Miami Sightseeing – Florida, USA

We spent a day in Miami after the first two weeks on our Oceania Cruise before heading to the Caribbean. We then came back to Miami after cruising the Caribbean. After watching C.S.I. Miami we were quite excited to check the place out.

The population of the Miami city area is about 420,000 with 5.5 million in the metro area. During the early 20th century, northerners were attracted to the city, and Miami prospered during the 1920s with an increase in population and infrastructure. The collapse of the Florida land boom of the 1920s, the 1926 Miami Hurricane, and the Great Depression in the 1930s slowed development. When World War II began, Miami, well-situated on the southern coast of Florida, became a base for US defense against German submarines. The war brought an increase in Miami’s population; by 1940, 172,172 people lived in the city.

After Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba in 1959, many wealthy Cubans sought refuge in Miami, further increasing the population. The city developed businesses and cultural amenities as part of the New South. In the 1980s and 1990s, South Florida weathered social problems related to drug wars, immigration from Haiti and Latin America, and the widespread destruction of Hurricane Andrew. Racial and cultural tensions were sometimes sparked, but the city developed in the latter half of the 20th century as a major international, financial, and cultural center. It is the second-largest U.S. city (after El Paso, Texas) with a Spanish-speaking majority, and the largest city with a Cuban-American plurality.

Miami and its metropolitan area grew from just over one thousand residents to nearly five and a half million residents in just 110 years (1896–2006). The city’s nickname, The Magic City, comes from this rapid growth. Winter visitors remarked that the city grew so much from one year to the next that it was like magic.

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We spent a bit of time exploring the Bayside area which is quite close to the Port of Miami which is the busiest cruise port in the world. There were at least 6 cruise ships in port on every day we spent in Miami. The Bayside Marketplace was a hive of activity with lots of little shops, bars and restaurants. We also went downtown but to be honest there wasn’t a lot there.

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After all the cruising we had done you would have thought we would have been sick of the water but we decided to take a boat ride around all the little islands that surround Miami. They call it the Millionaires Row trip as the boat goes past all these flash houses, some of which belong to or have belonged to celebrities.

We first went past the Venetian Islands which are a chain of artificial islands in Biscayne Bay in the cities of Miami and Miami Beach. There are seven islands in total and they are all connected by bridge from the Miami mainland to Miami Beach. Flagler Monument Island remains an uninhabited picnic island, originally built in 1920 as a memorial to railroad pioneer Henry Flagler.

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There are other islands beyond the Venetian Islands. One of these islands is Star Island which is a highly exclusive island just south of the Venetian Islands. It is connected to the mainland by the MacArthur Causeway.

Celebrities who own or have owned homes on the island include Sean Combs, Gloria Estefan, Don Johnson, Rosie O’Donnell, and Shaquille O’Neal. The largest house on Star Island is owned by Dr Phillip Frost, the founder of the major pharmaceutical company producing generic drugs for the ever so drug thirsty America. The house is approximately 28,000 square foot and has eight bedrooms and ten bathrooms and is worth approximately USD50 million. Dr Frost lives there with his wife who is a school principal and they have no children.

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On the Sunday we decided to check out South Beach which is a very happening place in Miami. Restaurants lined Ocean Drive which is just across from the beach although you can’t see the beach from the road. We saw all these buff guys working out in the park – shirts off, muscles glistening in the morning sun…. We also saw lots of high end cars cruising up and down – it seemed every second car was a Ferrari or a Porsche. We went across to the beach which was well groomed and set up. There weren’t too many people swimming though. South Beach reminded us of Surfers Paradise on steroids.

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South Beach, also nicknamed SoBe, is a neighborhood in the city of Miami Beach, located due east of Miami city proper between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This area was the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, starting in the 1910s, thanks to the development efforts of Carl G. Fisher, the Lummus Brothers, and John S. Collins, the latter whose construction of the Collins Bridge provided the first vital land link between mainland Miami and the beaches.

The area has gone through numerous artificial and natural changes over the years, including a booming regional economy, increased tourism, and the 1926 hurricane, which destroyed much of the area. SoBe has a population of approximately 40,000.

In the 1930s, an architectural revolution came to South Beach, bringing Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Nautical Moderne architecture to the Beach. South Beach claims to be the world’s largest collection of Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture. Napier, New Zealand, another notable Art Deco city, makes an interesting comparison with Miami Beach as it was rebuilt in the Ziggurat Art Deco style after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1931.

By 1940, the beach had a population of 28,000. After the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Corps took command over Miami Beach. That year, tourism brought almost two million people to South Beach.

Beginning in the mid 1960s and continuing through the 1980s, South Beach was used as a retirement community with most of its ocean-front hotels and apartment buildings filled with elderly people living on small, fixed incomes. This period also saw the introduction of the “cocaine cowboys,” drug dealers who used the area as a base for their illicit drug activities. Scarface, released in 1983, typifies this activity. In addition, television show Miami Vice used South Beach as a backdrop for much of its filming because of the area’s raw and unique visual beauty. A somewhat recurring theme of early Miami Vice episodes was thugs and drug addicts barricading themselves in utterly run-down, almost ruin-like empty buildings. Only minor alterations had to be made for these scenes because many buildings in South Beach really were in such poor condition at the time.

While many of the unique Art Deco buildings, such as the New Yorker Hotel, were lost to developers in the years before 1980, the area was saved as a cohesive unit by Barbara Capitman and a group of activists who spearheaded the movement to place almost one square mile of South Beach on the National Register of Historic Places. The Miami Beach Architectural District was designated in 1979.

Before the days of Miami Vice, South Beach was considered a very poor area with a very high rate of crime. Today, it is considered one of the wealthiest and most prosperous commercial areas on the beach. Despite this, poverty and crime still exist in some isolated places surrounding the area.

Another unique aesthetic attribute of South Beach is the presence of several colorful and unique stands used by Miami Beach’s lifeguards on South Beach. After Hurricane Andrew, Architect William Lane donated his design services to the city and added new stops on design tours in the form of lifeguard towers. His towers instantly became symbols of the revived City of Miami Beach.

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Ricky Martin used to own this house….

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This boat is owned by the Dallas Mavericks basketball team’s owner Mark Cuban and cost USD120 million.

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SeaFair is the world’s first mobile megayacht venue and one of the ten largest privately owned yacht in the United States. Groundbreaking in scale, ingenuity and style, the yacht – which remains dockside during each event – pairs international fine art, jewelry and collectables with harbor view dining and special events in cities along the eastern seaboard.

The $40M purpose built yacht was designed by internationally acclaimed yacht designer Luiz De Basto. At 228 feet and 2800 international tons, it is the largest ship built for commercial operation in the Intracoastal Waterway and requires a draft of only 6.5 feet allowing it to dock at small yacht facilities in central city locations rather than use commercial ports.
Deck One features a formal entry, ten individual exhibit spaces and a coffee bar. Deck Two features twelve exhibit spaces and the Luxe Lounge, an open-air champagne and caviar lounge on the aft deck. Deck Three features six exhibit spaces and Sapore’, the formal glass-walled restaurant. The Sky Deck (Deck Four) contains Bistro360, an informal open-air restaurant and Bar360, a cocktail reception area.

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Hard Rock Miami is the only Hard Rock cafe that doesn’t have a giant guitar on the roof – it was taken out by Hurricane Wilma.

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About SUNGRL

This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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