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By: Angela Caraway-Carlton

Greater Miami & Miami Beach is full of treasures waiting to be discovered, and the Historic Redland Tropical Trail in South Dade is one of those precious gems. Tucked between Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park and centered around charming and historic Homestead, this area is rich in history, stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife and culinary treats. From thrilling activities like zooming around in an airboat to animal encounters with alligators and roaming monkeys, sampling exotic fruits and wines, and strolling through historic villages, the Historic Redland Tropical Trail is packed with adventures of all kinds. Spend an entire day hopping between the trail’s various attractions, or create a bucket list of things to do over time. The best part: Many of these spots are family owned.

Caboose at Cauley
Discover the shops, fountains & cottages at Cauley Square Historic Village

Cauley Square Historic Village

Step back in time to what Old Florida used to look and feel like. Cauley Square Historic Village was built in 1903 as a pioneer railroad village. Across 10 acres, guests can wander through 19 cottages filled with antiques and collectibles, art galleries, restaurants and wellness spas. Wind down landscaped paths, past fountains and flowering trees, to make stops at the adorable houses. Mingle with artists or take a painting class. Dig for vintage finds, old books and antique home décor. A popular stop is The Tea Room, a Victorian tea house fit for afternoon high tea, brunch or delicious desserts. When you’re done perusing the village, indulge in a salt cave session at Esmeralda’s Salty Aire Retreat or take a yoga class at Tree of Life Holistic. You can even stop in the small chapel for a moment of quiet reflection.

Coral Castle Obelisk and chairs
Learn about the love story behind Coral Castle

Coral Castle Museum

For a good mystery and a haunting love story, stop by Coral Castle Museum, an interesting collection of sculptures fashioned out of more than 1,000 tons of coral rock. Part of the intrigue is that it was built by one man, Edward Leedskalnin, who secretly carved the sculpture garden between 1923 and 1951, a time when modern construction tools didn’t exist. It’s said that Leedskalnin moved to the area after his fiancée left him the day before their wedding date, and the Coral Castle was a monument to his lost love. Highlights are a nine-ton gate that moves with a touch of a finger, rocking chairs made of stone, and a Polaris telescope. Trust us, you’ll leave baffled about how he created all of this.

Hold a baby alligator at Everglades Alligator Farm
Hold a baby alligator at Everglades Alligator Farm

Everglades Alligator Farm

If you want to experience the wild side of Miami, Everglades Alligator Farm is a thrilling adventure. Hop on an adrenaline-pumping airboat ride through the River of Grass to see alligators and birds in their natural habitat. When you’re done, tour Miami’s oldest alligator farm, which is home to more than 2,000 alligators. Catch an alligator show, where you may want to cover your eyes as handlers exhibit capturing techniques once used by Native Americans. For something just as heart-pumping, watch the staff feed the hungry alligators. Brave visitors can even hold a baby alligator.

Squirrel Monkey at Monkey Jungle
Interact with monkeys in Monkey Jungle's rainforest

Monkey Jungle

For another unique animal encounter, head to Monkey Jungle, where you can hang out with wild monkeys. Established in 1935 in a natural subtropical forest, it’s an eco-park where hundreds of monkeys run free on the 30-acre preserve. Make a reservation for a guided tour, where you’ll have the chance to feed squirrel monkeys, watch monkeys interact in a recreation of an Amazonian Rainforest, and keep a safe distance to observe the kings of the jungle – gorillas. If you’re lucky, you might catch the troop of Java monkeys wading or diving into the pools of water.

RF Orchids

Orchid lovers will be in awe of the exquisite flowers at RF Orchids. The family-owned nursery and lush tropical garden is filled with a dazzling selection of rare and colorful orchids. Guests are treated to a diverse array of exotic species from all over the world, along with new hybrids and fine mericlones. The nursery has won 2,000 awards from the American Orchid Society over the last 50 years, as well as other accolades for its orchids. Walk past flowing waterfalls, koi ponds and picturesque arbors to see imported art works. Guests can take a private garden tour on Saturdays and Sundays to learn about the history and origins of this legendary nursery.

Robert is Here
Explore the market, animals and play area at Robert Is Here

Robert Is Here Fruit Stand

A favorite stop for locals is another family-owned gem, Robert Is Here Fruit Stand. As its name suggests, it started as a small fruit stand in 1959, when Robert was a boy. Now the large, open-air market offers an animal farm, a play area for the kids, and picnic tables to sit down and share a meal. This is the place to find rare and exotic fruits and veggies. Robert is usually on hand to tell you about the market’s history or showcase a tropical fruit or vegetable that you’ve never seen or tasted before. But the locals know the real draw that can’t be missed is their fruit milkshakes that are filled with the fruit of your choice. You can’t go wrong with the strawberry milkshake, or you can choose something unique like tamarind or papaya. You can also pick up artisanal items including jams, honey and hot sauces.

Schnebly Redland’s Winery
Find your new favorite tropical wine at Schnebly Redland’s Winery

Schnebly Redland’s Winery

Sipping wine in a tropical setting? We’re in. Tucked away in the countryside, you’ll find the gorgeous Schnebly Redland’s Winery, which makes exotic fruit wines. Stop by for a tasting that includes sparkling, dessert and table wines, and take a tour of the sprawling property that’s filled with waterfalls, a lush courtyard and tiki huts. Be sure to enjoy a locally sourced meal against the backdrop of natural coral waterfalls. On certain days, they offer live music and other activities.

If you’re looking for more things to do or places to stay in South Dade, stop by the Tropical Everglades Visitor Association in Florida City for more ideas.

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