The great outdoors: SoFla's Eco-Adventures

 

Get out of the Aventura Mall parking garage and into nature this weekend.

kayaking
Row where you want to at Virginia Key. Photo:John VanBeekum
 

By Maria Arguello

In Miami, there's always a new restaurant, bar, hotel or club. Yes, we love the nightlife, but the Magic City also has lots to do during the day, and it doesn't always include shopping. Next weekend, instead of the hitting the malls (yes, we love Aventura, too, but how many Saturdays can anyone spend at Zara?), take off on an Eco-Adventure.

Miami-Dade Parks manages the Eco Adventures program -- exciting outdoor excursions ranging from biking to canoeing and snorkeling. Different parks throughout the county offer a variety of adventures for all skill and age levels, and all of the programs are led by experts and provide the necessary transportation and equipment.

Rookies
If you've never gone camping but always dreamed of experiencing the great outdoors, then a great place to start is Crandon Park, which offers a variety of activities to get you feeling comfortable in the wilds of South Florida, including biking, kayaking and canoeing.

If you feel comfortable on the water, try the Key Biscayne Snorkel and Island Boat Cruise, a three-hour tour (famous last words) of Biscayne Bay, the Cape Florida Lighthouse and Stiltsville (day sunset tours are also available). You'll enjoy a cruise into the bay, then you can get a closer look at the coral reefs as you dive in for some snorkeling.

If you're more of a landlubber, start off with the 14-mile Redland Historic Bike Trek, during which you'll visit the homestead of South Dade pioneers, Hainlin's Saw Mill, the Fruit and Spice Park and more. The tour is $25 or $20 if you have your own bike.

Experienced
If your hiking boots have some wear and tear and you've got your snorkeling gear ready to go at a moments notice, then catch the Sea Kayak and Snorkeling Adventure. You'll kayak out from Crandon Park then throw on the snorkeling gear and go over and under, where you might catch glimpses of everything from tropical fish to spotted eagle rays.

You can also forgo the snorkeling and instead enjoy a Sunset or Moonlight Kayak Adventure. You kayak under the light of a full moon and a starry sky or during a sunset out on Biscayne Bay.

Now that you're familiar with paddling, change strokes and head to the Everglades to embark on a three-hour River of Grass canoe trek, named for famous local Marjorie Stoneman Douglas' 1947 book. You'll learn a little Everglades history, take a stroll along Anhinga Trail, and end at Florida City's Robert is Here fruit stand, where you can indulge in one of their fresh fruit shakes.

The treks continue with the three-hour Key Biscayne Heritage Bike Trek, which starts and Crandon Park and takes you on a historic tour around the island, including a stop at the Cape Florida Lighthouse.

Expert

You've been there, done that -- but you used all your vacation days on that Primal Quest and you still want more

The Everglades Pineland Bike and Hike is the perfect way to spend the day. It's a seven-mile bike ride and hike through pinelands and a chance to experience the area's wildlife.

Kids
You're still an adventurer, but now you've got mini-adventurers to entertain. The answer to your prayers is Crandon Park's Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center. Kids are taken out to the seagrass for an educational adventure during which they'll get to explore and learn about local ecosystems through hands-on activities.

Everyone
Sea turtles gather onshore every year between April and September to nest, in fact Florida plays host to the largest number of nesting sea turtles in the country. During the summer months baby sea turtles hatch and begin their trek to the sea and Miami residents have a chance to participate in the Sea Turtle Nesting and Relocation Program. The program has been around for 30 years and focuses on releasing hatchlings safely into the sea.

Once you've fallen in love with the Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and all the rest of the local parks, you'll probably have a nice tan, lots of good info about the local floral and fauna and a newfound respect for your athletic prowess. You're feeling great and looking good and that calls for a celebration with friends - at one of those new restaurants, bars or clubs.

Reservations must be made at least 24 hours ahead of time. To make them call 305-365-3018 or email ecoadventures@miamidade.gov. For more info, click here.

Got your own fave eco-adventure? Leave a review!

Published: 5/08

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