As Biscayne Nature Center employee Claudia tells us, Key Biscayne used to be a coconut plantation owned by the Matheson family, which donated 800 acres to what is now Crandon Park. The beauty has been preserved, and people also flock to the island for killer golf courses and top-notch tennis competitions (Miami Open, anyone?). For a small village, there’s a distinctive vibe, complete with locals getting around on golf carts, and occasional celebrity spottings including Andy Garcia and Iggy Pop.
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Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center
Located at the north end of Crandon Park, this multifunctional center has a reception area, gift shop, exhibit space, classroom facilities, and more. As a not-for-profit organization, it’s dedicated to preserving the surrounding land and water, as well as promoting environmental education. For a distinct experience, check out their plein-air painting class and seagrass tours.
Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne
If you’re looking for a challenge, you won’t want to miss the 18-hole, par-72 course at Crandon Golf. For 18 years it was the site of the Senior PGA Tour, and whether you’re trying to go pro or just want some tee-time excitement, they’ve got you covered. Many of the holes are surrounded by water and lush plants -- if you’re lucky, you may even spot an exotic animal or two.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
Home to the historic lighthouse constructed in 1825, Bill Baggs is one of the best places to unwind on Key Biscayne. Take a picnic for the beach, or check out the Lighthouse Cafe or Boater’s Grill for some delish Cuban cuisine. For the truly adventurous, there’s also overnight boat camping in No Name Harbor, which offers some of the best shoreline fishing in town.
Despite being destroyed by a hurricane back in 2004, Whiskey Joe’s Bar & Grill came back bigger and better than ever, first in Tampa and then in Key Biscayne. Not only is it a great bar scene with mixed drinks, margaritas, wine, and beer, the snacks are on point and you’d be hard-pressed to find better views while overlooking downtown Miami.
The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
Away from the hustle of downtown Miami, find your inner chic at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. There are two pools, options for kids, tequila tastings, and, of course, miles of pristine sand for lounging or walking by the water. Just make sure you try some of the food on tap -- they’ve got everything from Cuban fare to Mexican cuisine.
Located on the Rickenbacker Marina, fantastic views merge with sophisticated decor in this plantation-style building. Thanks to its prime location, you can expect some pretty fresh seafood. If you’re in the mood for a deal, check out happy hour from 4-7 p.m. for 50 percent-off appetizers and drink specials from local mixologists who put a very Floridian twist on drinks such as the Key Biscayne Pain Killer and Pelican Caipirinha.
The Donut Gallery Diner has been in the Zambrano family for over 40 years, ever since Cuban-born Benjamin Zambrano became the sole owner in 1972. Standard diner fare makes this a comfortable, no-frills option with homey classics like pancakes and eggs alongside Key Biscayne faves like palomilla steak and grilled dolphin. You don’t have to spend much to leave full, and the familiar, inviting atmosphere is part of the island’s charm.
Peruvian chef Felipe Villanueva was pursuing a degree in engineering when he decided to switch gears and enroll at Le Cordon Bleu in Lima. Luckily for diners, the decision paid off: They can now enjoy traditional dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, and, of course, the customary cocktail of Peru -- pisco sour. Be sure to check it out on Thursdays or Fridays for live music.
For any authentic Italian restaurant, homemade pasta and fresh seafood are musts, and at Puntino Key Biscayne you won’t be disappointed. If you’re feeling extra inspired, check out their blog and you can learn to make your own version of tasty recipes like ravioli dolci, octopus alla Luciana, and pasta alla Norma, plus discover some interesting foodie history on staple items like mozzarella di bufala and limoncello.