M iami is Florida’ssecond-largest city, but it is the smaller island city of Miami Beach across the bay drawing in paddling tourists. Miami Beach’s vast Atlantic sands sweep past the most extensive collection of Art Deco buildings on the planet and you might rub shoulders with international models and celebrities. Thanks to perpetually cheap flights, Miami is the perfect place from which to base a southern Florida paddleboard adventure.
Whether basing yourself in Miami South Beach or downtown, you’re spoiled for hotel choice. Choose a South Beach hotel to be close to the best sunset paddling but expect the highest prices.
When To Go
Sneak in a winter getaway—high season here—between November and mid-March. Summer gets hot, humid, buggy and stormy.
You can explore the city on two wheels with the convenience
of Miami Beach BikeShare. Don’t miss the colorful murals in the Wynward district.
Take inspiration from Miami’s Latin American population and snack on a Cuban
sandwich with a cafecito.
Despite typically balmy
brew rapidly, especially in
summer. Beware of the danger of lightning strikes and from rain and windchill.
The Miami Beach strip is packed with tourists and beachgoers during the day but really shines after dark along legendary Ocean Drive. If you have just an hour or two, rent a board from one of several South Beach outfits, then explore the canals and view the sunset on the west side of the island. At dusk, when the reflections of Miami’s high-rise city lights shimmer in the waters of Biscayne Bay, explore along Ocean Drive to catch the fever-pitch vibe of the ever-sizzling scene.
With one toe dipped in saltwater and its back to the swamp, Miami is a gateway to two especially precious paddling areas: the Florida Keys and the Everglades.
If you have a half-day:
Zip a couple of minutes down the bridge to Virginia Key and take a deep breath with a peaceful SUP yoga class to stretch out. Follow it up with a relaxing paddle along the shore with the skyline of the hectic city at arm’s length. Rentals are available at both ends of Virginia Key.
If you have a day:
Travel south to Key Largo where you’ll find the Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Visitor Center. With nature videos and a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, you’ll get a glimpse of what’s under your board. Then, with Radabob Key offering shelter from the Atlantic, explore the maze of mangrove channels in a world of exotic birds and fish. Scan the clear water for eagle rays, or peek between the mangroves to spot roseate spoonbills and shy night herons.
If you have a weekend:
Miami backs onto the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and Everglades National Park. Overnight in quirky Everglades City and select sheltered watery passages, perhaps along the Turner River and beyond. Follow mangrove tunnels, pools and lakes and watch for swallow-tailed kites and Calusa Indian shell mounds. Weather permitting, venture between the keys to the remote sandy Gulf shores of islands such as Picnic Key for a 14-mile round-trip adventure, typically replete with dolphins and pelicans.
If you have a week:
For a SUP adventure to remember, thread the Florida Keys from Key Largo to historic Key West. Travel light and find accommodation and restaurants within yards of shore along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Keep closer to the Atlantic or the Gulf for best conditions. Weave a secluded route between the smaller keys, gliding through mangrove channels past hidden beaches and over glassy shallows of every shade of green and blue. Begin at Key Largo for a 100-mile journey, or start at Miami and add 40 miles. Launch closer to Key West for a shortened trip.
Miami Beach is on a barrier island, which lies between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. | Photo: istockphoto.com/SiegfriedSchnepf