Amongst one of Miami’s most obscure historical landmarks you’ll find the Coral Castle, a creation crafted over 25 years by a single man. Located on South Dixie Highway, the Coral Castle is the brainchild of one Ed Leedskalnin.
Back in the 1923, Ed Leedskalnin took to carving by hand (or at least people think) sculptures out of coral rock. The reason people can’t be sure whether he did this by hand with crude tools or with a more modern approach is that no one ever actually saw him do the carving. To this day people are unsure of the methods that he used to turn this coral rock into such a fortress and walkable garden that is now the Coral Castle.
By the time Ed was done with his work it was 1951 and he had carved over 1100 pieces. What prompted Ed to use his time on such a hobby? No one quite knows but nowadays you can walk around the various sculptures, sit in rocking chairs that are completely made out of stone, look through a Polaris telescope or even push a 9 ton gate (all made of coral) with a single push of a finger.
The Coral Castle Museum is open every single day and you can take advantage of self-guided or guided tours at various prices. The sheer scale of the Coral Castle is sure to wonder and the fact that a single man (all five feet tall and one hundred pounds of him) could do it himself makes many believe that Ed had superpowers. Pair that with the fact that no one ever saw him work and it’s impossible to rule out.
A mystery it may be but it is truly one of the most unique destinations you’ll find in South Florida.
The legend that is Ernest Hemingway is mostly known for his brilliant works like The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms often gets associated with his time spent in Paris. Living a robust and exciting life, many people don’t realize that Hemingway spent eight years of his life in Key West.
Known simply as the Hemingway House now, thousands of visitors stop by every year to check out the Spanish Colonial style home that Hemingway and his second wife Pauline restored together. Them finding the home happened by accident. As you’ll see from the website, the couple was in Key West simply to pick up a brand new Ford Roadster, purchased by Pauline’s Uncle Gus. However, the car had been delayed in transit and the Hemingways had three weeks to kill in South Florida.
After awhile, the Hemingways fell in love with Key West and upon discovering the old home, decided to purchase it and restore it. Now the ground is most exciting to visitors for a variety of reasons, most of all the various cats that inhabit the grounds. Named after famous characters like Tennessee Williams and Joe Russell, there are over 50 cats on the grounds as direct descendents from Hemingway’s precious cat, Snowball. What’s more, the majority of these cats possess six toes, a unique feature that Snowball had that interested Hemingway at the time.
The place is also home to many European furnishings and antiques collected from around the world by Ernest himself. Cult followers mostly admire the studio where Hemingway wrote some of his greatest works like For Whom the Bell Tolls and many characters developed in his novel To Have and Have Not were developed from his time and observations of Key West inhabitants.
A great day trip and unique experience. Tickets can be purchased at the door with cash only.
Another historical site in Miami, might not be exactly what you’d expect. Cape Florida State Park is home to the historic lighthouse that was built in 1825. As such, the lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in the county. Open for tours on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays you can get a grand view of Key Biscayne or what locals call “the Key.” The tours are free and take place from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. on those designated days.
The lighthouse is just one of the attractions in Cape Florida State Park though. The beach itself has been voted one of the top ten beaches in all of America. Coming in at number seven on the list, the white and warm sand, is great for catching rays, playing beach games, or sitting down for a picnic. Once more, off of the seawall in Biscayne Bay, fisherman can throw their line for some of the most superb shoreline fishing in the entire country.
There is also a massive draw for families at the Lighthouse Cafe, where you can sit down for a good meal cooked over the grill and wildlife to take in after it was placed there following Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Sporting enthusiasts come by the hundreds on a pristine day to take advantage of the windsurfing and kayaking out on the ocean or the skating, jogging and walking that the nearby paths provide.
Finally, why leave when you can stay? For a small fee, boat camping can take place in No Name Harbor, a popular spot for late night hangouts on a calm evening.
This isn’t your typical vacation house. Built in the early 1910s as a winter home for influential businessman, James Deering, Vizcaya today is now a subtropical wonderland with an interesting history and breathtaking views.
The history of the place dates back to the early 1900s when agricultural industrialist, James Deering, decided to build his winter home under the sunny skies of Florida. What made Deering interesting when opting to build his home was the location and who he decided to have build it. At the time, the popular choice for winter homes was in Palm Beach but Deering opted to go with Miami as the destination in hopes that he could not only spend his winters in warmth but also for health purposes. He set aside 130 of what would be 180 acres and chose three inexperienced men to take on the project. His choices were Diego Suarez for landscape design, Paul Chalfin for artistic oversight and Francis Burrall Hoffman, Jr. as the main architect. As a trio the started construction that lasted for 12 years with the hopes of having the look and feel of an old style Italian country villa. With old and modern design, Deering brought together the timeless appeal of European artifacts and furniture with the natural beauty of Miami.
With the magnificent grounds requiring constant upkeep and James Deering passing sometime later, it was decided the Vizcaya would become a museum for the people of Dade County. In 1953, the estate was opened as a park and museum. Each year, more than 200,000 people visit the property to see the old furnishings and artwork that has remained largely unchanged since the early 1900s.
It is now one of the most popular tourist destinations for history buffs, art enthusiasts and residents of Miami. With it’s unmatched appeal and interest from all around the country, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens was made a National Historic Landmark in 1995.
Let’s start with one of the most famous and apparently the oldest building in the entire Western Hemisphere. What if I told you that this building wasn’t even built here originally? Wouldn’t make sense right? Well that would be the case almost every time except for the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach. The building’s existence actually dates back 1141 Spain in the city of Segovia. For almost seven centuries, the building was occupied by Cistercian monks but in the early Seventeenth century, the main structure and outbuildings were seized away from the monks and turned into a stable and granary.
There it stood for about 100 years functioning for commerce as opposed to worship until in 1925, William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper magnate, decided to purchase the structures that made up the monastery and surrounding grounds. It was his vision to see this piece of Spanish history preserved in the United States and particularly Florida, a place where so much Spanish history already existed. Stone by stone the buildings were taken apart. But their journey was only just beginning. These thousands of stones, packed into over 11,000 wooden crates were then placed on a steamer and sent to Florida and dropped off in North Miami Beach. After 30 years of storage and planning by some of the most ambitious developers in the Miami area, the Ancient Spanish Monastery was rebuilt to its original form. It’s now preserved and supported by the Ancient Spanish Monastery Foundation that aims to bring the community together around the oldest structure in the Western Hemisphere.