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7 Parks in Miami for Alligators, Waterslides, Pineapples, and More

Miami Parks National Parks
by Matador Creators Feb 7, 2023

Miami, Florida, is about as far south as you can get in the United States. And it has a rich history. The area was originally inhabited by the Tequesta and later the Seminole tribes. In 1566, Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established a mission in the area, but it was abandoned a few years later. And as was all too often the case, the US government forced the Seminoles out of the area in the 1800s, allowing the region to be “settled” by Europeans.

Miami art deco downtown

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In 1896, Miami was incorporated as a city, and in the 20th century, the city experienced serious growth in tourism. That’s probably because the city is known for its international culture and beaches (and nightlife, of course). But Miami’s great weather also means it’s well-known for outdoor recreation, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s near two great national parks. During the 20th century, Miami experienced significant growth and development, particularly in the tourism and real estate industries.

Where to find the best parks in Miami

One of the coolest things about the collection of parks in Miami is how much variety you have in a relatively small space. Miami offers beach parks, fun water parks, a botanical garden, and historic homes and gardens. And you’re also less than an hour from not one but two national parks, which is more than most cities in the US can say.

When visiting the parks in Miami, just remember that summer can be extremely hot. Drink tons of water and schedule your active adventures (like hiking or cycling) for the morning or evenings. Either take a break in the shade in the middle of the day, or park yourself by the beach or pool until the temperatures drop.

Bayfront Park

parks in miami florida - bayfront park aerial

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Bayfront Park is a 32-acre urban park on Biscayne Bay, which means it has great views of the city skyline. The land where the park sits was originally a mangrove swamp but was filled in to create the park, which opened in 1925. It’s one of the more notable parks in Miami, historically speaking, as it was the site of the city’s 1962 rally in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the heart of Miami’s Free Speech Movement rally in the 1970s. The park has also been the site of several major concert events, including performances by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen.

Bayfront Park has a large amphitheater, a playground, a splash fountain, and a large green space. There are more than a dozen monuments and sculptures in the park, as well as a large shopping area on the northern expanse. It’s also close to other restaurants and attractions like the Miami Observation Real.

Though it’s technically a different park, Bayfront backs to the Maurice A. Ferré Park; the two are usually grouped together when talking about parks in Miami. Maurice A. Ferré Park is home to the longest boardwalk in Miami and two popular museums: the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the Perez Art Museum. You’ll want to buy tickets in advance for both.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

miami parks - botanica garden and lake

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It shouldn’t be surprising that a botanical garden is one of the best parks in Miami, considering the city’s warm, sometimes-humid weather. The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is an 83-acre botanical garden in Coral Gables (about five miles inland from Miami). It’s known for various tropical plant displays and gardens, including a rainforest, a mangrove forest, and a palm collection. The garden also has a number of educational exhibits, including a butterfly exhibit, an orchid exhibit, and a tropical fruit pavilion. There are also several walking trails, a tram tour, and the on-site Glasshouse Cafe.

The Fairchild Garden also hosts public programs throughout the year, from yoga to birdwatching to art classes, strolls for dogs and dog parents, and cooking and gardening classes. It’s an extremely large botanical garden for being so close to a major city, so plan to spend several hours there. Tickets for adults start at $24.95 and include the tram tour, though you can also opt for a ranger-led walking tour (or an early morning birding tour).

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya - parks in miami

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The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a European-style villa and gardens in Coconut Grove — a suburb of Miami. It’s downright gorgeous and will make you feel like you’re walking through Italy, not in the heart of Miami. The home was originally a winter residence for James Deering, an industrialist and philanthropist, in the early 20th century. The Italian Renaissance-style villa is now open for tours of both the home and the sprawling gardens, which include a formal garden, a rock garden, and a pineapple garden.

The gardens have been open to the public since the 1920s and are used for various events and activities, including weddings, parties, and cultural events (so make sure it’s open for tours before you go to ensure it’s not closed for a wedding). During World War II, the villa was used as a military headquarters, and in the 1950s, it was a Catholic boys’ school. Today, it’s one of the best parks in Miami and a National Historic Landmark.

Admission for adults is $25 and can usually be booked up to a month ahead of time. There’s an extra $5 fee for the various home and garden tours, though the self-guided audio tour (via a downloadable app) is included with admission.

Everglades National Park

everglades national park boardwalk

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One of the best parks in Miami is also one of the best national parks to visit in winter: Everglades National Park. The park has a long history that predates Miami as the area was inhabited by various Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. In the late 1800s, efforts began to protect the area from development and logging, and in 1947, the park was officially established.

One of the most popular activities for visitors is hiking. The park has a number of trails that vary in length and difficulty, but most are short and relatively flat. Good options include the Anhinga Trail, a short and easy hike with a boardwalk that winds through the park’s wildlife-filled marshy areas; the Gumbo Limbo Trail, a paved, .4-mile trail though the forest; and the 15-mile Tram Road, which is popular with cyclists (and you can rent bikes at nearby Shark Valley Tram Tours).

