Sure, all roads may lead to Rome, but in the Miami-Dade county area, all roads lead to Sunny Isles Beach (sibfl.net).
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 centre 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-long pier. Friendly lifeguards patrol the beach regularly. Lifeguard Tower No. 17 rises above this beach hotspot, seniors float on pool noodles in the morning, and the younger, golden-hued crowd play volleyball and sun themselves later in the day. Walk too far down Sunny Isles’ four-kilometre long beach and you will encounter the brightly-painted life guard stations of Haulover — the nude beach were locals, and some well-known celebrities, get rid of their tan lines.
Where to eat
A popular local spot is Epicure Gourmet Café, which is also a deli and supermarket. Portions are generous, with a selection of sandwiches, soups and salads. A few metres away on Collins Avenue — Sunny Isles’ main, and only, strip — is H Restaurant, offering French cuisine in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere. Hungry for surf or turf? The elegant Il Mulino New York at the Acqualina Resort and Spa has a great selection of steaks, and a to-die-for lobster dish prepared tableside. Served in a hot pot, the waiter breaks open the pastry top and ladles out the lobster and other ingredients. For something a little healthier, the Miami Juice chain has a Sunny Isles location and serves fresh and organic shakes, salads and breakfasts.
Where to shop
With its central location, Sunny Isles Beach is close to three of the region’s premiere shopping centres. Just over the William Lehman Causeway is Aventura Mall. Anchored by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s, it features more than 300 stores and restaurants. A short drive away is The Village at Gulf Stream Park, an outdoor shopping and entertainment centre where you can also drop a few coins in the slots or place a bet on the horses. If your pony comes in, head to the Bal Harbour Shops to buy a pair of Jimmy Choo’s or a Gucci handbag.
Where to stay
More of a destination than a boutique hotel, 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. Lie in the sun while you sip one of the 12 types of Pina Coladas from Gili’s Pool Bar and Grill, located right next to the family pool. Kids will stay busy with the resort’s Planet Kids program, an enviro-adventure program, while you get a facial or body treatment at Aquanox.
Where to visit
Oleta River State Park has been allowed to grow back into a natural reserve in the midst of a city. The more than 1,000-acre park 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 Centre rents kayaks, canoes and bicycles, so visitors can explore the waterways frequented by manatees and dolphins, or bike through the 24 kilometres of trails. You can even rough it, Miami style, in one of 14 air conditioned “primitive cabins” that come with double beds and bunk beds. Bring your own sheets.