The 11 best things to do in Miami
Make your trip to Miami an unforgettable one with these essential experiences
Miami is the cultural melting pot of South Florida. From street art and cafecito to beaches and Key Lime Pie, it’s got all the ingredients you need for a unique trip. If you're flying to Miami, here's everything you need for the perfect trip.
1. Try a real Cuban coffee
Head down to Little Havana for coffee, Cuban style – the local cafecito is a strong, sweet brew that'll give you the boost you need to start your
day. From the early morning until the small hours, you’ll see the heart of Miami’s Cuban community hanging out at coffee shops' ventanitas (walk-up windows) for their daily caffeine hit. There are plenty of options, but the main draw is Versailles Bakery – no longer a local secret, but the influx of visitors dropping by the iconic bakery certainly hasn’t put off its regulars. Don’t miss out on the sweet pastelito pastries – the guava filling is melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
2. Skip the queue at Joe’s Stone Crab
Joe’s Stone Crab is a century-old Miami institution, but they don’t take bookings, and just thinking about its two-hour dinner queues makes the stomach grumble in protest. Do as the locals do and skip the swanky
restaurant for Joe’s Take Away next door – a cheaper, much more relaxed joint where you can eat in if you wish, or carry your food to the beach just a few minutes’ walk away. You must order the stone crab, of course, but be sure to get a side of creamed spinach too – it’s almost as famous as the signature dish.
3. Swim in the world’s largest freshwater swimming pool
Cool off in the Miami heat with a dip in the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. This unique watering hole was built in 1924 from the remains of a coral rock quarry and gets its name from its Mediterranean-inspired design. It sits across four acres of land and is filled with almost 700,000 gallons of water – all of which is emptied, naturally filtered and refilled every day to ensure the water is always clean and clear.
4. Take in the art deco buildings on Miami Beach
There are over 800 examples of Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach, and it was the first 20th-century neighbourhood to be recognised by the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed between 1923 and 1943, the buildings line the roads of Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue from around 6th to 23rd Street. A good starting point is the Art Deco Welcome Center in Lummus Park, where you can pick up a guided or self-guided tour, plus a whole load of information.
5. Get the perfect Instagram snap at Wynwood Walls
Twenty years ago, Wynwood wasn’t a place you would’ve looked twice at. Now, it’s at the heart of Miami’s creative industry, with over 70 art galleries, scores of fashion stores, and plenty of cool bars and restaurants. More laid-back than the slick South Beach area, the once rundown warehouse buildings of Wynwood Walls are now splashed with colourful street art at every turn. Have your camera at the ready.
6. Hit the beach, but not the one you think
Miami’s South Beach might be the most famous beach in the area, but it’s also really busy and really expensive. For a quieter, more family-friendly vibe, head up to the bohemian North Beach (NoBe to the locals). Its sprawling white sands offer plenty of space for sunbathing and sandcastles, while the 4.5-mile long oceanfront walkway will happily accommodate walkers and cyclists alike. The eateries might not be as flashy as they are SoBe, but they’re kinder on the wallet and – thanks to the area’s large South American community – showcase the myriad flavours of Latin cuisine. (Photo by Ma Groover licensed under CC BY 2.0)
7. Visit Vizcaya
Tucked away from the high-rises of Downtown and the bright lights of South Beach, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Biscayne Bay provides a little piece of tranquillity in a city that doesn’t have an off button. Built between 1914 and 1916, the building’s Mediterranean Revival architecture is certainly impressive, but it’s the impeccably kept European-inspired gardens – and its many sculptures – that really steal the show.
8. Explore the Everglades
Want to see an alligator in its natural habitat? The Everglades is where you’ll need to go. A 1.5-million-acre area of wetlands just outside of Miami, it’s best explored by airboat, ideally with an hour-long tour around its waterways. For something more tranquil, try out one of the park’s nature trails. The Anhinga Trail is a short, easy walk (around one mile), or those with more time should consider the longer 15-mile Shark Valley route. Hire a bike for $9/hour, or kick back and relax on a guided tram tour.
9. Drive the Overseas Highway
Visiting Miami and not taking a trip to the Keys would be a real missed opportunity – especially when the drive is as beautiful as this. The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile road that cuts straight through the ocean as you pass from Key to Key, with water stretching away on both sides. There are plenty of roadside gems to break the journey up – try Lorelei at Islamorada or Mangrove Mamas on Sugarloaf Key – but you could find yourself enjoying the journey too much to stop. Hire yourself a drop top for maximum impact.
10. Visit the six-toed cats at Ernest Hemingway’s house
Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote in Key West for over a decade – Hemingway's home between 1931 and 1939 is now preserved for visitors to take a look around. While it’s a fascinating place to explore, perhaps even more intriguing are the 40-50 cats that reside in its grounds. Look closely and you’ll see they all have six toes – it’s thought that many of them descend directly from Hemingway’s original polydactyl cat, Snow White. Continuing Hemingway’s tradition, they’re all named after famous people and are cared for by his estate.
11. Eat proper Key Lime Pie
While there are plenty of places in Miami where you can grab great Key Lime Pie (Joe’s Stone Crab, for one), if you’ve made the journey down to Key West, you should really try a slice from its birthplace. Different restaurants all have their individual take on the sweet-but-sharp recipe, but Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is widely considered one of the best. You can’t miss its bright green façade – and you’ll be thankful you didn’t.