Sure, all roads may lead to Rome — but in the Miami-Dade county area, all roads lead to Sunny Isles Beach. Nestled between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale, this oceanside community is the perfect stepping stone from which to explore the rest of the region. The center of Florida’s Riviera — or “paradise” as locals call it — is minutes from trendy Miami Beach to the south and gay-friendly Lauderdale to the north. To the west are some of the state’s shopping Meccas, while the east offers swimming, fishing, boating and quick jaunts to the Bahamas.
Where to explore
Take a walk along the beach — past the resorts, 1950s hotels, high-end residential condos and the half-mile pier. Friendly lifeguards, who offer everything from CPR to directions, patrol the beach regularly. Walk too far down Sunny Isles’ 2.5-mile beach and you encounter the brightly painted lifeguard stations of Haulover — the nude beach where locals, and some well-known celebrities, get rid of their tan lines.
Where to stay
The Trump International Beach Resort offers 390 oversized rooms, including junior and deluxe suites with kitchen facilities for families who want to make their own meals. Feel like eating in? The resort has two restaurants: Neomi’s, offering contemporary American cuisine, and Fusion Restaurant and Lounge, offering a new take on Asian, located off the lobby. The grounds of the resort — which is in the final stages of an update — includes tennis courts, two pools and beach access.
Where to visit
Once destined to become a housing development, Oleta River State Park has been allowed to grow back into a natural reserve in the midst of a city. The park, with more than 1,000 acres, is popular with joggers, hikers and anyone who just wants to get away from the hustle-bustle of the city for the afternoon. The Blue Moon Outdoor Center rents kayaks, canoes and bicycles so visitors can explore waterways frequented by manatees and dolphins, or bike through 15 miles of trails. Rough it, Miami-style, in one of 14 air-conditioned “primitive cabins” that come with double beds and bunk beds. You need to bring your own sheets.
Sunny Isles Beach is close to some of the region’s premiere shopping centers. Anchored by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, Aventura Mall features more than 300 stores and restaurants; it’s among the top five highest-grossing shopping centers in the U.S. A short drive away is The Village at Gulf Stream Park, an outdoor shopping and entertainment center where you can also drop a few coins in the slot machines or place a bet on the horses — just like the Rat Pack did in the mid-’60s.