Lisa Owen

Miami

It’s loud, bold and can be expensive – but if you look past the high rise buildings, Miami is not without its charms.

Spend your days lazing on the beach, experience all the nightlife has to offer, or simply like to use it as a base to head out the Everglades – Miami has something for everyone.

While most of the US is shivering during the colder months, Miami’s temperatures hover around the mid-20s most days and you’ll be getting around in shorts and T-shirt – and probably spend half the day in a bikini or board shorts.

What to do in Miami

Miami itself is predominantly beach and skyscrapers but there’s a couple of things to do in Miami itself to occupy a few hours.

You can explore Miami by bike. There’s bike hire stations across South Beach. Cost is $US6 for an hour/$US10 for two hours, and you’ll need a credit card to pay.

The Miami Beach Botanical Gardens is small but it’s a nice place to escape the crowds and enjoy a bite to eat, or a book on the grass under a tree. The gardens are open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Entry is free. 

Miami Beach Botanical Gardens

Next to the gardens is the Holocaust Memorial with its striking sculpture. South Florida has one of the highest populations of Holocaust survivors in the United States.

Holocaust Memorial Miami

There are also several interesting districts across Miami. The most well-known is the Art Deco district. Reflecting the city’s multiculturalism (you’ll hear a lot of Spanish spoken here), other popular districts include Little Havana and Espanola Way.

Little Havana is home to a number of Cubans and the restaurants and buildings reflect this influence. Head to the Ball & Chain on Calle Ocho for live music and salsa.

Espanola Way is based on villages in Spain and France and was originally built as a meeting place for the wealthy. Today, Espanola Way features a number of pretty buildings and a range of restaurants to suit most tastes.

Miami Beach's Art Deco District features 800 structures of historical significance. Most of the pastel coloured buildings were built between 1923 and 1943. The Art Deco district spans along Ocean Drive between 5th and 10th streets. Tours are available to take you through the district and point out the most significant buildings or you can simply wander through the area yourself.

Lincoln Road Mall

To get your shopping fix, head to Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach to find a large range of international brands. Parts of the Mall are pedestrianised to make it easy to get around, and there’s many restaurants spread along the centre of the mall. If you’re looking for a larger mall, Miami’s outlet mall Sawgrass Mill is accessible by shuttle, but it’s comes at a very steep cost of $NZ 44.20. The smaller Adventura Mall is located about 45 minutes on a local bus at a cost of $NZ 3 each way.

There’s also Movies in the Park on offer every Wednesday at 8pm at the New World Symphony Soundscape Park on the corner of 17th Street and Washington Avenue. Look at www.mbculture.com for the movie schedule.

There’s a range of tours available in Miami if you can stand the crowds – there’s amphibious vehicles to see where the rich and famous live; or you can take a tour down through the Florida Keys to Key West - the southernmost point of the USA mainland.

Everglades National Park

I headed to Miami mainly to take a visit out to the Everglades – a unique ecosystem about an hour’s drive from South Beach.

Half Price City Tours run a morning and afternoon tour daily out to the Everglades. Cost of the tour is $NZ 62, which includes transport to and from Everglades National Park, an hour long guided airboat ride and a short show with one of the rescue alligators at the park.

The airboat ride takes you along the canals in the Everglades, where you get a chance to spot wildlife. On my trip, I saw an iguana, a number of birds including a vulture and the tail of an alligator. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to get up close and personal to an alligator that day.

Miami

The Everglades is actually a river system – but one of the slowest moving in the world, only moving about a metre per day. The river system is fed only by rainwater though, something which Florida receives a lot of during the summer.

Next you’ll be shuffled along to a brief wildlife show with Ashley Lawrence, a pint sized self-proclaimed alligator wrestler and animal trainer. She is part of the Gator Boys outfit, which removes nuisance alligators free of charge from people’s backgrounds and relocates them to a rescue centre to spend the rest of their lives. During the show, Ashley climbs on top of the alligator and does a couple of daring poses including putting her arm inside the alligator’s mouth.

Aliigator

Accommodation

Miami is expensive, but budget options are available. The hostels I stayed in during my trip were Freehand Miami and Bed n’ Drinks.

Freehand Miami is a trendy hostel with large, modern rooms with ensuites. The beds are really comfortable and large. The hostel is a fitted out with a great outdoor area complete with pool and bar. The Bar is a hotspot for locals as well as backpackers so expect a crowd at night.

Miami hostel bar 

Breakfast is provided, but there are limited kitchen facilities. Freehand Miami can be expensive so book ahead for the cheapest rates. Bed n’ Drinks is a more affordable option and is located centrally adjacent to Lincoln Street Mall. The rooms are a good size but fairly basic, however each room has an ensuite bathroom. A packed breakfast is provided between 7am and 9am each day, and the hostel also has a small bar open at night. Kitchen facilities are limited, but there’s also a small TV room located on Level 2.

Getting to and from the airport

There’s several options to get to and from the airport depending on if you’re on a tight budget or can afford to splurge and also how much time you have. You can organise a shuttle for $NZ 37 per person, take a taxi for a flat rate of $NZ 52 or take a public bus.

The #150 Airport Flyer is the public bus option and takes about 40 minutes to and from the airport. It costs $US2.65 and you’ll need the exact fare as no change is given. The bus is often running late due to Miami traffic so factor this into your plans when heading to the airport.

When catching the Airport Flyer from the airport, follow the signs to the MetroBus station (it’s about a 10-15 minute walk and ride on the airport inter-terminal shuttle from the arrival terminals) and look for the 150 stop.

There’s also the option to fly to and from Fort Lauderdale Airport and travel into Miami – with flight prices often a lot cheaper than Miami International Airport. There are shuttles available for $A36 to and from the airport and Miami, or the cheap but very slow option is local bus. If you have time to spare, you can take the #120 bus to Adventura Mall and then change to the #1 bus heading to Fort Lauderdale airport. The #120 bus makes a lot of stops so allow at least two hours for the entire journey.

Things To Know

  • You might be surprised at how much Spanish is spoken is Miami. Many of the shops are staffed by native Spanish speakers so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted in Spanish before English.
  • Local buses don’t give change. Have the exact fare ready as you board to put into the machine.
  • As an Australian, I forget that taxes for food and goods are added at the checkout in the US. Tips are also expected at restaurants, in taxis and on tours (the guides aren’t shy about asking for tips). At restaurants, the expected tip is at least 20 per cent of the bill.
  • Two airports service the Miami region – Miami International Airport is closer to the centre, however Fort Lauderdale Airport consistently offers cheaper flights to some destinations than if you fly in Miami International Airport.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.