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Miami Ecotourism & Eco-Friendly Attractions



Ecologically and culturally diverse, Miami extends a friendly ¡Bienvenidos! for responsible, green-minded visitors.


From eco-friendly hotels and low-impact activities to give-back voluntourism opportunities that help the community, the greater Miami area offers many chances to support conservation efforts, observe wildlife and leave little or no trace of your time here.


Here are some brilliant ways to be mindful and kind while helping the Magic City retain its natural magic.

ECO-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS

Fairchild Garden


Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, an 83-acre oasis with collections of rare tropical palms, cycads and flowering trees, plays an important role in the conservation of South Florida’s endangered plants through seed banking and reintroduction of rare plants. The garden is open daily, showcasing its bizarre, beautiful plants, petite waterfalls, edible garden and butterfly conservatory. The eco-friendly bookstore features fair trade products and books on tropical gardening and cuisine.


Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, a rehab center for injured seabirds, offers tours and a sunset birding cruise.


Seabird Station


Pelican Harbor Seabird Station cares for more than 1,000 injured brown pelicans and seabirds, raptors, songbirds and reptiles every year, most victims of fishing tackle. There are self-guided and custom tours, along with a two-hour sunset birding cruise.


Shark Valley


A 50-minute drive from downtown Miami, the Shark Valley Visitor Center walking and bike trail in Everglades National Park is an amazing, 150-mile loop through alligators, wading birds and Florida’s famed River of Grass, the largest subtropical wetland in North America. Rent a bike there or take the two-hour tram tour by a park-trained naturalist.


Deering Estate leads guided kayak tours of Biscayne Bay and the historic property’s restricted natural areas.


Deering Estate


The 1920s home of American businessman and philanthropist Charles Deering, the Deering Estate is best known as a backdrop for the 1980s TV series “Miami Vice” and the starting line for “The Amazing Race All-Stars” in 2007, but it also is the site of the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammock in the continental United States. Along with a sustainability film series and lectures, there are Biscayne Bay cruises, tours of the property’s restricted natural areas and guided butterfly walks.


Biscayne National Park


Within sight of downtown Miami, the underwater Biscayne National Park is 172,971 acres of shallow bay waters, coral limestone, shoreline mangroves and one of the largest coral reefs in the world. The Biscayne National Park Institute provides eco-adventures that include snorkeling shipwrecks and coral reefs, cruising to islands, and paddling lagoons. The visitor center also rents paddle craft for self-guided tours.


Zoo Miami


With more than 40 endangered species among its 3,000 animals living in open-air spaces, the 750-acre Zoo Miami is involved in wildlife and environmental conservation initiatives around the world. Staff vets help track flamingos, Florida panthers, rare bonneted bats and other threatened species while also nursing sick or injured animals. Its “Zoo Doo” program recycles manure from elephants and rhinos with landscape debris to sell as high-quality natural fertilizer to the public.


South Florida Breadbasket


South of the city, the Redland-Homestead area is Miami’s rich agritourism region, where visitors can spend an entire day picking tomatoes or strawberries at Knauss Berry Farm, slurping mamey or mango shakes at Robert is Here produce stand, sampling tropical wine at Schnebly Winery and learning about exotic fruit at Fruit and Spice Park.

ECO-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

Bike Tours


Bike tours of some of Miami’s most famous neighborhoods are low-impact ways to get to know the city. HistoryMiami museum, Bike and Roll Miami, and Wynwood Mural Tours are among the many operators that offer guides through Wynwood Art District, the Design District, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, among other gems.


Oleta River State Park


Oleta River State Park, Florida’s largest urban park, has over 10 miles of intermediate mountain bike trails and seven miles of trails and paths for beginners. The park’s saltwater lagoon is a popular swimming hole. An on-site outdoor center rents kayaks, paddleboards and canoes while also providing paddleboard yoga sessions, intro to paddleboarding classes and mangrove paddle tours.


Rent to Explore


The Virginia Key Outdoor Center rents kayaks, paddleboards and bikes from the mangrove-formed island of Virginia Key, with its crystal-clear waters and stunning views of the downtown Miami skyline.


For families, quad bikes that seat four plus two small children can be rented to paddle around nearby Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center at the north end of Crandon Park, also on Key Biscayne, is a conservation-minded nonprofit that hosts family seagrass outings, nature photography exhibits and sea turtle release parties.


Miami EcoAdventures


Miami EcoAdventures, run by the county parks system, offers kayak and canoe tours, catch-and-release fishing lessons and snorkeling adventures.


Directory of Fishing Guides


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a searchable directory of outfitters and fishing guides who follow environmentally ethical best practices.


Citizen Scientists


The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami offers “Citizen Science” opportunities twice a year to accompany scientists on shark tagging expeditions out of the school’s Key Biscayne research center. It also hosts a year-round Sea Secrets lecture series by international scientists and explorers.

FOOD AND DINING

Farm to Table


Farm-to-table restaurants in Miami benefit from South Florida’s plentiful agriculture, but some go above and beyond to offer ethical, sustainable dining. A rooftop garden, compost program and up-cycled décor set apart the Coconut Grove beer-and-burger joint Lokal, the first 100% clean, renewably powered restaurant in Miami.


KYU


At KYU, a popular wood-fired Asian barbecue spot in Wynwood, an in-house Orca composter turns food waste into water and diners can choose from a menu option to “Buy 50 Trees for $5,” with the restaurant matching donations.


DIRT, Certified


Whether you’re paleo, vegan or just a healthy eater, DIRT is a quick-stop café with locations in Miami Beach and downtown Miami’s Brickell neighborhood. Its vegetable-forward menu of sandwiches and salads identifies farmers and purveyors, and it’s one of the few restaurants in Florida to be certified by the U.S. Healthful Food Council’s Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) program


Arsht Center Farmers Market


Every Monday at 6:30 p.m., Floribbean star chef Allen Susser provides a five-course, plant-based dinner inspired by fresh, local produce in the middle of the Arsht Center Farmers Market in downtown Miami. The Taste of Redland Dinner/Brunch Series is a new initiative offering a winter-time meal series on local farms featuring celebrity chefs; look for updates about scheduled dinners here.


Coconut Grove Farmers Market


The Coconut Grove Organic Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., is a fun place to stop for raw-food lunch and snacks. Coconut Grove is also home to vShops, a small vegan food hall anchored by Choices Café, as well as a bakery, pizzeria, smoothie counter and “ice dream” parlor. Nearby, The Last Carrot has been serving fresh juices and veggie fare since the 1970s.


Michael’s Genuine


For fine dining, James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz is credited with reviving the fresh, local ingredient craze with his pioneering Design District restaurant, Michael’s Genuine, where the menu changes daily with fresh seafood and wood oven-roasted vegetables, among other specialties.


Area 31


Area 31 on the 16th floor of the Epic Hotel in downtown Miami offers sustainable yellow tail, swordfish and other seafood caught by community fishermen in Fishing Area 31, an international zone designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a sustainable fishery.

ECO-FRIENDLY TRANSPORTATION

Underline to Come


Still in its planning stages, The Underline is a 10-mile linear park in the spirit of The High Line in New York City and Atlanta’s BeltLine that will connect downtown Miami to its southern suburbs.


Charging Stations


If you’re driving an electric or hybrid vehicle, you can plot your course for charging stations on Plugshare.


By Jodi Mailander Farrell. Image courtesy of Fairchild Garden. Special thanks to Visitflorida.org for this story reprint


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