Trips of a lifetime: the best drives from Miami

Miami is a tropical, cosmopolitan city surrounded by historic sites, incredible art and natural wonders. From the Florida Everglades down to Key West, find out what lies beyond the city centre with these epic road trips

Art and architecture in Brickell and beyond


After unwinding and soaking in the views at Mandarin Oriental, Miami venture out with a day trip to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove, about 15 minutes’ drive south of Brickell. Built between 1914 and 1923, the Italian Renaissance-style estate is the former home of businessman and developer James Deering. The grounds and museum are open to the public and well worth a look at for their architectural and botanical features, including the fantastical swimming pool grotto and restored marine garden.

Spin the car around and head back north, for an afternoon of outdoor art at Wynwood Walls, a free outdoor museum of colourful, thought-provoking murals. For a quick bite in Wynwood, check out fashionable 1-800 Lucky, an open-air food hall with seven Asian-inspired restaurants – but for dessert, grab yourself an ice-cream cone from the legendary Taiyaki NYC.

Finally, hop over to Miami Design District, a neighbourhood devoted to high fashion and innovative design. Spend the afternoon shopping at more than 120 flagship stores from the likes of Hermès, Dior and Balenciaga, or check out the larger-than-life art installations such as the bubble-like Buckminster Fuller Fly’s Eye Dome. The Design District also has food options aplenty such as the hip, two-storey café OTL, and the more laid-back MIA Market, which has nine different culinary options. Alternatively, head back to the hotel to dine waterside at La Mar by Gastón Acurio.


Explore the Everglades National Park


The largest subtropical wetlands in the United States, Everglades National Park – less than an hour by car from Miami’s downtown – is an essential stop for Miami visitors keen to experience its unique wildlife. The 1.5-million-acre park is home to Florida panthers, manatees, and crocodiles. Tour the marshes on a high-speed airboat while learning about the park’s unique ecosystem, which provides a home to several endangered plant and animal species. The Florida swampland is also full of biking and walking trails as well as kayaking and watersports for active types.

After a day or two of adventure, head back to The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami for an invigorating yet soothing Igniting Fire Ritual, which includes a foot ritual and full body exfoliation to relieve stress, an energetic clearing ritual through the use of singing bowls and a full body massage.


Shop in sip in Palm Beach


Head about an hour and a half north from the hotel and you’ll reach the town of Palm Beach – an area home to museums, historic landmarks and world-class shopping. Start your day on Worth Avenue, where you can browse shops such as Bottega Veneta, Chanel and Palm Beach’s own designer, Lilly Pulitzer.

Suitably replete with shopping bags, rest up at one of the many al fresco restaurants the area is known for. The Italian-inspired Café Flora aims to transport you Tuscany with a side of Floridan style thanks to dishes such as pan-seared Key West snapper with artichokes in a lemon and white wine sauce. Keep the Italian vibes going with a stop for sweet treats at Piccolo Gelato, a charming ice-cream bar tucked away in Worth Avenue’s historic Via Mizner, a pedestrian neighbourhood that’s on the US National Register of Historic Places. Walk off the calories with a tour the former home of iconic Florida developer Henry Flagler – now the Flagler Museum – or visit the newly renovated Norton Museum of Art, which features European, American and Chinese works.


Go ‘wild’ in Naples


Considered the jewel of southwest Florida, Naples is located on the Gulf of Mexico, about a two-hour drive northwest of Miami. The journey crosses the tip of south Florida through the Everglades – so you may spot a ’gator or two. From fauna to flora, Naples Botanical Garden provides a 170-acre sanctuary with more than 1,000 species of plants.

One of the best-kept secrets in Naples is Keewaydin Island – an uninhabited barrier island off the coastline. The island can only be reached by boat, and the nearly eight-mile stretch of white sand beach is perfect for dolphin sightings or simply hanging out by the water. At the end of the day, take a stroll down Naples Pier, which stretches out nearly 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico.


Tour the Florida Keys


You’ll need to set aside at least four hours of drive time to get down to Key West, one of the most visited locations in Florida. The Florida Keys are part of a 125-mile string of islands that start at Key Largo and end in Key West. The drive to Key West is a true experience of a lifetime with far-reaching views and mind-bending ‘floating’ highways. In Key Largo, about an hour south of Miami, you’ll find John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is one of the great places in the US for scuba diving, snorkelling, and kayaking.

The next notable stop is Marathon – the halfway point to Key West – near Bahia Honda State Park, which has one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys. Hop back onto the highway across the famous Seven Mile Bridge to make your way to Key West. While there, it would be remiss not to try a classic slice of key lime pie from The Key Lime Pie Bakery. Key West is full of historic sites such as former President Harry S Truman’s Little White House and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the former residence of the American novelist. If you have time, arrange a day at Dry Tortugas National Park, a chain of ten islands south of Key West that can only be accessed by ferry or plane. Finally, join the crowds over at Mallory Square for the nightly sunset celebration.