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A Coastal Drive From Miami - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

If you visit Miami, then try to find time to drive up the A1A, the scenic coastal road which runs north-south along the barrier islands, and the intercoastal waterways. It is a spectacular drive, across MacArthur Causeway, giving you fantastic views of the Port of Miami. Along the way you will take in the sights of South Beach and the Art Deco district, drive up the famous Collins Avenue, and north along the prestigious millionaires’ row where you will see the houses of the rich and famous. As you travel north you will see the soaring towers of the beachfront hotels, and marvel at the building work which will transform this stretch of coastline – not least that being undertaken by Donald Trump.

If you have plenty of time you could even return to Orlando using this route as far as Boca Raton, and then, taking Glades Avenue, rejoin the Florida Turnpike.

If you decide to experience this drive then you will find the A1A begins at the junction of Highway 1 and Interstate 395, just off the Dolphin Expressway and close to I-95, just east of Miami Airport. As you drive over the MacArthur Causeway you will see the Port of Miami to your right. It is here that the super liners that ply their way around the Caribbean can be found docked each weekend. If you happen to be on the causeway at around 5.00 pm on a Saturday or Sunday you will see a procession of magnificent liners gliding out to sea. People often stop their cars to wave as it is a breathtaking sight.

Once over the causeway you will be at the southernmost end of Miami Beach, and in the famous Art Deco area. Here you will be able to drive past the candy coloured hotels that are either recently re-modelled, or are in the process of being totally updated. It hardly seems possible that this vibrant area started out as farmland, and was purchased in 1870 by Henry and Charles Lum to grow coconuts on. However, by the 1920’s it began to develop into an ocean front city. Millionaires such as JC Penney and Harvey Firestone built homes here, and by the 1930’s art deco hotels and houses were springing up.

It became a popular retirement venue, and thousands of elderly Americans filled the ocean front hotels and apartment buildings in the 70’s and 80’s. The TV show, ‘Miami Vice’ used South Beach as a backdrop for much of its filming, but at the time it was very run down and quite dangerous. By the late 1980’s the fashion industry had moved in, and it became the one of the most popular locations in the world for fashion photo shoots. There are literally hundreds of nightclubs, beach front hotels, and restaurants including the world famous Joe’s Stone Crab. If you get the chance, then wander along Ocean Drive or Collins Ave and see the fabulous hotels such as The Delano, St Moritz, or The Hotel.

Ocean Drive is a popular tourist area, and you can still pass the fantastic gilded mansion once owned by the fashion designer, Versace. Collins Ave runs parallel to the ocean, and has many historic Art Deco hotels and several nightclubs.

No drive would be complete unless you dabbled your toes in the clear, azure waters of the Atlantic coast, or wandered along the powdery sand beaches along the A1A. Our favourite stopping off point is next to the Eden Roc Resort, where you will find a large car park with access directly onto the beach. Stop awhile, and relax on this beautiful sandy beach, or have a meal in the Aquatica oceanfront restaurant at the Eden Roc, overlooking the beach. A cool caressing breeze coming off the ocean will give you some respite from the hot sunshine and the humidity, and there are palm trees, their feathery fronds gently swaying, offering shade. But don’t linger too long as there is so much more to see – pick up the A1A again and proceed north. As you drive along you will see spectacular houses and yachts moored on the intercoastal waterway to your left.

If you like shopping then take a slight detour, and visit the huge Aventura Shopping Mall, which has over 200 shops, and is centrally located, just north of Miami Beach, and south of Hallendale Beach. Take either the William Lehman Causeway (192nd Street Causeway) and then turn north along Biscayne Boulevard, until you see Aventura Mall on your right hand side, or take a left along Hallendale Beach Boulevard and make a left onto Biscayne Boulevard, where Aventura Mall will be found on your left hand side. You cannot miss it, it is well signposted and there is a huge car park in front of it. Like most malls, Aventura is open 7 days a week from 10.00 am until 9.30 pm, but on Sundays it does not open until 12.00pm, and closes at 8 pm. It has been undergoing extensive renovation which should be completed by the autumn of 2006, and which will make it a stunning shopping venue. It has all four of the major stores, Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears and Bloomingdales as well as Macy’s Men’s Home Furniture. Nordstrom is opening in the Autumn of 2007. It has nearly 200 stores inside and is well laid out, on two floors, although after its re-modelling there will be a third level. There is a vast AMC Theatre with 24 screens as well as a Food Court and numerous major restaurants scattered throughout the Mall.

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