Welcome to the Sunshine Republic Podcast where we explore all things Florida with a focus on activities that benefit both your mind and your body.
Today we'll be describing an outstanding bike ride from Virginia Key over to the Cape Florida lighthouse on Key Biscayne. This is where we get to Key Biscayne. We'll pass over through Virginia Key but even before we get the Virginia Key, you'll be paying your $2.25 cent toll at the Rickenbacker causeway toll plaza and entering into Hobie Beach, which really is very narrow. It's most of Overland with parking on both sides, the east on the west side, over the very large Key Biscayne bridge. On the east side. It's preferred and near the restaurants and different other attractions like the Miami Seaquarium, actually on on Virginia Key. However, on both sides, there are Hoby cat rentals. You could read some panelboards right so kayaks have barbecues is very active, particularly on weekends. And if you are arriving a little bit later, it's suggested that you attempt to park on the West End, as the East End gets quite busy very early in the day.
The Causeway Beach is also well known as one of the dog beaches of Florida and perhaps the most friendly dog beach so feel free to bring your four legged friend over for a romp in the water. There's also since it's actually between Brickell, Downtown Miami and Key Biscayne. There are amazing skyline views from from the very calm water around this beach.
Lastly, from the east end of the Rickenbacker causeway bridge, there is the old Rickenbacker causeway bridge, where you can go out there and enjoy some great fishing for a variety of local fish
Next drive over the bridge and head into Virginia Key proper. On your right you'll see the Miami Seaquarium. As you know that's a marine park. it hosts one of the world's largest collections of marine mammals, in excess of 10,000 different animals & has been open for a long time - since 1955. And it has daily marine mammal shows. Its famous for its kept it for its killer whales, orcas, dolphins and sea lions. There's also Manatee and shark exhibits. For those of us who have a certain age you may remember Flipper. That TV show was filmed in Miami and granite studios and at Key Biscayne. Occasionally they went to Nassau but much of it was filmed right there in Key Biscayne, especially for underwater footage.
They used a few boats and Miami Seaquarium still presents "The Flipper Show" a dolphin show and lagoon that's that served as the filming location for the for the show.
Gentle Ben also was filmed on site. Actually Gentle Ben use the same house as the home for the family in the Gentle Ben TV show as as they did on the flipper show. One interesting point of note is that as the original flipper retired, he was released or actually kept in a net behind lagoon overact Jimbo has place across the road, but we'll, we'll be talking about Jimbo in a minute or two. Before you actually get to the Miami Seaquarium. On the right. On the left, you'll see a large concrete structure setback from the road. It could it's been described as an angular scallop shell, or as a piece of large concrete origami. But actually it's the Miami marine stadium. It was actually built in 1963. As a race boat. The stadium had 6000 seats.
And there's been many events they're not only boat races, but some blast from the past like Mitch Miller, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Richard Nixon have been there.
It's worth getting close and taking a look. It's a very unique piece of architecture. And one of the other dividends of taking a close look is that if you come to to the stadium on the east side right alongside the Miami Rowing Club, there is a sidewalk that winds around that race boat canal that they built. That winds around and first that goes east and bends to around the end towards towards the north. And if you follow it around so you're riding westbound, you'll come to the end of a little point of land a little spit, where you have just a tremendous view of the bridge to Key Biscayne of Brickell, of Watson island of Dodge Island in the Port of Miami. It's a that's a great little secret ride is very vegetated and just just a great little off ramp on your day's adventures.
So once you've seen the Miami marine stadium and are approaching Miami Seaquarium, a great place to park is over on your left Arthur Lamb Jr. Road, make a left into there and drive quite a bit in there. There will be a fork in the road and stay to the right because on the left is the approach to the local water treatment plant and you'd rather not go there. But follow that all the way around to the to a parking area with a beach and bathrooms and volleyball courts.
And just park park right there far, far into Virginia Key.
So lastly, before you actually head off to Key Biscayne, if you ride to the west northwest a little bit, you will reach the Virginia Key outdoor kayak paddleboard rental location, which is on the former site of Jimbo's place. Jimbo was a retired shrimper who originally had his boat in downtown Miami. And he was moved when the city redeveloped that area over and parked his boat right here in Lamar lake right next to the sewage treatment plant. But over time as he aged he no longer fished and became world famous for serving canned beer out of 55 gallon drums full of ice and water, as well as serving smoked fish dip. And a number of movies films TV shows commercials were filmed there. It's also quite well known for Jimbo's annual birthday parties that were really almost a Woodstock of Miami back in the day 10 or so years ago.
Regretfully, Jimbo passed away and the city and the county took over the the park originally cleared it and set up this this rental facility
Actually right a little past the rental facility is the Virginia Key North portrayals North Point trails which is just a superb and very well maintained set a mountain bike trails from Easy difficulty up to up to very challenging. The fascinating part is the the easiest trails allow you to take a look north route to the Port of Miami, and even more so to Fisher Island. So you get to have a look into the Marina Fisher Island and beyond Fisher Island, of course is Miami Beach and all its high rises. So it really is a particularly scenic route. You'd be looking out to the ocean over to Fisher Island and then you know westward to Miami Brickell, Dodge Island, and greater Miami.
