The last few days in Miami we spent mostly by the pool or on the beach rather than cycling or exploring. However, for our last full day we had planned a bike ride to the islands of Key Biscayne. We knew that this was going to be one long day of cycling, with hopefully some time on the beach there.
We started our cycle ride by crossing the Venetian Islands as we had at the beginning of our holiday on our ride to Wynwood. It was another pleasant morning and we had started early after breakfast with a quick coffee in one of the many cafes on Lincoln Road. We crossed the islands fairly quickly, this time we were not lucky enough to see the drawbridge open up before crossing over to Downtown Miami.
For this ride we turned left along Biscayne Boulevard, cycling on the sidewalk, past many shops and restaurants. We crossed MacArthur Causeway, the main road connecting South Beach and Downtown Miami, which some local people cycle along, but we always considered far too dangerous and unpleasant to use even if it was a more direct route over to Downtown. Shortly afterwards we passed the American Airlines Arena, home to Miami Heat’s basketball team and it reminded me yet again that I should consider getting tickets for one of the games when in town. We are not huge basketball fans at all but it must be an amazing experience to go and watch a proper game live. I always remember going with my dad to watch a local woman’s basketball team when I was a teenager and I am sure Jerome would enjoy the experience of live sport American style one day.
From here on we entered real downtown Miami, one high-rise next to the other. It did not feel much like being in Miami anymore, we could have been anywhere, in a large city, much like London’s docklands, New York or Hong Kong’s Midtown. Many well-known banks had their offices in these skyscrapers, besides some upmarket hotels and condos. We turned a corner and ended up on Brickell Avenue. Here we had to cross a bridge leading over Miami River. Guess what, it was another drawbridge and it showed a red signal. Jerome was excited that after missing the last one this one was actually opening up to let some yachts sail through. Once closed again, we crossed the bridge and briskly cycled on.
When we got to the Rickenbacker Causeway – which crossed the water back to the islands and pour destination – we crossed the road to cycle with the flow of traffic across the bridge. There is narrow lane separated from the main traffic all the way across the bridge, but note this lane is only on one side of the three-lane causeway. This lane is mainly dedicated to pedestrians, but safety goes first when you cycle with a child. In the end we only passed one person jogging across this long bridge anyway, and she did not seem to mind that we shared the walkway with her. We stopped part way across the bridge to watch some pelicans diving for fish. The main bridge gently rises towards the middle of the bridge to provide enough height for any ships and boats to pass underneath. The great thing about cycling up a hill is that we knew on the other side we could let ourselves roll down. Jerome always enjoys this a lot, he has turned into a bit of a speed junkie.
We found a little park and a small beach at the other end of the bridge, Jerome got a strawberry slush from a street stall and we had a short break. There was a professional photo shooting on the beach, the pretty model posing in colourful dresses with the sea and palms as a backdrop. We watched it curiously, Jerome asking me questions, as it has been part of my job to get outfits for photo shootings like this in the past.
We pedalled past the Marine stadium, which used to host boat races and other water sports events. It has not been in use since the 1990’s and has since become a haven for graffiti artists. Instead of turning left to Virginia Key, a popular beach and picnic destination we cycled further, past the Miami Seaquarium and a vast golf course before reaching the town of Key Biscayne.
We had come quite long way by now and even though apart from the bridge all of it had been on the flat we were hungry and needed a proper break. One of the first buildings in town was a Cuban restaurant, not having had Cuban food for a long time we decided to give it a go. It looked like the kind of place that locals would frequent regularly for an inexpensive and home cooked food. It turned out to be exactly that, delicious beef with rice and black beans. We always try to encourage Jerome to try new cuisines, he did not seem to be too taken by the beans but he happily ate the rice and meat. He was even happier at the end when he got an ice-lolly for dessert.
Fuelled up for the last stretch of the ride, we ignored the local shopping mall and entered Bill Braggs Recreation Area at the town’s border. We pedalled along the deserted road for a few more kilometres before reaching the most southern tip of the key. We found a picnic area, with lots of tables and benches, a fun playground with slides and climbing frames and the Cape Florida Lighthouse. The historic lighthouse is the oldest building in Southern Florida and dates back to 1825. The lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage can be visited twice daily on a guided tour. I wished I would have known about this before as going up inside a lighthouse is always fun and we had only visited one before, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse on Bermuda.
We strolled along to the beach on the east side of the island and spotted some racoons in the trees. Jerome stopped to watch them, and they seemed completely unaware of us, one even climbed into one of the rubbish bins in search for food waste.
The beach was a bit of a disappointment for us, having read that the sandy stretch was ranked nr.7 of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of the US. It was completely covered in sea grass, the smell of the grass was quite pungent and it did not look very inviting to us at all. Chris did not care about the sea grass and went in for a swim anyway to cool off. We had originally planned to spend a few hours relaxing on the sandy shores but instead we decided to ride back to South Beach.
We pretty much pedalled it all the way straight back, only stopping now and then for a drink. The boys almost treating it like a race to get “home” at stages. Our legs were starting to get tired and by the time we returned to the hotel, we were glad to rest by the pool, feet and legs dangling in the warm pool water.
On our last evening we went for dinner at a lovely Italian Bistro Maccialina, a short walk from the hotel. We enjoyed the pizza and pasta, accompanied by a decent glass of red wine – for the adults of course! We will be back to South Beach I am sure.