Travel After Covid-19: The Best Outdoor Activities in and Around Miami

Canoe through mangroves in Florida's backcountry for an adventure like no other
Canoe through mangroves in Florida's backcountry for an adventure like no other | © Stefanie Grewel / Getty Images
Photo of Madhuri Chowdhury
Commissioning Editor26 June 2020

Not only does it have great weather, but Miami is blessed when it comes to natural wonders – it’s the only city in America bordered by two national parks, the Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park, that are rich with mangroves, pristine waters and emerald islands. Culture Trip helps you discover the true charm of Florida’s great outdoors.

Snorkel along North America’s only barrier reef

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Fish and corals in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
© Joe Quinn / Alamy Stock Photo

The flawless beaches and clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean draw flocks of tourists to Miami every year. Florida is home to North America’s only barrier reef – the third-largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef. The Florida Reef, spanning 220mi (354km) along the state’s coast, is protected by the National Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary Program. You can rent or buy snorkeling gear at either Austin’s Dive Center or South Beach Divers, where $12 (£9.65) will get you everything you need for a day in the water exploring Miami’s marine life.

Kayak through mangroves

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Kayaking is a double whammy – a chance to explore Florida’s mangroves while getting in a solid upper-body workout. Biscayne National Park is home to unspoilt islands and reefs, and the shallow waters here are ideal to explore by canoe or kayak. Experienced kayakers could traverse the 7mi (11km) Biscayne Bay to reach Boca Chita Key island for a lazy day in the sun, while less experienced kayakers can check out Jones Lagoon for a chance to see marine life like rays and upside-down jellyfish, or Hurricane Creek, also a great spot to snorkel and see crabs.

Camp in watery wonderlands

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If you’ve been confined indoors during lockdown, you might like the idea of sleeping under the stars. Florida offers plenty of opportunities to camp. In the Everglades, less experienced campers can pitch a tent at Long Pine Key and Flamingo campsites, while more experienced campers will want to head out to the backcountry. The most popular season is between November and April, so make sure you have a campsite reserved. Meanwhile, 95% of Biscayne National Park is water, so you’ll need a boat to camp there. Head out to the islands of Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key, both of which have secluded campsites where spots are given on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re camping in Elliot Key, check out the 7mi (11km) Spite Highway trail.

Hike and bike in the Everglades

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Head to the Everglades National Park‘s Shark Valley Visitor Center, where a 15mi (24km) path winds along the park’s sawgrass marshes and pine flatwoods. The Shark Valley entrance also has a biking trail (and you can rent bikes there) for those who prefer to explore on two wheels. Keep an eye out for wildlife including black bears, alligators and bobcats.

Explore swamps by airboat

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Spend a day out exploring the swamplands for which Florida is famous by taking an airboat or swamp buggy ride in the Everglades or Big Cypress National Preserve. Airboats and swamp buggies are specially designed to traverse the area’s wetlands and muddy marshes. If walking is more your thing, you can take a guided swamp walk that explores the marshlands here on foot. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther that lives in the protected 729,000 acres (295,000ha) of Big Cypress.

Take a guided eco-tour of the Paradise Coast by kayak or boat

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Naples beach and pier, Florida
© Michael Dwyer / Alamy Stock Photo
Venture out to Florida’s Paradise Coast, the area that includes Naples and Marco Island, for a guided eco-tour to learn more about the natural environment here. Go kayaking or canoeing along the Paradise Coast Blueway, a GPS-coordinated network of routes that will take you to secluded islands. Alternatively, try a boat tour on the Dolphin Explorer, where you can travel the waters of the Ten Thousand Islands and Rookery Bay, while helping dolphin researchers with ongoing projects.
These recommendations were updated on June 26, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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