We've explored Virginia Key a little bit, it's time to get on our bicycle and take that ride. So head back on down to the Rickenbacker causeway over towards Miami Seaquarium and the University of Miami and head off South East over the Bear Cut bridge. You'll be leaving Virginia Key and heading over to Key Biscayne. And soon as you cross the bridge, you'll cross the road there's a nice crosswalk there over into Crandon Park. Crandon Park was bought by the Matheson family in the early 1900s And at one point was the largest coconut plantation in in the United States.
What is very special is if you continue on the bike path and stay to the left there, Richard T in the bike path, and if you make a left you will end up a dead end at a raised wooden plot, where you're at the location of the only fossilized mangrove reef in in the Western world, the only other one, I believe is in Japan.
So now that you've explored Virginia Key a little bit, let's get on our bikes and get on the road. So saddle up and ride down towards the Miami Seaquarium and University of Miami's Marine Science Center, right at the base of the bear cut bridge. Take a nice leisurely ride over the bear cut bridge until you approach the Marina right there on your right hand side and look for the crosswalk. There's a very nicely marked crosswalk that crosses the causeway their cars are traveling at a very high rate of speed here and it is a dangerous area. And actually the entire Rickenbacker causeway is a dangerous area for bikers, so exert extra caution while you're in the area. But once you go through the crosswalk, you'll be in a very bucolic forested area of Crandon Park and continue on that bike path for a little bit until you hit a tee, a tee in the in the bike path and make a left hand turn. And if you continue up that trail, up until its end, you'll see a wooden dock raised up right up right near the water's edge. And if you look down, you'll see one of North America's actually North America's only fossilized mangrove reef. The only other known fossilized mangrove reef actually is in Japan.
It's fascinating to see and might often be better seen on Google, I might want to take a look at some some images of the reef in detail, but you can certainly see it from the wooden dock. Alternately, you can park your bicycle and walk up the beach and see it or even bring your snorkel gear and hop in the water and drift over. Just be aware of prevailing rules about not not coming too close to the reef from the waterside.
But once you see the reef come back out down that path back into Crandon Park. At one point was the largest coconut plantation in in North America. It was founded by the Matheson family also known for Matheson Hammock also in Miami.
So if you just ride southbound through or a little bit southwest or the park towards the end of the park, you will see the remnants of the Miami Zoo. They're actually the Crandon Park Zoo. That was Miami's first zoo. I believe it was founded and opened in 1948. But successive hurricanes destroyed it impacted very severely and eventually it was moved became the world famous Miami Zoo.
While you're there before you exit Crandon park, you might want to go and take a little ride and Explore the trails and paths on the west side of the Rickenbacker causeway - There's quite a few in and around the Tennis Cenetr and golf golf course that you might want to explore.
That's all at the entrance just north of the tennis center. But continuing down, continuing through the end of Crandon park, you will eventually hit Rickenbacker circle and that's where you will get back on Crandon Boulevard and ride southbound through town.
It's a charming little town and I would urge you to keep an eye open for places where you might want to stop for a restaurant on the way back or maybe maybe lunch or dinner. There is a little bike path around the Green Park in downtown. But if you continue down Crandon Boulevard, you will eventually come into Bill Baggs State Park and in the State Park, you do have the Cape Florida lighthouse. So if you proceed straight southbound in the park eventually on your left hand side you'll see that the lighthouse - I would urge everyone to climb the stairs in the lighthouse it's not a terribly tall Lighthouse but gives a tremendous view of stiltsville to the soutch
As for stiltsville, seven stilts build houses remain out of 26 or 28 that started getting built out there I believe in the 1940s and 50s. Stiltsville reached its heyday in the 60s and 70s, but has been regulated and protected ever since. That's a great view and I urge everyone to take walk up the lighthouse steps - and Google stiltsville or take your boat or kayak out there and take a look.
But beyond the lighthouse, if you continue around, there is a path that that parallels the Biscayne side of the island. And if you ride up there, there's a number of places to fish off the side of the bulkhead. But also there's a little harbor No Name Harbor, with a small boaters grill restaurant, a fairly rustic keys type restaurant. And more recently, they built a sandy beach bar, The Cleat, on a spit of land at the entrance to the No Name Harbor. And that's a great place to stop having to have a beverage or adult beverage and rest up for your ride back to Virginia Key.
So once you're there at The Cleat that's near the north end of Bill Baggs State Park - It's simply a ride back up through Crandon Boulevard, through Crandon Park, over the Bear Cut bridge and then back to your parking area over at historic Virginia Key. Of course before depending on what time of day it is, before you leave, you could always stop at the Rusty Pelican and watch the sunset over the Miami skyline. So thank you very much for listening in today and this is Jim, the sunshine Republic podcast. Take care and have a great day