Miami boasts an extensive public transport system, making it easy (if a little slow) to explore without a car. You can catch a bus or train 24/7. A single trip on Metrorail and Metrobus is just AU$2. Daily, weekly and monthly passes are available. In downtown Miami you can ride the futuristic Metromover – an elevated electric bus system – for free.
Taxis offer a quick, hassle-free way of getting around the city. Some charge a flat fee but most are metered. The fare is AU$2.50 for the first sixth of a mile and goes up by 40 cents each additional sixth of a mile. Provided it’s been a pleasant, non-hair-raising journey, you should tip your driver between 15 and 20 per cent.
Blessed with a gorgeous sunny climate and flat topography, going by bike in Miami is a delightful and eco-friendly option. Cycling along the boardwalk with its colourful, skimpily clad characters is a must-do. You can hire a bike from several rental shops in South Beach and on Key Biscayne for about AU$20 a day. Make sure you buy a sturdy lock – thieves are rife.
Miami is easy to navigate by car and gives you the option of exploring further afield. Beware of rush hour on weekdays and traffic is always pretty heavy on Ocean Drive. An hour on a parking meter will cost around AU$1-$2 an hour. Rental rates vary, so book well in advance. Christmas time is particularly painful on the pocket.
Miami is best visited in the winter months (December to May) when it’s warm but not sweltering. Summer is hot and humid with the constant threat of hurricanes and hordes of mosquitoes. However, if none of this deters you, you will (unsurprisingly) find it the cheapest period. It can get chilly in winter, and it does rain, so make sure you pack accordingly.
As with most big cities, you’ll need to keep your wits about you. Threats could take the form of aggressive vagrants or professional muggers. In downtown Miami be particularly vigilant near Overtown, the Greyhound station and around causeways, bridges and overpasses, where homeless people have set up shantytowns. In Miami Beach your biggest problem will be drunken tourists.
Keep change handy because tipping is big in Miami – everyone from room cleaners to doormen will loiter hopefully after assisting you. As a guide, it is customary to tip waiters between 15 and 18 per cent, and bar staff 15 per cent. A hotel maid could expect AU$5 and a doorman who helps carry your luggage would be pleased with AU$1 per bag.
Being part of the Visa Waiver Program, Australians and New Zealanders do not need a visa to go on holiday to the US for under 90 days. You must, however, apply for electronic travel authorisation (ESTA) at least 72 hours before you depart. If you plan on going for business or longer than 90 days, you’ll need a B1 or B2 visa.
American Airlines and Qantas operate daily flights with one stopover in Dallas. The total journey time is 20 hours, 25 minutes.
The quickest route is on Qantas and American Airline, stopping in Los Angeles. You’ll reach Miami soil in 21 hours, 25 minutes. Fly United if you’d like to stop in Sydney and Chicago too.
You can fly to Miami in just over 29 hours using American Airlines and Qantas. There are two stopovers: Sydney and Los Angeles.
For those who value money over time this is a good option, as it will only cost a few dollars. Metrobuses leave from the ground floor level at the airport, across from Concourse E. To find out bus routes and times, pick up a schedule from the airport tourist information centre in Concourse E or visit the transit information kiosk in the bus waiting room.
These handy blue vans offer a shared transfer service from the airport, and for a party of five or more are much cheaper than taxis. Fares vary depending on group size and destination. Rates include tolls but not a tip, so be prepared to pay 15 per cent. You’ll find the shuttles outside the baggage claim area 24 hours a day.
If you plan on hiring a car during your holiday, this is the easiest option. There are 16 car rental companies at the airport, though do book in advance to reduce costs. The rental centre is a mile from the airport. To get there, collect your luggage, step outside the terminal and wait for the white bus aptly named ‘Rental Car Shuttle’.
If money’s no object, hiring a private company to pick you up could prove a welcome respite after your long flight. A private chauffeur will meet you at your exit gate, accompany you to the baggage-claim area and carry your bags to the car. Ranging from sleek passenger vans to limousines, these luxurious vehicles will have you rolling into Miami in style.
Americans really know how to do theme parks, and this is no exception. Home to a host of intriguing creatures, including orangutans, prairie dogs and Hercules, a 900lb liger (a lion-tiger cross), this zoological paradise has open aviaries to meander through, lemurs to cuddle and even a private beach. It costs around AU$34 for adults and AU$26 for children.
Explore the best of Miami’s cultural, historic, culinary and commercial hotspots on this narrated bus tour. Jump off at Bayside Marketplace for a spot of shopping and dining in the sunshine. Sink your toes into the sand at Miami Beach and sample Cuban culture in Little Havana. Buses depart daily from Central Station and cost AU$37 for adults and $28 for children.
