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An expert cruise port guide to Miami

Author: Nicole Carmichael

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With its golden sands, pastel-hued Art Deco hotels and the tropical wonderland of the Everglades, Florida's jewel is a departure port you won't want to leave

Florida's most famous city and the biggest cruise port in the world, Miami is the only major US city with a female founder.

Nineteenth-century businesswoman Julia Tuttle campaigned for development where her contemporaries only saw a swampy wilderness - and thanks to her efforts, today's Miami is a stunning sight with the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the US, world-class museums and galleries, and colourful neighbourhoods such as Little Havana and Wynwood.

There's incredible shopping, too, and a short hop from those famous beaches takes you to the Everglades, one of the world's most amazing wildlife havens.

In fact there's so much to see and do here that we recommend bookending your cruise with a hotel stay - then you can truly immerse yourself in the colours, flavours, and diverse cultures of this city by the sea.

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Must See

South beach

Cameras at the ready?

Head to the Art Deco district in South Beach for more than 800 examples of iconic 1920s and 1930s architecture, such as the cool curved Carlyle Hotel (which you may recognise from classic movies including Scarface and The Birdcage).

You'll also want to snap pictures of the brightly painted lifeguard towers along South Pointe Beach, constructed in the early 1990s as an emblem of Miami's renewal after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Andrew.

One of the 36 distinctive lifeguard towers on South Beach.

Fairchild tropical botanic garden

Southwest of downtown Miami in beautiful Coral Gables, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a must-see for its collection of 23,000 specimen plants and rare trees, plus a museum, laboratory and the fascinating Wings of the Tropics rainforest walk.

If the Florida sun is baking hot and you'd rather not tackle this 83-acre site on foot, you can see the highlights in comfort on a guided tram tour.

The stunning island town of Key Biscayne. Credit: Shutterstock

Key biscayne

Feeling a million miles away from Miami, yet within just a few miles of its urban bustle, lies the stunning island town of Key Biscayne.

Sandwiched between two nature parks, this former coconut plantation offers long, sheltered beaches, tropical forest, and incredible wildlife including exotic birds and loggerhead turtles.

You can also visit the famous Cape Florida lighthouse, built in 1825 and a sturdy survivor of Civil War battles and countless hurricanes.

Exploring the Everglades is a perfect addition to any visit to Miami. Credit: Shutterstock

The everglades

Spanning 1.5 million acres throughout Southern Florida, the Everglades National Park is the largest sub-tropical wilderness in the USA.

Home to many rare and endangered species, including the Florida panther, American alligator, West Indian manatee and snail kite, it's a wildlife-lover's dream.

You can explore the park by tram or canoe, or get up close to the action in the cypress swamps with a thrilling ride on an Everglades airboat.

Seasonal stone crab tops the menu at Joe's Stone Crab. Credit: Shutterstock

Dine & drink

Joe's stone crab

Joe Weiss opened his first lunch counter on Miami Beach in 1913, and from these humble beginnings grew a gastronomic legend.

Seasonal stone crab still tops the menu, along with lobster, shrimp and other seafood favourites, plus - so the locals say - the best Key lime pie in town.

Chef Creole for popular dishes such as griot (fried pork). Credit: Shutterstock

Chef creole

Home to 30,000 Haitian Americans, the urban enclave of Little Haiti is a hotbed of art, music and fabulous Caribbean cuisine.

Check out Chef Creole for popular dishes such as griot (fried pork) with rice and beans and their signature pikliz (cabbage slaw).

Beware, it's seriously spicy!

Calle Ocho offers an instant hit of Cuban culture. Credit: Shutterstock

Calle ocho

Slicing east-west through Miami's Little Havana, Calle Ocho offers an instant hit of Cuban culture, with any number of restaurants serving deliciously authentic dishes such as vaca frita (thinly cut steak) and lechon asado (roast pork).

And the famous Cuban sandwich is a meal in itself, packed with ham, cheese, mustard, pickle and pulled pork.

Wash it down with a tiny cafecito Cuban coffee for a slam-dunk caffeine punch.

Indulge in a steak at Cote Miami. Credit: Shutterstock

Cote Miami

They love their steak in Miami, and the hot ticket just now is Michelin-starred Cote Miami in the Design District.

A fusion of Korean barbecue and all-American steakhouse, it's famous for its Butcher's Feast - four different cuts served with Korean accompaniments.

With more than 150 shops, around 40 places to eat, Bayside Marketplace is the place to be. Credit: Shutterstock


Bayside marketplace

With more than 150 shops, around 40 places to eat and free live performances from local musicians, this yacht-lined location is the city's number-one tourist attraction.

So shop till you drop, then chill out with a sunset cruise across Biscayne Bay.

Dolphin mall is Miami's largest outlet mall. Credit: Shutterstock

Dolphin Mall

Miami's largest outlet mall is chock full of discounted designerwear from more than 240 international brands.

Pick up a Dolphin Mall Passport to Shopping for even more money off the sticker price.

Wynwood is a fashionable neighbourhood. Credit: Shutterstock


Handicrafts, designer clothing and rare fragrances can all be found in this fashionable neighbourhood.

Look out for UNKNWN, Miami's premier streetwear store; Boho Hunters for up-and-coming Latin American designers, and Wynwood Shop for hand-made souvenirs.

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