial reef sites, along with explorations of some offshore wreck sites.Actually, the Miami region has one of the largest artificial-reef programs in theworld in addition to the natural sites. Fish flock to the more than thirty ships,tanks, concrete, limestone and other structures which have been sunk over thepast 20 years off Miamis coast, as far south as Florida City and north to SunnyIsles Beach. Most are located just a few miles offshore, in less than 130 feet ofwater, providing great diving for all levels. One of the most popular routes isthe Wreck Trek, located off Miami Beach, just north of the Art Deco District.Here, divers can explore the 85-foot tug Patricia, the 100-foot steel fishingvessel Miss Karline, and an old radio antenna welded into 19 pyramids. Getting you on your way to either dive, surf, or windsurf adventure areplenty of well-equipped private operators around the city and its outer areas.South Beach Divers, for instance, is a renowned PADI Five Star facility locatedin the heart of South Beach and within walking distance to most hotels; thissmall but full-service shop provides diving gear and instruction from whichyou can easily receive your certification over the course of a weekend. Theyvealso begun to cater extensively to the surfing crowd, with a full range of all thetop surfboards and accessories; they offer surf lessons as well and thereâ€™seven a 24 hour surf report that is updated daily. If you already a die hard surferable to take off on your own, you will find that while this coastal area of southFlorida does not have the powerful waves and cross-currents to match thosealong the Pacific coast, there are still some respectable surfing conditions outthere. Head just north of Miami Beach, where the swells at Haulover Beach andSouth Pointe Beach are the largest and most popular. A little closer to the city,some windy days can see five to seven foot waves roll in off the beach betweenFirst and Third Streets in the South Beach area Not all outdoor activity on water has to be done right out in theneighboring Atlantic, of courseâ€”this is a city with its own urban andsuburban waterways and canals to paddle through: Miami-Dade Parks also hascanoe trips that explores some of the more interesting wildlife aspects of these:for instance, with a trip into the historic Oleta River which forms the eastern
boundary of Greynolds Park. The trip includes a stop at a tropical hardwoodhammock and Tequesta Indian midden in East Greynolds Park. Another canoeouting takes you through the Coral Gables Waterway--the same historic canalsthat gondoliers once used to ferry guests from the Biltmore Hotel to the bay fora day at the beach. Relive this experience where you may see a surprisingamount of wildlife. If you have the time to go further afield, then you mightlook into the canoeing available on a day trip to the Everglades or LoxahatcheeRiver preserves which are just about an hours drive from the city. Flamingo,deep in Everglades National Park is another great spot for naturalist-ledadventures as well as world-class fishing on Florida Bay. The eight mile stretchof Loxahatchee River that begins in Riverbend Park meanders through cypresstrees, while otters, turtles, and alligators are all resident in the waters here.More than a third of Everglades National Park is made up of marine areas andshallow estuaries, and that means thousands of acres of shallow water flats,channels, and mangrove keys in which to fish for the plentiful snapper, seatrout, redfish, bass and bluegill.Land adventuring by foot, bike, or on blades If youre in the Everglades area for the canoeing or other water action,why not take advantage also of the extensive biking trails in the area? In fact,Everglades National Park allows biking along the main park roads, on theShark Valley tram road, on the Old Ingraham Highway, on Long Pine KeyNature Trail, and on the Snake Bight and Rowdy Bend trails at Flamingo. Muchof it gives you plenty of miles to pedal on: Miami-Dade Parks 14-miles bikehike along the Long Pine Key path traverses pineland and prairie habitat. Keepan eye out for alligators slumbering along the sides of many of these trails--they may be more alert than they seem. And if youre a competitive-mindedbiker up for an local event while visiting Miami, then mark your calendar andget ready for the MS 150/Breakaway to Key Largo Bike Tour which headssouth every year at the end of April, starting from the Miami Metro Zoo andending up down in the Keys.
For those who have to really limit their Miami sport and fitness to theimmediate areas of town, there are still some excellent outfits and hotspots toget going with, either outdoor or indoor. You might not think of Miami as aplace to vertically challenge yourself for instance, but you can actually do so instyle at the Fitness Complex of Eden Roc Resort (day memberships available)has a great 28 foot high indoor rock climbing wall, the only indoor rockclimbing on Miami Beach. Also in town is the Rock Climbing Center of Miami,which offers safe indoor climbing with plenty of variety--there are 10,000square feet of textured walls, with routes up to 60 feet in length; there is toprope climbing, bouldering, lead rope climbing and moreâ€”and the instructionavailable makes it great for beginners as well as experienced climbers. Makingthe most of your time outdoors while absorbing Miamis human andarchitectural sights is also simple with the 30 odd miles of white sand beaches.Before you set off, remember to use sun block so you dont return with apainful burnâ€”something you need to do even during the winter months here. Tropical Park is also the headquarters site for Miami Runners Club, thethird largest runners organization in the country. Within the Park there are upto 10 miles of paved running courses laid out by the Club. Enjoy some of thescenery of one of the citys toniest old neighborhoods with a run along the 8.5mile South Bay Bike Path that passes through Coconut Grove. Around the twomile point, there is a mile-long bike path that leads into Matheson HammockPark and in turn connects to a 1.5 mile trail through some 100 acres ofmangrove wilds. And if you really want to tie in your running to a competitiveevent in this part of the world, then consider the Rums of Puerto Rico 5-K thattakes place in June along the sands of Miami Beach. The after party with itsfood is an event in itself, and if you are not so disciplined as to be running againon your own the next day, the plentiful rum on hand is another highlightbeyond the finishing line. The other very SoBe active thing is of course,rollerblading along world-famous Ocean Drive, which can tend to be moreabout the body statement than the skating form you display. If you have noskates with you then rent them from Fritzs Skate, Bike & Surf or the MiamiBeach Bicycle Center, then cruise the path that hugs the drive. The best
beachside skating is the section from 5th through 15th streets, where the otherplus is the cafes across the street that make a break convenient. For the more traditionally athletic-minded, there are some 180 publictennis courts covering the range of surfaces from clay to grass, and the prestigeof playing at the Key Biscayne Tennis Association; the state-of-the-art CrandonTennis Center hosts the NASDAQ-100 Tennis Championships each March,while the rest of the year its immaculate courts are open to the public, alongwith innumerable other well-kept tennis venues throughout Miami. Finally, ifyou are one of those who refuse to leave the gym behind at home, then get ataste of how Miami does it at the brand new Sports Club/LA opened in the newFour Seasons complex in South Beach; among the amenities here are over 30different fitness and recreational options ranging from a 10,000 square-footweight-training gym, three group exercise studios, a 100-piece cardiovascularcenter, and even a destination "cityspa" with all the massage and treatmentvarieties that can revive and reenergize you before or after a night on the townor any other of Miamis day-time adventuring. * * *