As a Miami native I can assure you that the extremes of tourist areas, urban blight and suburban sprawl that everyone is so familiar with do not properly represent Miami. I grew up in the Greater Miami Area just south of the city and Miami Beach, where minimal lot sizes are two acres and the scenery the most beautiful in Florida excepting perhaps Palm Beach. Here are a few pictures of that Miami which most non-natives never imagined existed:
Everyone knows what a ficus tree is, but have usually only seen them tossed half-dead on the curb in their pots. Here's how they look in full maturity - these banyan trees were planted in 1919 and line Old Cutler Road, a great
place to be stuck in traffic:
Miami's not all at sea level - here's a beautiful stretch of canal, quarried out of coral rock, in Coral Gables east of The Biltmore Hotel:
Looks like the South Pacific, doesn't it? Here's where I learned to swim, at Matheson Hammock, a man-made atoll, at a time when my dark suntanned skin made me so rare and exotic that beachgoers would approach my mother to ask her if my father
was Cuban. This photo faces south towards miles of natural, undeveloped coastline:
And this aerial photo shows the developed coastline north of Matheson Hammock - the Miami most of you know, that unbridled waterfront development stretching non-stop north to Fort Lauderdale, Boca and beyond.
To the right, the coral structure is now "The Red Fish Grill," the trendy bistro where Matt Dillon laughed while eavesdropping on Cameron Diaz in the film "There's Something About Mary." To me, it's the old hot dog stand.
Where egret fly: miles of protected undeveloped shoreline beginning south of Matheson Hammock and Coral Gables in Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay; I took this photo facing northeast, and you can make out the white concrete condos on Key Biscayne as a thin white line on the horizon to the far right, with nearer pink condos in the Gables area far beyond the mangroves in the center, and the Royal Palms you see on the far left beyond the masts are on the property of The Deering Estate. At sunset flocks of white egret swoop low to nest in the mangroves at water's edge, so many that even though you can't tell in the photo, in person even at that distance I could see so many flecks of white amongst the green that I couldn't help but be reminded of gardenia bushes:
Same spot looking south at Palmetto Bay and the ocean; when I took my Cuban immigrant friend here he said it was so rural it reminded him of Cuba:
Most of you know about Vizcaya, but here's two views of The Deering Estate in Palmetto Bay, built in the twenties:
Also on the waterfront is The Barnacle in Coconut Grove; built in 1891, this Victorian home predates even Vizcaya:
Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove, built in 1918:
Finally, farther south way off the beaten path and not in the best neighborhood (Homestead) here's Coral Castle, carved in the twenties by hand out of native Florida coral by a Latvian immigrant in homage to his 16 year old fiancee who jilted him right before their wedding:
So you see, it's not all South Beach and Liberty City!