Another world unfolds when you cross the Rickenbacker Causeway from Brickell and reach Key Biscayne. Flush with leafy green parks, marinas, a golf course and tennis center, it’s an oasis for outdoors and fitness enthusiasts. From nature trails that wend their way toward the historic lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park to the Virginia Key Outdoor Center, it seems there is always new terrain ripe for discovery. The Ritz-Carlton, Rusty Pelican and others provide a perch for fine-dining and waterfront cocktails with a view. A picturesque floating village at the periphery of the city’s hustle and bustle, Key Biscayne is Miami’s secret island retreat.
Meet our guides
Power couple Aabad and Leslie Melwani, both attorneys, live in Key Biscayne with their two young sons. It’s where Aabad, president and owner of the Rickenbacker Marina, grew up after his family immigrated to Miami from Hong Kong in 1980. His father purchased the ground lease to the marina shortly after. “It was the last thing I wanted to do,” Aabad said of taking over the family calling. “I grew up watching my dad get stressed out, but he built this amazing business. I love being on the water, sailing, fishing, boating, diving.” Leslie said she loves the intimate, small-town feel of their neighborhood, where she knows shopkeepers by name and where her extended family lives nearby. “Geographically, you’re a couple of bridges and a barrier island away from the city,” she said. “It’s like living on vacation.”
Prettiest nature trails?
Leslie: “Where else but Bill Baggs State Park can you you teach your kids to ride a bike, see Stiltsville, walk to the top of a beautiful lighthouse, and eat fresh fish?”
Aabad: “The entire eastern edge of Key Biscayne is a long beautiful beach, but Key Biscayne Beach Club remains our favorite access point. We’re there at least three times a week. You’re always bound to run into friends and neighbors.”
685 Ocean Dr., Key Biscayne; 305-361-2813.
Leslie: “The Biscayne Nature Center. Kids go during school field trips, but most parents don’t know about it. We took a family outing to see baby sea turtles being released.”
Favorite outdoor activity?
Aabad: “We enjoy boating, weather permitting. On land, we love riding with our two boys on the Virginia Key mountain bike trails.”
Where to get a cocktail?
Leslie: “Anywhere Geno Marron, a local treasure, is bartending. He’s a lifelong resident who has a huge following, dating to the Sonesta Hotel days. He makes the best piña coladas, margaritas and bloody Marys in the biz. He’s currently at Dune, a great beachfront bar and restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne.
Aabad: “Costa Med is our Friday night ritual, whether with friends or alone. Antonio Braschi and his staff have always treated us like family. The food is delicious, and they know their wines.”
Best casual lunch spot?
Aabad: “For a Key Biscayne institution, head to Sir Pizza. Order the Large Royal Feast, extra crispy, with a side of ranch dressing for dipping. People still drive in from off the Key to get a taste of the real deal.”
Aabad: “The Village Green and Dog Park. We are there daily with our two boys. It’s a great place to meet up with or run into other families.”
Leslie: “Hands down: Toy Town! Mary Tague, the owner, is a Key Biscayne local who always keeps the coolest toys in stock, so the shop is a lifesaver for last-minute birthday gifts. In a time when big business is taking over, I love supporting a great local store like hers.”
Where to watch the sunset?
Aabad: “Key Biscayne Yacht Club. They’ve got a friendly staff, great drinks, great company, and the best sunset in town. It’s our favorite place to entertain on the island.”
Best coffee shop?
Aabad: “El Oasis! Sadly, the old location burned down, but they rebuilt in the adjacent space. The cafecito y el chisme (gossip) remain as good as ever.”
19 Harbor Dr., Key Biscayne; 305-361-9009.
Favorite breakfast spot?
Aabad: “I love starting my morning with Nelson and Ota at the Donut Gallery.”
Where do you go for marine supplies?
Aabad: “I typically get my parts and supplies from our ship store or vendors at the Rickenbacker Marina. If I need to get any work done, I’ll engage our certified techs or mechanics.”
Best place for a workout?
Aabad: “They have everything you need at the Key Biscayne Community Center: state-of-the-art weight room, yoga and spinning studio, and an Olympic-size swimming pool. You can even leave your kids in the care of their friendly staff while you work out.”
10 Village Green Way, Key Biscayne; 305-365-8900; activeislander.org.