After an intensely filled week full of thrills and spills from the theme parks in Orlando, it was time for a three hour drive to Miami. The arrival into this city was a definite exhilarating experience. As the Miami skyline approached, the roads branched out into what seemed like a hundred lanes of solid traffic as we slowly meandered through the maze of roads leading to South Beach. As you enter, you are embraced with the high rise buildings and electric atmosphere of Downtown Miami, which was a welcome buzz compared to staying in suburban Orlando. Continuing from here, you approach Biscayne Bay, where the road is surrounded by beautiful blue water and a multitude of boats and yachts. Traces of the big city disappeared behind us as we took the final leg towards South Beach.
South Beach or SoBe as the locals like to call it is definitely a must if you are visiting this part of the USA. I couldn’t help notice the immediate buzz of this place. The latest brightly coloured sport cars cruising along Collins Avenue where every bar and restaurant were filled with chatter and excitement. This being backed by the tinted pink sky, as the sun began to set behind this electrifying city.
I instantly noticed how music culture was very important here. The party vibe was definitely visible, even motorbikes had their own sound systems pumping out the latest tropical house music. Beautiful pastel coloured art deco buildings of blues, pinks and yellows lined the streets of where I was staying.
A short five minute walk from the apartment was the beach, a massive sprawl of white powdered sand adorned with perfect bronzed bodies and peppered with colourful life guard stations that Miami is well known for.
Luxury hotels were in abundance on South Beach, however they somehow managed to blend luxury with a more laid back vibe, unlike other high end hotels I have visited in other cities. One of these hotels is the renowned Fontainebleau Hotel. Built in 1954 this iconic hotel sits majestically overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is famous for appearing in movies such as Goldfinger and The Bodyguard. Walking through its lavish lobby your nose leads you to the sweet creations of Chez Bon Bon; a little lavish cake shop which sells a fantastic selection of French patisseries that look and taste like they came straight from Paris.
The outdoor pool area is filled with chill out zones, where you can lay back in the heat of the day and simply kick back with a book, drinking the endless supply of pineapple water and listen to the warm breeze blow delicately through the palm leaves above. If you are able to peel yourself away from the grounds, head to their very own section of beach, which has numerous comfortable sunbeds where you can watch the blue ocean stretch out before you.
Another hotel that I highly recommend is the 1 Hotel, South Beach. Its lobby took my breath away with its deep design of relaxing natural colours, nature inspired materials and lighting.
Head up to the rooftop bar for a spot of lunch, where you will be met with the most amazing customer service and a continuation of its uplifting design of fresh blues and whites immediately settles your mind. It becomes somewhat of a challenge to peel yourself away from this little slice of paradise.
For a refreshing light lunch I tried their deliciously fresh sushi. As I have a bit of sweet tooth, I couldn’t help but try their deep fried Madagascan vanilla ice cream which was delicately drizzled with green tea honey and cacao nibs. One word….amazing!
A perfect place to head for breakfast or brunch is The Front Porch on Ocean Drive. This friendly and relaxed restaurant offers an abundance of delicious food, so much so that I found it almost impossible to choose something from the menu. What definitely stuck out for me was their thick and fluffy French toast, delicately flavoured with orange zest and drizzled with sweet maple syrup. If that’s not your cup of tea, there was a range of healthy options too. With the green omelette being my favourite and the fresh smoothies and fruit were a welcomed choice in the heat of the morning. This place has a great reputation with guests and locals alike, so make sure you arrive early to guarantee a table.
Approximately 25 mins drive from South Beach you will find the oldest neighbourhood in Miami, called Coconut Grove. This beautiful subdued area of Miami was definitely one of my favourites. It’s laid back and relaxed vibe was captivating. It was filled with streets of unique shops and healthy eating spots that were a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of the main city.