Immerse yourself in the subtropical wilderness of the Everglades on a safari in the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. The adventure comes complete with exhilarating airboat rides over alligator-filled waters (hold on tight), swamp buggy tours, nature walks and reptile shows. For an adult safari package, which includes rides, animal exhibits and more, you’ll pay AU$50. Children’s tickets are AU$40.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this shining hub of technology offers a fascinating glimpse into the US space program. Experience space flight on a simulator, see awe-inspiring rockets up close, enjoy live shows and meet real astronauts. For this genuinely out-of-this-world experience, adults pay around AU$44 and children AU$34. Tickets include entry into the nearby US Astronaut Hall of Fame.
This lively institution in South Beach is probably Miami’s most iconic eatery. The star of the show is their stone crab’s legs, but other delicious offerings include Manhattan-style clam chowder and fried oysters. For pudding, tuck into their acclaimed key lime pie, said to be the best in the city. You’ll have to wear a bib, but it’ll be well worth it.
Located in Miami’s oldest inn, the 1915 Brown’s Hotel, this excellent restaurant serves the perfect steak. And half of Hollywood thinks so too, judging by how many stars frequent it. Sample the sautéed foie gras with spiced pineapple jam, followed by the juicy 48-ounce porterhouse steak for two, with six sauces, five butters and eleven accessories to choose from. It’s a meat lover’s heaven.
This funky bistro, with its brightly coloured pop decor and locally sourced ingredients, is all about good food and fun. Savour comforting dishes like wild salmon with fingerling potatoes and caramelised leeks, or whole yellowtail snapper with ripe mangoes. For those who suffer menu envy, the half-plate option allows you to choose small portions of multiple dishes – so no coveting your partner’s plate.
Ignore the slightly stark, strip mall location and you will find yourself revelling in a truly memorable culinary experience. Feast on perfectly cooked Peking duck, prawns with whole roasted garlic cloves and succulent sea scallops while enjoying the warm, candlelit surroundings. Every dish is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Their delicious dim sum has people queuing round the block every Sunday.
Exclusive, stylish and achingly hip, this subterranean speakeasy is one of the top celebrity hangouts in South Beach. Quaff cocktails, listen to world class DJs and watch beautiful people strut their stuff. The Delano Hotel also boasts two other bars, so you could spend your whole night here - as well as several hundred dollars.
Located at the historic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, this huge, high-energy nightclub has a footprint of over 18,000 square feet. With three bars, a pumping main dance floor, lavish decor and a voyeuristic design that allows you to ogle partying celebrities with ease, it’s the definitive destination for clubbers, celebrity spotters and party animals.
Complete with soft white sands, cabanas, palm trees and an impossibly bronzed clientele, this archetypal beach club is one of South Beach’s hottest destinations. Sip cocktails from its stylish lounges during the day and eventually the party will come to you. The music starts pumping in the afternoon and continues all night.
If you’ve had enough of Mojitos and Mai Tais, head for this laidback, atmospheric pub in Coral Gables. With 48 different beers and lagers on offer, this Cheers-like venue provides the perfect antidote to Miami’s normal liquid fare. Best of all, bartenders will pour you a taste of any draft for free.
Buy an all-day pass for a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour of the city. In downtown, jump off at the vibrant Bayside Marketplace for a spot of retail therapy and then reward your exertions with a steak at Prime 112 on Ocean Drive. Next head off to Coconut Grove and enjoy a walk in the glorious Kampong tropical garden, followed by a trip to the nearby Science Museum. Finish off the day with seafood and sundowners at South Beach.
Grab your swimsuit, towel and camera for a morning of people watching, sunbathing and cycling at South Beach. After lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab, make your way to Jungle Island for an afternoon spent marvelling at a host of exotic animals, reptiles and birds. Take in Miami’s ever-growing skyline while sipping champagne on a sunset cruise. Then prepare yourself for a night of glitz and glamour at the Delano Hotel’s FDR room.
Head off early for a day exploring the fascinating flora and fauna of the Everglades on a Billie Swamp Safari. See alligators, turtles, fish, birds and racoons in their natural habitat. Then, if you’re brave, sample native Seminole delicacies such as gator tail nuggets and catfish at the cafe. Back in the city, refresh yourself with some sea swimming at 85th Street Beach before donning your glad rags and making your way to Nikki Beach Club for a night of dinner, dancing and decadence.
Spend a fascinating morning at the Kennedy Space Center and nearby Astronaut Hall of Fame before heading back into the centre of town for a meal at Michy’s on Biscayne Boulevard. Later that afternoon continue the morning’s airborne theme with a scenic afternoon flight over the city. Relax and unwind with a late afternoon walk down the boardwalk at South Beach, then head off to Coral Gables for a laidback night of board games and beer sampling at the bar.
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