Beyond South Beach: Fun Day Trips From Miami

November 26, 2020 Updated: December 2, 2020

On a trip to the Magic City, most visitors to Miami expect to spend their time sizzling in sunny South Beach, wandering through the colorful Wynwood Walls, or eating their way through the culturally rich streets of Little Havana, home to the city’s thriving Cuban community.

And while each one of these is a perfectly plausible only-in-Miami itinerary—adventures you should certainly enjoy—there’s also a lot to explore beyond the urban sprawl. Though the densely populated Florida hotspot is best known for its streets and city culture, exploring beyond Miami’s borders can enrich your trip, dosing out even more Sunshine State beauty.

Consider a home base in Miami coupled with these fun day trips on your next trip to South Florida, which remains sunny and warm and welcoming all year round.

Take an Airboat Ride in the Everglades

A heron in the Everglades. (Rosanne de Vries/Shutterstock)

Believe it or not, being in Miami means one of our nation’s most awe-inspiring national parks is on your doorstep. The border of the 1.5-million-acre Everglades National Park is located about 30 miles from Miami and there are various ways to explore the biodiverse expanse of wetlands, but an airboat ride is the quintessential Everglades experience. 

Various tour companies offer Everglades airboat tours, in which you’ll board a boat that skims the surface of the water thanks to a massive propeller fan on the back. It’s a loud but thrilling adventure through one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet (and don’t worry about the noise—you’ll be provided with earplugs or earmuffs!).

Expect to see lots of alligators and maybe even some of Florida’s endangered species, such as the Florida panther or the West Indian manatee—a full-day eco-adventure that most don’t expect out of a standard visit to Miami.

Grab a Fresh Fruit Shake From Robert Is Here

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Fruit lovers should not miss Robert Is Here, which carries hundreds of kinds of fruit. (Courtesy of Robert Is Here)

If you’re up for a mini road trip to a longtime South Florida staple, do yourself a favor and make the hour-long drive to sleepy Homestead for a fresh fruit shake from Robert Is Here. The fruit stand—which had humble beginnings but is now a massive and bustling destination, sometimes called “the Disney World of fruit stands”—has been beloved by locals and tourists alike since its 1959 debut. 

In addition to what is quite possibly the best strawberry shake on the planet, Robert Is Here also sells a diverse selection of hundreds of different native and exotic fruits, from black sapote (which tastes, miraculously, just like chocolate pudding) to Spanish limes, sugar apples, and tamarind.

Make the short trip from Miami to Robert Is Here for a sweet taste of authentic Florida and try a new fruit, either raw or blended into a creamy milkshake or smoothie, on your visit.

Spend the Day in the Keys

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A diver explores the coral reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo, Fla. The reef system in the Keys is the only contiguous coral barrier reef in North America. (Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Eager to keep driving now that you’ve reinvigorated with a fresh fruit shake? Then make Robert Is Here a mere pitstop on your way to the Florida Keys, which feels a bit like teleporting to a tropical island surrounded by glowing blue waters and lined with gently swaying palm trees. 

The Florida Keys is a string of islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of Florida, ending in Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States. 

Driving from Miami to Key Largo (the first in the island chain) takes about an hour and a half, while driving all the way south to Key West takes about three and a half hours, so Key West is better as a weekend trip than a day trip from Miami. 

No matter where you go in the Keys, you’ll encounter funky Florida history and ample opportunities for water sports including fishing, boating, snorkeling, and scuba diving. 

A common misconception is that hitting the beach is a popular activity in the Keys—after all, it’s a tropical paradise—but that’s not the case, so don’t go expecting much beach time. Being out on the water is more so what you do in the Keys, as most of the “beaches” are just small stretches of sandy shoreline tucked away in parks and other off-the-beaten-path pockets. Public beach access (as most envision it) is limited if not nonexistent in the Keys. 

Instead, book a snorkel or dive charter to swim and enjoy the beauty of Florida’s offshore reefs. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a perennial favorite, and you can even dive to see an underwater 9-foot statue of Jesus, but exploring the area’s many shipwrecks is also popular.

Check Out Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach

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The front drive leading to The Breakers; the twin towers are patterned after Rome’s Villa Medici. (COURTESY OF THE BREAKERS PALM BEACH)

Already explored the tropical paradise hidden south of Miami? Heading north isn’t such a bad idea, either.

While the ultra-modern Brightline train is currently not operating due to COVID-19 concerns, in normal times, it’s the perfect way to fit more South Florida into your Miami visit.

(When running, Brightline connects Miami north to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Plans for other stations—in Boca Raton, Aventura, and PortMiami—are in the works, with an eventual extension all the way to Orlando one of the major developments being anxiously anticipated by Floridians and tourists alike. The Orlando station is complete but the tracks are still under construction, with service forecast to begin late 2022.)

In Fort Lauderdale, you can shop and indulge in restaurants and boutiques lining Las Olas Boulevard, get a tasty of the city’s funky artsy side in FAT Village, or even embark on a “river cruise” aboard the water taxi—a perfectly Floridian take on public transit and the reason why Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed “the Venice of America.” Even if you’re just taking the boat as a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B, you’ll enjoy a narrated tour from the crew (including the insider’s scoop on the mansions of Millionaire’s Row).

In West Palm Beach, stop in at the Saturday morning waterfront farmers’ market, wander ritzy Palm Beach Island, enjoy shopping and dining outdoors at the recently revitalized Rosemary Square, let your hair down to soak in the nightlife of Clematis Street, shop till you drop at the Palm Beach Outlets, or just relax and hit the beach.

Skye Sherman is a freelance travel writer based in West Palm Beach, Fla. She covers news, transit, and international destinations for a variety of outlets. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter @skyesherman.