Day visit in Miami
Being so close, we couldn’t visit southern Florida without going to Miami. This vacation destination is know for its beautiful beaches, Art Deco architecture, and lively nightlife. We had hoped to stay overnight, but the hotel costs are so expensive this time of year that it wasn’t worth it to us.
While there, we stopped at the Town Kitchen and Bar for a small bite to eat. Matt and I split duck empanadas and short rib tacos, and enjoyed a brief respite after a long drive along the heavily trafficked route from Homestead. Next door, we stopped at the Surf and Turf Meat Market to pick up some fish, beef and wine. The staff was really friendly, and even got us a bag of ice so we could pack our fare away in the cooler for the drive back.
After we made it to Miami Beach and parked, we wandered along the Miami Beach Boardwalk, which is around 40 city blocks, a nice area to bike, run, or take a long walk and access the beautiful Miami beaches. We popped out to the beaches a few times, and they are stunning! The water is a gorgeous aqua blue, the sand is silky soft, and the breeze invites you to stay and relax all day…as long as you bring your sunscreen! ⛱
We opted to stop for another small bite to eat and a drink along the famed Ocean Drive at a place downstairs from Hotel Victor South Beach called Cafe Americano. The open air seating allows you to gaze out toward the ocean, people watch and enjoy the warm weather. We had tuna tartare and I also gazed upon the lovely wall of plants next to me, and simply enjoyed being in the moment.
Afterward, we headed back up the boardwalk toward the convention center, which is close to where we parked. Unfortunately, they had a big boat show going on that weekend, so there was a helicopter overhead that was really loud and annoying, and they closed a lot of the streets off around the convention center. Just north of the convention center is the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. After dealing with the chaos of the convention center, this peaceful sanctuary was a wonderful escape. It is free to the public, host events, yoga, and has a boutique and garden center. We simply enjoyed the gardenscapes, butterflies, and serene spots tucked away throughout the gardens to take a breather and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. It is wonderful that they offer such a great space for the public to enjoy. 🦋
The one thing we didn’t enjoy was the traffic. We learned two things:
1. All bets are off when it comes to following the rules of the road. We saw people driving in oncoming traffic lanes, jaywalkers risking their lives running across multiple lanes of traffic, bikers and autos alike veering around backed up traffic and drivers wedging themselves in wherever they saw fit. Be prepared for anything and try to stay calm, but don’t expect to get anywhere fast.
2. AVOID MAKING A LEFT TURN AT ALL COSTS! You will sit at a left turn for at least 30 minutes every time. The traffic is constant, and even left turn lanes only allow 3-4 cars to pass at one time, though oftentimes 3-4 more will come careening through as long as they can keep the oncoming traffic at bay. It is miserable and frustrating, to say the least.
For this reason alone, we would never want to live in the Miami area. Even bikers and pedestrians travel at their own risk. If you are one of those people that invites the frenetic energy of the city into their lives, this may be a great place for you. It just wasn’t our style.
Day trip to Key Largo
Another area nearby Homestead to visit are the Florida Keys. Yet again, we had hoped to spend a night or two in the Keys, but winter is a popular time for tourists and the prices were upwards of $500 a night. 😯 The cheapest place we found was a shared hostel room for $150 a night. 🤑 Instead of heading all the way down to Key West, we opted to visit Key Largo instead, which is only about an hour away from the Everglades with traffic.
We traveled there during a holiday weekend, so our initial idea of going snorkeling was a bust, because all the snorkeling boats were booked solid for at least the next week and a half. I guess we just didn’t plan well enough in advance, so we would need to find something else to do. Instead, we rented kayaks at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This is a very popular destination, so it took quite a while to get through the gates and park.
We chose to do a 2-hour rental instead of a 4-hour rental, and we were glad we chose the shorter one. Aside from Matt seeing a big, black spider and us both seeing a bunch of minnows, we didn’t see any other wildlife until right before we returned the kayaks, where we saw a bunch of large pink and blue fish. Had we just walked over to the bridge next door we could have saved ourselves an hour of baking in the sun. 🥵 The water was pretty gross, with a film along the top, and the predetermined route meant there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to explore without running into boaters ahead or having more coming in from behind.
Matt has more experience kayaking than I do, and he said it wasn’t that great. 🤨 But, at times it was really nice to just float on the water and enjoy the peace and quiet in the shade of the mangrove trees. Even so, if we had stayed out much longer, we would have been horribly sunburnt despite covering ourselves in sunscreen, because the sun is so powerful here. We returned the boats sooner than later and got cleaned up so we could go in search of food.
Matt found a place called Pilot House that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so we decided to give it a shot. It was just a little farther south from the state park on a marina. We found a table in the shade and ordered a couple of tropical drinks to cool off. Matt got a Rum Rummer frozen drink and I got a Pusser’s Painkiller. Both were very good. 🍹
Matt thought Tuna Nachos would be nice and refreshing as well, but unfortunately we didn’t read the description close enough. 😳 What looked like a drizzle of avocado was actually wasabi and there was a lot of it! I couldn’t eat it, because it was so spicy it made me sneeze. 🤣 Matt tried to suffer through, but even he decided it wasn’t worth it to finish them. Matt had their fish tacos, which he liked. I had their fish sandwich, which was okay, but nothing to write home about. We were melting even in the shade, and since there weren’t a lot of other options for walking around, it was time to call it a day and head back to Homestead.
Our lessons learned here were: 1. Be willing to shell out lots of money if you want to spend time here during the cooler months of the year when the heat and humidity won’t completely melt you. Lodging is incredibly expensive. 2. Make sure you book any snorkeling or scuba trips well in advance, especially on holiday weekends, because they are one of the most popular attractions in the area. I’m sure the same goes for boat tours or ocean fishing.
All in all, we were glad we kept our travel to Miami and the Keys to a minimum and spent most of our time closer to our home base. I’m still happy we explored these areas as they are fun to visit for a while, but I am not a beach-going person, so it just isn’t my cup of tea. It is now time to start traveling north from here. Until then, hasta luego. 👋