Late last year, Pete and I spent 2 weeks in Florida – not perhaps the most trendy of destinations but a well needed low-stress holiday. We flew into Orlando and had a couple of days of (childish) adult fun in Orlando, spending a day each in Disney World and Universal Studios Islands of Adventure then the following week was spent as the guests of our best friends’ parents in a Villa on the West Coast. Then Pete and I headed off and struck out for the East coast and some hedonistic fun in Miami. I’ve already recommended the hotel we stayed in, but I had to also share Miami itself as a destination and give you all a heads up on what we did there. We both fell in love with South Beach and I found in Miami the destination we were looking for – a stateside bolt-hole for early spring or late autumn guaranteed weather and relaxation.
Whenever we visit somewhere new, I always rely on the advice of the concierge at the hotel for local tips and and insider’s perspective. We dropped our car at the airport and grabbed a taxi to get to south beach. As Miami is a place of mixed reputation including some deprived populations and resulting high crime areas, I was immediately keen to establish what was (or was not) safe for us to do. Our concierge assured us it was fine to walk about in the day time and as a result we headed directly out of our hotel and east across the island towards South Beach itself.
This took us through a residential area, past a local park with body builders working out with a punch bag and finally past some Spanish style public buildings and the seedier Collins Avenue lined with tattoo parlours and tacky souvenir shops. Even in early November the weather was glorious, warm in the early to mid twenties with blue skies and sunshine.
The Beach, although a typical city beach, was beautiful with sparkling clear blue water and white sand stretching north and south. After a typical American breakfast of pancakes and eggs, we spent a couple of hours there and then decided to get out of the sun so went in search of some lunch.
We were right in the heart of the Art Deco district of South Beach and after eating at the middle eastern inspired News Cafe where we had a great meze style salad plate with hummous and pitta, we set off down Ocean Drive to take in the architecture (me) and car spot (Pete!)
As we reached the end of Ocean Drive the pavements became quieter and the neighbourhood looked somewhat neglected so we cut back onto the beach where we watched some surfers and continued south until we reached the southernmost tip of the island and South Pointe Park. Here marked the start of a boardwalk trail full of joggers and cyclists, families and locals.
We continued north again past a jaw-dropping arena and a couple of bars perfectly situated for a sunset cocktail (see below for a casual option, but the pictured bar was 2-3 minutes before reaching Texas de Brazil). The park runs into the Marina for a spot of awe-inspiring yacht spotting. For the final stretch of our tour we had to walk under the freeway and a couple of blocks north back to the hotel in a residential area, and if we did find ourselves feeling nervous it was purely due to lack of familiarity with the area rather than for any good reason.
If I’m honest I didn’t find Florida great for shopping although that may have been the places that we were and it can’t be denied it’s one of the cheaper places to shop in the US due to having one of the lowest state taxes of 6% compared with much higher rates in the likes of California and New York. I thought Miami as a big city might be the exception but after a google search, only found the some of the big brands, like Abercrombie and Fitch in the huge Aventura Mall north of the city.
We didn’t want to spend a whole day there or do a huge shop so gave it a miss but if you are planning on going, you can catch a dedicated shuttle bus or taxi and be there in around 45minutes (dependent on the notoriously jammed Miami traffic.) Instead we headed to Fifth Avenue, only 2 or three blocks north of our hotel and did a bit of shopping each evening before dinner. Classed as an outdoor mall it stretches for blocks east to west across the island with shops interspersed with bars and pavement restaurants and even a cinema. The shops become less impressive and more touristy the further towards the beach side you go and I had to go all the way South to another shopping street, Collins Avenue, to find a Sephora.
Miami has such a diverse population and a wide range of different communities that the food is well worth exploring. All the usual American classics are covered but there are also Mexican, Spanish and Caribbean influences along with pan-Asian cuisine to satisfy the sophisticated after-hours crowd.
On our first evening we found a great Japanese influenced restaurant, Doraku Sushi, and indulged in surf-n-turf california rolls, tuna sashimi and seared teriyaki steak, then staggered home via a great ice-cream cafe.
Now’s the time for you guys to have your say… have you been to Miami and do you have anywhere great to recommend to the Florence Finds readership? Please do leave your hot spots in the comments box or let me know if you have any questions
Little Black Book
- The News Cafe, Ocean Drive (Just north of the corner of 8th St and Ocean Drive
- Texas de Brazil (casual marina view currascaria.)