Walking around the beautiful marina, you could hear the bells of the boats as they were delicately rocked back and forth by the gentle water and witness the local birds and lizards. For fine dining, bistro cafes and high-end retail stores and boutiques head to a small area called Coco Walk. If you’re in the mood for a refreshing drink there is a lovely fresh juice shop in the area called Juicense. Its cool grey and modern interior was a welcomed relief to the humidity outside. Their choice of delicious cold pressed juices was extensive. Their watermelon and jalapeno juice was refreshing with just the right amount of spice and the green juice was a perfect balance of sweet and savoury.
For sunset we wandered to the rooftop of the slick and contemporary Sonesta hotel. Their beautiful pool and bar area is the perfect place to see the infamous golden orange sunsets of Miami. On one side a view of the marina and on the other, a view of Coconut Grove.
The delicious cocktails are a must, their apple martini was fresh and uplifting, the coconut mojito was a great spin on the classic and the mango and jalepeno virgin cocktail had a great kick to it. Having the whole rooftop to ourselves, we slowly sipped our drinks whilst the sun sunk into the horizon as we watched the lights of the city slowly switch on and twinkle as darkness descended…it was a truly memorable experience.
For dinner I visited the lovely Lulu in the Grove, where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. Serving delicious food such as fish taco’s or pasta with their delicious freshly made pesto. There is plenty on the menu to fulfil your appetite. For a cool, tasty and delicious dessert, head around the corner to the lovely Bianco Gelato. This small shop served the most delicious smooth organic ice cream with the freshest and purest ingredients and you couldn’t help but smile with their friendly customer service. I recommend their salted caramel or pistachio gelato but of course there is plenty of other delicious flavours that to try.
Viscaya Museum and Gardens
Hidden away in Coconut Grove is the breathtaking Viscaya Museum and Gardens. This grand home was belonged to the renowned businessman James Deering. The early 20th century estate is stunning and with its surrounding 10 acres of Renaissance gardens I felt as if I was taking a stroll in the Italian countryside.
Inside you can wander around the 70 rooms contained within the villa with a beautiful central courtyard. The rooms are filled with numerous striking antiques and art work. The villa is so beautiful it has been used in numerous movies such as Iron Man 3 and Ace Ventura and is also used as luxurious venue for weddings and other events.
I especially loved the view from the villa looking out towards the bay. Its Venetian style poles and statues jutting out from the water and quaint little bridges were simply stunning.
This contemporary outdoor destination features colourful and large street art by different artists from all around the world. Located in the inner-city of Miami, this place pops out of nowhere and surprises you with its unique urban edge.
The art work is immense and you can’t help but be drawn in to each piece with their unique colours and designs.
Although this place is filled with tourists alike, I still enjoyed this different side of Miami. The area was contemporary and trendy which scattered with single origin coffee shops, healthy eateries and other shops filled with unique clothes and products.
Although I had limited time to explore this area, I couldn’t help but try the renowned Versailles Bakery in Little Havana. As the name suggests, this area is home to many individuals from Cuban background as well as others people from Central and South America. As soon as I walked into this bakery I felt completely transported as if I was in Cuba itself. The sound of Spanish chatter filled the air as well as the sweet smell from the deliciously fresh baked cakes and desserts. Glamorous ladies sat chatting over coffee, older men in groups talking about days gone by. This certainly felt like a million miles away from the Miami, a place that I thought I knew and I loved it!
The owner advised me of the countless cakes and desserts that they had to offer and told us that no matter what we picked we wouldn’t be disappointed.
We opted for an almond based cake called Tarta Santiago, Tartaleta de Coco y Dulce de leche (coconut and caramel tart) and Nutilla (similar to thick and sweet custard). The desserts didn’t disappoint and were certainly worth coming for. I couldn’t have Cuban desserts without washing them down with a Café Cubano, a small but strong dose of Cuban coffee served like an espresso and twice as strong. It can sometimes be super sweet but I opted to have it without the sugar, the strong bitterness of the coffee with the sweetness of the desserts was a pairing made in heaven.
Keep an eye out for my next blog post on the beautiful Key West.