This is a guest post.
Flashy cars, Cuban bars, bikinis and beach parties are the typical things that come to mind when you picture Miami, America’s ‘Magic City’. However, the bold flavor of Miami extends far beyond its golden sands. Situated in one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the country, Miami is within arm’s reach of a number of incredible natural landscapes and thousands of species of fascinating wildlife. Here’s what’s waiting for you on Miami’s wild side…
In the City
You may be surprised at just how much wildlife you can enjoy right in the city itself. Miami is known for its many world class animal parks and zoos, where you can view the state’s most exciting inhabitants if you don’t have chance to see them in the wild…
Jungle Island Miami
Whilst Jungle Island Miami began as a parrot zoo back in 1936, it has since expanded into a home for several families of exotic wildlife and is one of the city’s main animal attractions. In addition to its colorful collection of tropical birds, it’s also home to orangutans lemurs and leopards. Perhaps most famously, it houses a 900-pound liger named Hercules.
Families visiting Miami’s Seaquarium are treated to an unforgettable experience, interacting with dolphins, watching killer whale shows and exploring a 750,000-gallon saltwater aquarium designed to replicate a natural, tropical reef.
The only ‘tropical zoo’ in the United States, the Miami Zoo has been entertaining locals and tourists for generations. Among its most famous exhibits are its flamingo population and its family of crocodiles.
Beyond the Urban Skyline…
There’s also plenty to see beyond the skyscrapers and the beachfront. Miami is just a short drive from three incredible National Parks, each with its own collection of stunning flora and fauna.
Biscayne National Park
About an hour’s drive from Miami’s city center lies the stunning Biscayne National Park. This peaceful, watery landscape is made up of barrier coral reef islands and an extensive mangrove shoreline. Although the Park is frequently hit by thunderstorms and hurricanes in the summertime, from mid-December to mid-April it’s the ideal place for snorkeling or scuba diving.
Probably the most famous of Florida’s National Parks, and one of the most famous ecosystems in all of North America, the Everglades are comprised of 1.5-million acres of wetlands. Also only an hour away from the city center, situated just west of Biscayne National Park, the Everglades are home to an array of wildlife, including manatees, American crocodiles and bottlenose dolphins. The airboat tours of the reeded waterways are a must, but there’s plenty of scope for hiking and biking here, as well as hiring your own boat or kayak.
Dry Tortugas National Park
This unique National Park may not be easy to get to – it’s accessible only by boat or seaplane – but once you’re there, it’s well worth it. In addition to containing the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the Park is also home to the beautifully-preserved Fort Jefferson. This massive, partially-built fortress was constructed in 1825 as a US Naval post, but it was never finished or fully armed. Visiting the Fort offers an interesting insight into US history in the years just following the country’s purchase of Florida from Spain.
It’s certainly tempting to spend an entire vacation in Miami lounging on the warm sand, but clearly there’s more to the city and the surrounding region than its famous beaches. The diverse landscape of southern Florida is truly a sight to behold. So, if you’re planning a trip to the city, why not take a walk on the wild side?
Harriet Bond writes travel articles for a number of web publications and has bagged 30 out of the 50 states in America. She aims to complete the set over the next few years…