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.