We made a self-drive trip to the most interesting areas of Miami, Florida and spent a great day driving around and sightseeing in Miami.
The Miami area is huge and there is so much to see that you don’t even know about. So it will help you if you know where to go and what to see. But try to avoid peak traffic hours and don’t make you schedule too tight.
To help you find the right places to see in Miami I marked our Miami driving route on the map. It’s mainly the southern part of Miami. Here it is: sightseeing in Miami, a self-drive tour:
Sightseeing in Miami
Where Did We Go?
We started our Miami sightseeing tour in downtown Miami, at Bayside Marketplace just north of the downtown. It is a good place to park your car at for a downtown walk. Then we went south to Coral Gables, Cocout Grove and Key Biscayne.
We almost spent a whole day exploring these areas. We also spent time on beaches and had a relaxing bath in the Venetian Pools in Coral Gables. Afterwards we headed for dinner to Calle Ocho just south of downtown Miami.
Sightseeing in a big city like Miami takes a lot of time but that’s not a problem if you are using your own car. You can continue your self-drive trip on the next day. That’s what happened to us. We had to leave South Beach and Ocean Drive to another day.
I included South Beach in another blog post but I will show here some of our South Beach photos. After reading this post you can check out my South Beach article: Miami Beach and Ocean Drive
Sightseeing in Miami: the Driving Route
This post follows the route that is marked on the map: from Bayside Marketplace to Little Havana via Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. So first: the Bayside Marketplace.
The Bayside Marketplace has parking garages and there’s open parking space towards the downtown area so leave your car and start your Miami sightseeing tour here, walking in the marketplace.
Sightseeing in Miami: Bayside Marketplace
Bayside Marketplace is a lively restaurant and shopping area between downtown Miami and the Port of Miami where all the Caribbean cruisers leave.
Walk around in the shops that are partly touristic and see if you find good bargains. Bayside Marketplace also has a good choice of restaurants if you want a coffee or a light meal.
Suggestion: If you like you can take a sightseeing boat tour along the Miami coast (but be prepared it takes a long time).
At the Marketplace you can find the Hard Rock Café and maybe taste the good hamburgers of the Five Guys, we tasted them and they were delicious, and so American!
Skyscrapers of Downtown Miami
From the Bayside Marketplace walk south along the park in the waterfront and you will get a good views of the modern downtown of Miami with its skyscrapers. This is Miami’s financial district and administrative center.
Sightseeing in Miami: driving through the downtown
Suggestion: To see more of the downtown you can take a trip with the Miami Metromover. In Miami they have an elevated public bus (looks like a train) system snaking through the skyscrapers. From the Metromover you can see the Bank of America tower and the Miami-Dade cultural center and many more important buildings.
After you have seen enough of the downtown continue driving south. The traffic normally is slow here but it gets better after you have left behind the downtown. In Miami you should try to visit downtown at daytime and avoid rush hours when the traffic gets extremely slow.
Coral Gables residential area
The next destination on our self-drive Miami sightseeing trip is the wealthy garden suburb of Coral Gables, which in fact is a separate city. Coral Gables is one of the richest neighborhoods in the US, full of elegant houses surrounded by lush gardens.
Coral Gables was planned in the 1920s by the architect George Merrick and most houses were built in a similar style.
Drive up and down Coral Gables for a while and enjoy the winding tree-lined streets and the pretty villas. We we driving in Coral Gables round Halloween and there was wonderful Halloween decoration in the gardens.
University of Miami
Campus of the University of Miami, Coral Gables
Coral Gables has the University of Miami. It’s unfair that some universities have campuses and gardens like this… I would really like to study in this place.
The fantastic Venetian Pool in Coral Gables
Back in Coral Gables, it’s time to relax in the Venetian pool. This must be the most beautiful public swimming-pool in the world. The Venetian Pool opened in 1924 as a part of the plan George Merrick had for Coral Gables.
The pool was built on coral rocks that still border it and the fresh pool water comes from a natural spring.
There are two waterfalls for you to enjoy, and cave-like grottoes to swim in.
The houses, the loggias and the towers are all built in a Venetian style and there’s a beautiful Italian bridge to a small island.
Celebrities and movie stars have been visiting the Venetian Pools and concerts and special occasions are being arranged here.
And what surprised me: this little water paradise is open for anybody and in addition at a low cost, yet small children are not allowed.
Sightseeing in Miami, Coral Gables
Southern Coral Gables
Driving in Miami, Florida
The souther part of Coral Gables is full of hidden canals and pretty palm-fringed streets. We took the Old Cutler Road to Matheson Hammock State Park.
Matheson Hammock State Park
Looks real but is an artificial beach
Matheson Hammock State Park has short walking trails in the hammock where you can see crooked mahogany trees growing in the water.
The State Park has a man made atoll pool that is flushed by the tide and a pretty white beach, but at the time we visited the water wasn’t clean as we had supposed so we were happy that we had been in the Venetian Pools just an hour ago.
From here you can head back towards Miami and have a short stop in Coconut Grove.
Shopping mall in Coconut Grove, Miami
Coconut Grove is a mixed area with different populations, stylish homes next to a more original Bahamian community.
The center, Coconut Grove Village is an outdoor shopping-mall with popular restaurants and evening life. Try Johnny Rockets burgers opposite the mall!
Key Biscayne is another wealthy area with luxurious houses. It is an island connected with Miami by a high bridge where you get great views of downtown Miami. Drive along the famous Key Biscayne Harbor Drive and see all the luxury that exists here.
Canals of Key Biscayne, Florida
Key Biscayne is a residential area with some great beaches, but there’s also the Miami Sea Aquarium and the Bill Baggs State Park at the south end of the island.
Bill Baggs State Park
A historic lighthouse
Bill Baggs State Park has a beach, walking paths and a historic lighthouse that was built back in 1825. The lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in the Miami-Dade County.
Crandon Park beach
Did you know that Key Biscayne has one of the best beaches in Miami, Crandon Park? Crandon Park is 5 kilometres long and shaded with palms.
Hobie Island Beach Park
Hobie Island Beach
And Key Biscayne has one more beach, a small sandy beach on the sheltered lagoon side that has calm waters. The Hobie Island Beach Park has calm waters so it’s good to swim and in addition it is a good place for evening views of Miami downtown.
Little Havana is the center of the huge Cuban community in Miami. It is an area where many Hispanic groups live.
In fact 70 per cent of Miami’s population speak Spanish as their first language, and in shops and restaurants all over Miami you sometimes have to speak Spanish to get understood. Spanish is spoken more than English.
Calle Ocho, Little Havana
Go and walk the streets and feel the atmosphere and taste some good Cuban food. Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) is the main street of Little Havana.
After a delicious Cuban dinner (recommend!) it may be time to finish your Miami sightseeing for the day and drive back to your hotel. From the freeway you can see the evening lights of downtown Miami:
Sightseeing in Miami: returning home
More on Miami Travel:
Hi Liisa, As I write this am in Miami Beach. I want to say a big thank you for this post and the other one for . Miami Beach. It was awesome having this since there are no site seeing tours open due to Covid. I will definitely use the others that you have for future trips. Thank you so much.