When people think of Florida, images of college students on spring break and families flocking to theme parks usually come to mind. Some of that may be true, but there is so much more to the Sunshine State than beach parties, rollercoasters, and perpetual summer vibes. Just a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Miami is Key Biscayne — an oasis nestled away from the hustle and bustle of South Beach. Driving to Key Biscayne from Miami is easy and affordable, and it’s one of the best free things to do in Miami. Here’s your guide to Key Biscayne, and what you should do in this beautiful sub-district of Miami!

Whether you’re a first time vacationer or nearby local, there are many travel benefits you can get from a visit to this beautiful island town. Formerly a coconut plantation, Key Biscayne has since been converted to an abundant nature preserve with its own unique treasury of beaches. It has come to be known for its coastal barrier reefs, state parks, iconic golf courses, and high-end accommodations that are sure to transport you to an otherworldly state of relaxation. There’s certainly a distinct vibe and personality to the affluent island town of Key Biscayne that textbook tourist South Beach spots can’t provide. How do you make the most of it?

Where to Stay

The Ritz-Carlton – Yes, this luxury resort is every bit as deluxe as you’d expect. Boasting one of the few oceanfront views spanning an expansive five-mile stretch of paradise, The Ritz is known for its impeccable Caribbean vibe and topnotch service. Among some of the amenities guests can enjoy are a full-service spa, beachside swimming pools, and an 11-court world-class tennis center. The upscale enclave is ideal for quiet getaways that are still close enough to all the action.

Silver Sands Beach Resort – For those who prefer something more laidback and casual, the Silver Sands Beach Resort on Ocean Drive fits the bill. Its art deco design — complete with vivid tropical prints and rattan furniture — gives off a charm that transports you to the heart of old school ‘60s Florida. Guests can bask within its beautiful courtyard and pool and enjoy other comfortable amenities for a more affordable price.

What to Do

Experience the Florida Keys via boat – With fleets of catamarans available for tours, sailing is a great way to see the Keys up close. Options to learn to sail, snorkel, and kayak are also available.

Crandon Park – Since the majority of the area is reserved for parkland, Key Biscayne has some of the most pristine, preserved shores. At Crandon Park, which lies on the island’s northern end, you can enjoy a priceless view of palm trees and sand dunes — a far cry from Miami’s urban beach vibe with buildings populating the backdrop.

Moonlight Kayaking – This is one side of the nightlife you won’t get in the city. In 150 minutes, guests get to tour around wild mangrove preserves and coves in the area. Different kinds of flora and fauna abound — from pelicans and blue herons, to white ibis and tarpon springing out of the waters. The best time to go is February, when marine creatures put on a bioluminescent show.

Stiltsville – The iconic cluster of houses atop stilts have been flocked to by tourists since 1930, and is probably the cherry on top to any Key Biscayne visit. Just a quick boat ride from Crandon Park Marina, the quirky attraction might look familiar to fans of Miami Vice, where it has made onscreen appearances multiple times.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park – It isn’t a “Top Ten Beaches” favorite for nothing. Lying on the island’s southern tip, the mile-long shore is known for its pure waters and clear sand. It is also home to the historic, nearly two century-old lighthouse. For those looking for a thrill, overnight boat camping at No Name Harbor is available, and also offers the best shoreline fishing on the island. Beach-goers can opt to have a bite at the nearby Lighthouse Café, or better yet — hit up the Key Biscayne Farmer’s Market and put together a sumptuous picnic lunch. The market stocks everything from cheeses sourced from around the world, to smoked salmon and Spanish olives.

Cape Florida Lighthouse – Having been around since 1825, Cape Florida Lighthouse is South Florida’s oldest structure. Standing high at 95 feet, guests must climb 109 stairs for a worthy treat — that is, a bird’s eye view of the town’s majestic tropical greenery. Right by its side is the restored light-keeper’s house and a garden. And watch out for a manatee or two possibly coming to say hello from the waters.

Bike Heritage Tour – At Key Biscayne, you’ll never run out of ways to enjoy the island. For a little throwback, visitors can rent a bike and join a 13-mile heritage tour. Its trail includes the famed coconut palm beach, a coconut plantation, 2,000-year old Tequesta Indian sites, and even Richard Nixon’s Winter White House. It’s also great way to witness the town’s colorful mix of Victorian, contemporary, and Mediterranean architecture.

Bear Cut Preserve’s Fossilized Mangrove Reef – This 6,000-year-old reef is home to a plethora of fish species. Be left in awe as you watch nurse sharks, pufferfish, sea urchin, sergeant majors, cowfish, and so much more treading its waters. It is conveniently accessible from the beach and has an observation deck for anyone who wants to do some marine-watching.

Where to Eat and Drink

Rusty Pelican – This restaurant offers front-row seats to the best sunset view of the island, coupled with the twinkling Miami skyline in your periphery. Perched on the edge of Key Biscayne, the upscale Rusty Pelican also has an equally fantastic menu to compliment the scene. Choose from the freshest local seafood and premium drinks with a distinct Floridian flair.

Stefano’s Lounge Located on Crandon Boulevard, this 33-year-old restaurant and bar is known for its authentic Italian cuisine with touches of Greek. However, the main attraction is its 7-hour Latin dance music parties, where locals and guests come together in the name of salsa every weekend from 10PM to 5AM.

Donut Gallery – Another Key Biscayne institution, the 41-year-old Harbor Drive diner boasts a funky ambience and nostalgic vinyl-covered bar stools. Fuel up with the must-try Ted’s Special, an English muffin topped with ham, cheese, eggs, and tomatoes.

Whiskey Joe’s – This flourishing bar was once damaged by a hurricane in 2004, but has since returned new and improved. Enjoy its selection of overflowing margaritas, beer, cocktails, and bar chow — all while overlooking downtown Miami.

Boater’s Grill – This signature staple among locals is tucked inside Bill Baggs State Park’s No Name Cove. Kick back with a glass of wine and watch boaters cruise their sailboats into the cove to park and dine. Order their spicy fish adobo for an unparalleled gastronomic adventure.

2 Comments on “Key Biscayne: A Tourist’s Guide to One of Miami’s Best Districts

    • Thanks Susan – haven’t been yet, but would be happy to once we do!

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