The Ten Best Parks in Miami
2. Biscayne Bay National Park
9700 SW 328th St., Homestead
Biscayne Bay National park spans nearly 175,000 acres, about 95% of which is underwater. In that gargantuan breadth of South Florida are all kinds of amazing sights, from Stiltsville to Elliot Key to sections of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world. Thousands of years ago, the Glades and Tequesta people lived off of these lands, and remnants of their cultures, such as masses of shells and burial grounds, are still preserved here. The park is a picturesque place for snorkeling, hiking, and exploring the gamut of South Florida flora and fauna, from cacti and beds of seagrass to crocodiles and sea turtles. It's the type of place that can remind us of how small we really are as creatures making our way through these parts, and with its sheer scale and its capacity to humble us, it not only deserves to be recognized as one of the best parks in Miami-Dade, but also as one of the most naturally special places in the country.
1. Matheson Hammock Park
9610 Old Cutler Road, Miami
William J. Matheson was one of the greatest aristocrats to ever live in this fair state. In his undying love for the nature of South Florida, Matheson and his family donated the land for Matheson Hammock Park, as well as Crandon Park, which combine for nearly 1,450 acres of what Matheson described as "wild and natural beauty."
A 'hammock', for those not yet properly initiated into the world of Floridian flora terminology, is a dense stand of hardwood trees that forms its own ecosystem within another, different ecosystem. In this case, it means a huge forest of mangroves, so thick you can hardly see more than three dozen feet ahead of you. Treading the soft moist ground between the wildly gesticulating mangrove roots, goose stepping over crab holes and ducking underneath spiderwebs, you get a feeling for what this town was like before it was a town, when people like Carl Fisher and John Collins started building a city out of swamp and savannah and seashore. And thanks to William Matheson and his fine brood, you can still drive 25 minutes from the streets and skyscrapers of Downtown Miami and step back in time to feel the wild and natural beauty that lives on in a special corner of this ridiculous and amazing city.
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6630 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL