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Miami's Secret Oases

Sep 5, 2012
Miami's Secret OasesMiami's party scene is legendary, from the nightclubs of South Beach to the block parties of Calle Ocho in Little Havana. But there's a quieter side to the city as well—lush gardens, pools, and parks that preserve the ideals of Old Florida in the midst of a bustling metropolis. Elegant attractions blend into the tropical landscape at several spots south of downtown Miami. In Coral Gables, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden enlivens the senses with an extensive collection of orchids, butterfly gardens, and rare palms from around the world. Built in 1924, the nearby Venetian Pool is an 800,000-gallon lagoon fed straight from the Floridan aquifer, surrounded by coral outcroppings and tiered waterfalls. While tourists flock to Lummus Park Beach, part of the lively and often crowded strip better known as South Beach, locals often prefer the more secluded stretches along the barrier islands that line Miami's coast. Here, spiky palmettos, live oaks, and strolling ibises and egrets provide an image of what South Florida looked like before the skyscrapers arrived. The area’s protected parks also offer a serene getaway for those looking to take advantage of Florida’s natural scenery. Hop on the Rickenbacker Causeway bridge to Key Biscayne, home to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Here, you’ll find scrub-covered sand dunes, sea-turtle nests, and a lighthouse that's the oldest-standing structure in Greater Miami. Up in North Miami Beach, Oleta River State Park fronts the placid Biscayne Bay harbor, and attracts kayakers with mangrove stands clustered around river inlets. Back on the mainland, Matheson Hammock Park is a circular, sandy lagoon that draws visitors for its spectacular views of the Miami skyline—Frommer's called it the city's Best Scenic Beach.