Embark on an Outdoor Adventure in Miami

Everglades kayaking

Everglades Kayaking


Airboat in the Everglades


Crocodile at Biscayne National Park

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By: Jennifer Agress

The Miami area is an ideal destination for outdoor exploration. With its wide range of nature-based activities in amazing state and national parks, beautiful bodies of water, vibrant gardens and unique ecosystems, Greater Miami and the Beaches is the perfect destination for visitors wanting to get fresh air, perhaps work up a sweat and connect with nature as they disconnect from everyday stress. 

Read on for the essential outdoors itinerary in Miami and get to know this destination’s beautiful backyard.

An alligator suns itself on a log in Everglades National Park.

Explore The Everglades

The Everglades is as unique an ecosystem as you’ll find, with a lush, watery landscape that extends for 100 miles. Visitors will find a wide range of wildlife, including endangered species such as manatees, American crocodiles and Florida panthers. The Everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live together. As much as you’d like to see everything it has to offer, considering that the Everglades are spread across 1.5 million acres, it’s impossible to cover it all on one trip. Plan your time accordingly, and make sure you see the highlights.

If you’re only there for a day, plan to get a good overview. Take an airboat ride through the “River of Grass,” as the area is known, while an expert guide introduces you to the area’s plants and animals. Several companies offer airboat rides including Coopertown Airboat Rides, Miccosukee Indian Village and Airboat Rides, and Everglades Safari Park. While all airboats operate the same way, each company offers its own extras, such as jungle trails, camping, alligator wrestling and restaurants serving frog legs and gator bites. 

You can enter Everglades National Park from the north or south. Forty-five miles southwest of Downtown Miami, the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center offers exhibitions, films, books, brochures and tips on the hiking trails. At the Flamingo Visitor Center, deep inside the park, you can find boat tours, camping, canoes, kayaks, bikes and backcountry permits.

Biking in the Everglades
Biking is available on a loop road at the Shark Valley entrance in Everglades National Park.

Head to the Shark Valley Visitor Center, 40 miles west of Downtown Miami, to take a tram tour along a paved road. For a more active adventure, rent a bicycle and explore the biking trails. Shark Valley has a loop road that starts at the north entrance to the park and runs for 15 miles. Halfway through the loop, you’ll find a beautiful observatory tower where you can see panoramic views of the vast Everglades.

Biscayne National Park
A loggerhead sea turtle in Biscayne National Park.

Discover Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is another of Miami’s beautifully preserved natural habitats. It’s unlike most parks in the country in that 95 percent of it is underwater. Biscayne National Park is filled with 172,000 acres of reefs, marine wildlife and even shipwrecks. Many private companies offer tours, so you can experience this one-of-a-kind park by snorkeling, fishing, camping, canoeing, kayaking and more. 

If you aren’t sure where to start exploring Biscayne National Park, head to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead, which is about an hour’s drive from South Beach. After you enjoy a fun adventure on the water, there are plenty of land-based eco-adventures in this part of Florida, such as exploring the more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices and nuts at Fruit & Spice Park or seeing the giant creatures at Everglades Alligator Farm. On your way back, stop by the Deering Estate, which is home to 450 acres of nature and birding trails, night hikes, kayaking and more.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Beautiful orchids bloom at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Tour Miami's Gardens

Miami is home to stunning gardens. In the South Dade neighborhood of Pinecrest, the 12-acre Pinecrest Gardens is the only natural rainforest on the U.S. mainland, and it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With more than 1,000 varieties of rare and exotic tropical plants and palm trees, this park also has one of the most diverse desert gardens in Florida.

Spread across 83 acres in Coral Gables, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is an exotic garden that has one of the most diverse collections of plant species anywhere in the country. This special garden destination is filled with nature trails, a butterfly garden, rainforest and sunken gardens and sculpture gardens – more than 3,400 species in all. The garden is divided into Uplands and Lowlands ecosystems, and you can see it all on a guided walking tour or a free tram tour. Visitors can borrow binoculars to make it easier to spot the plants and animals along the way.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of Miami's top attractions.

Inspired by grand estates in Italy and Spain, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is an enchanting European garden and Renaissance-inspired estate in Miami’s hardwood hammock. The attraction includes 10 acres of serene gardens, including vast formal gardens inspired by the Palace of Versailles. The area is filled with trimmed shrubs organized into walkways and geometric patterns, lush mazes, topiary-lined corridors and classical statues, all juxtaposed against palms, rare orchids and Cuban limestone to give it a distinctly Miami flair. Don’t miss the Fountain Garden or the David A. Klein Orchidarium with its delicate blooms.

Crandon Park Pelican
Enjoy a day of nature at Crandon Park.

Spot Manatees in Miami

Manatees, or “sea cows,” are some of Florida’s most precious creatures. Spotting these gentle mammals in their natural habitat, along Florida’s waterways, is a memorable experience. Weighing up to 3,500 pounds, these slow-moving creatures spend summers offshore and head to warmer inland waters between November and March. In Miami, there are plenty of places where visitors can see manatees in winter. Not far from Biscayne National Park, the warm waters of Biscayne Bay surrounding Black Point Park & Marina are a popular spot for manatees to congregate. There you can see them poking their noses out of the water every few minutes (although some manatees can stay underwater for 20 minutes at a time). 

For a guided tour option, hop on the Manatee Photo Tour that leaves from the Virginia Key Outdoor Center. This tour will take you through Virginia Key Cove and Jimbo’s Lagoon, both common areas for manatee and dolphin sightings. Once you’ve gotten your fill of manatees, head back to land and take advantage of the many other activities at Virginia Key Beach North Point Park, including bike tours, paddleboard adventures and kayak lessons.

Getting Around

Miami’s popular CitiBike program, which has more than 1,000 bicycle stations around town, makes it easy to rent a bike and see the city at your own pace. If your adventure takes you out on the water, go kitesurfing, windsurfing, jet skiing or stand-up paddleboarding – the latter is one of South Florida’s most popular water sports. Take your board out to Biscayne Bay, and you’ll get a front-row seat to one of the best sights in town: sunset over the Miami skyline.

Read More:

Beautiful Green Eco-Friendly Hotels In Miami
Explore Nature, Parks & Gardens In Miami
Where to Rent Bikes, Scooters and Segways
Miami's Best Walking and Hiking Trails

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