December through February is the peak tourist season, with warm weather and the least chance of rain. But if you visit in summer, you have the best shot of seeing wildlife like gators, as they tend to bask on the shore and soak up the sun in the warmest months (which are also the rainiest).

Oleta River State Park

Scenic view of kayakers enjoying the mangrove swamp along the bay in Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach., parks in Miami

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Oleta River State Park is the largest of the parks in Miami or, indeed, all of Florida. At 1,000 acres, it’s the largest park managed by Florida’s Division of Recreation and Parks. It’s on the mangrove-lined Oleta River, so as you might imagine, kayaking is a popular activity. The park also has a campground for groups, rentable cabins for overnight stays (reservable online), and a 12-mile paved bike trail winding through the park.

Visitors can rent kayaks and canoes from Oleta River Outdoors in the park (first-come, first-served) or bikes from the same company; those you can reserve in advance.  Birders will love that the park is home to a variety of bird species, including blue heron, great egrets, and nesting cormorants. Oleta River State Park is also known for its blue herons, great egrets, and double-crested cormorant nesting colonies. It’s also home to sea turtles and manatees.

Parking is only $6, but the great beaches and huge amount of amenities mean it’s popular. It’s not unusual for the park to close when it hits capacity, so get there early on weekends.

Rapids Water Park


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There’s no beating around the bush: Miami gets pretty darn hot. So if you need a break from hiking and paddling, head to one of the other kinds of parks in Miami: a water park. Rapids Water Park is the largest in South Florida, about 45 minutes from Miami in Ft. Lauderdale. The park features a variety of water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and a children’s play area. It also has cabanas and shaded areas available for rent if you’d rather not fight for space on a lounge chair.

Some of the best attractions in the park include the “Aqua Blast” slide, a funnel-style raft ride, a wave pool, and several extremely tall (and scary) waterslides. Tickets start at $54.99, though it’s only $25 for the after-sunset midweek tickets.

Biscayne National Park

Bird at biscayne national park in miami

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Biscayne National Park is in the southern part of Miami-Dade County, just a short drive from Miami. The park is known for its beautiful coral reefs, mangrove forests, and shipwrecks, and is a popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and boating. While you can drive there, the best way to reach this park is probably by boat. The park operates a concessionaire that offers boat tours and rentals from the Homestead Bayfront Park Marina, landing at the park’s Elliott Key or Adams Key. Another option is to take a water taxi from Miami or Miami Beach, where guided tours of the park’s islands and reefs depart from.

Keep in mind that areas of the park beyond the visitors center are only accessible by boat, some of the reefs are only accessible by guided snorkeling or scuba diving tours. You can find information about getting to the park via boat plus kayak, kiteboarding, and snorkeling rentals and tours on the park’s official website.

Where to stay in Miami

Miami is a big city and has some of the hippest hotels in the US, from renovated art-deco beachfront hotels to hip downtown boutique properties only a year or two old. Because there are so many options, rates tend to be somewhat reasonable compared to other US cities. But you should still expect inflated hotel rates in the winter when everyone is trying to escape the winter cold in most other parts of the US.

We hope you love the spaces and stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

The Goodtime Hotel: get access to a private beach club

As if the name didn’t give away how cool this Miami hotel was, the icing on the cake is that it’s owned by effortlessly cool music icon Pharrell. It’s as Art Deco as they come, with a pink-hued deck area surrounding a blue pool (that hosts weekend DJ sets). Rooms are small but thoughtfully arranged, and all guests have access to the resort’s private beach club. Rooms start around $157 a night.

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The Freehand Hotel: on Miami Beach and close to Biscayne

The Freehand Hotel is a chain, but don’t let that put you off. All Freehand hotels are unique and different, with quirky designs and details you’ll only find in that specific property. The Miami one is no exception, and it’s in a great location on Miami Beach near nightclubs and the departure points for trips to Biscayne. It has both a hostel room with bunk beds, as well as suites and a bungalow. And the outdoor pool surrounded by a garden and outdoor cocktail bar is pretty great, too. Non-dorm rooms start around $130 (plus tax and a $28 resort fee).

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The Biltmore Miami: a luxury splurge near the botanical garden

The Biltmore Hotel Miami is a luxury hotel in coral Coral Gables, about five minutes from the Fairchild Garden. It was built in 1926 and was designed by the famous architect Leonard Schultze. The hotel is known for its Mediterranean Revival architecture, and features a grand entrance, spacious guest rooms, and a large pool. It’s not cheap, with rooms starting around $300 a night plus extra fees, but it’s hands-down one of the prettiest in the area. It’s also closer to one of the best national parks in Miami — Everglades.

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