Destination Guide: Miami, Florida

In the city where the heat is on, beautiful beaches meet with beautiful bodies. A vital and vibrant Latin American culture combines with architecture, business and finance to create a lively yachting centre...

Firmly in Florida, yet only a short hop south to the Caribbean, Bahamas and South America, Miami perfectly straddles the continental divide and fuses diverse global influence into its own unique culture.

South Beach Miami - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

With Florida’s prime cruising season upon us, and annual temperatures spanning 30°C (86°F) to 16°C (61°F), the climate in Miami is great for year-round cruising. Our media partner, Yachting Pages, spoke to Burgess Yachts and FYI – Florida Yachts International, charter brokers in the city, about the best hotspots to visit and activities to take part in while visiting Miami aboard a superyacht.

Miami’s stock is on the up again, and with developers flooding into the area the city is enjoying a huge renaissance. With a more cosmopolitan vibe than the traditional yachting neighbourhood of Fort Lauderdale to the north, Miami has a buzz that draws an eclectic and international crowd throughout the prime season and into the summer.

Not just a gateway to the Bahamas, Miami is a topical beach and city destination in itself by land, air or sea. The South Beach vibe sits against a glamorous Art Deco backdrop that harks back to Miami’s golden age, while an ultra-modern city provides for a more glamorous international setting than other Florida locations such as Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale.

South Beach Breakwater Hotel & Convention Centre - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Set to celebrate its centenary year in 2015, Miami is one of the place to “see and be seen”, boasting some of the world’s best resorts, restaurants, clubs and spas.

Miami highlights and hotspots

Beside the well-known and much-loved sights of Ocean Drive and South Beach, Miami offers a whole host of iconic hotspots, events and activities, so, once you've danced until sunrise at the Fountaineblue, or soaked up the sun on South Beach, look further afield to Miami’s other sights.

Water Activities

It’s been said that, if you don’t see Miami by boat you aren’t seeing the best of the city; but keep in mind, there is plenty to see and do underneath the water as well as cruising on it.

Downtown Miami by water - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

With surface water temperature rarely falling below 70°F (21°C), it’s easy to see why watersports are a popular pursuit when in Miami. The transparent blue-green waters around the Greater Miami area teem with underwater life and saltwater fish of every description - great for charter fishing trips, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and canoeing.

All of these can be arranged with the businesses found around the local marinas, which, of course, provide some of the best entertainment in the city themselves, offering popular places for eating, drinking, dancing and strolling.

Arrange a jet skiing, windsurfing or parasailing trip, book an organised sailing course or charter tour, or coordinate a kayak or snorkel adventure. There are also many guided charter trips showing the sites of the Miami skyline and Millionaire’s Row - you may even be lucky enough to meet dolphins frolicking in the bay.

Windsurfing in Biscayne Bay - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Miami fishing is consistently good throughout the year, so if you don’t fancy giving it a go aboard your own vessel, bear in mind that many private charter companies offer full and half-day deep water fishing trips or drift fishing parties for you to get your fix. Tarpon and Snook fishing require separate permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, with Redfish also heavily monitored. Discover fishing regulations, here.

Commonly known as the ‘Wreckreational Dive Capital of the World’, underwater Miami is home to an incredible array of natural and artificial dive sites, including the natural Emerald Reef, the artificial Wreck Trek reefs and Half Moon and Ophelia Brown sites; two captivating shipwreck dives. 

The Neptune Memorial Reef is another unique underwater site worth visiting - a mausoleum resembling the lost city of Atlantis, and the final resting place for a selection of marine enthusiasts who donated money in life in order to become part of this artificial reef after their cremation.

There are plenty of reputable dive centres in Miami, but The South Beach Dive and Surf Centre - winner of the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014 and a renowned PADI 5 star facility – is well worth a visit.

Downtown Miami City Landscape - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Yacht and boat shows

Of course, the Miami boat shows will be of interest to any visiting superyacht owner and charter guest. The Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show and the Miami International Boat Show come to town in February, and this year are playing host to an increasing number of larger yachts, spanning three Miami marinas.

Whether you’re in the market for a new fishing boat, sailboat, powerboat or yacht, or you are just interested in the boating scene, you’ll enjoy all that the shows have to offer.

Bayside Marina - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Bars, restaurants and nightlife

A world-class restaurant scene is surrounded by the bright neon lights and eclectic music of Miami’s various venues, offerings to which are bolstered each year by a handful of new openings giving repeat visitors a new reason to drop in. 

Local favourites include the stylish Area 31 at Epic Marina; an outdoor bar and terrace serving up innovative cocktails and seafood with a breathtaking view, and world-renowned Japanese restaurant Zuma, which, already in London, Hong Kong, Instanbul, Dubai and Bangkok, has chosen Miami to introduce modern Japanese cuisine to America.

For a more relaxed dining experience, Seaspice Brasserie (formerly Seasalt and Pepper) has its own share of waterfront real estate, offering visiting yachts the freshest seafood. Miami brings its own flavor to international classics, starting Downtown at Cipriani and Ceviche 105, which serve up some of Miami’s best Ceviche.

If you don’t want to leave the superyacht, send the crew for takeout from the basic hole-in-the-wall joints of My Cevice – always busy, these places are a highly prized secret for Miami locals.

Lincoln Road - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Alternatively, climb high above Lincoln Road to experience the view from the balconies of Juvia, a fabulous restaurant and bar set atop an uber-modern building of designer boutiques and parking garages. Mr Chow at the W Hotel and the stunning rooftop bar at the Setai are destinations that remain high on the list of SoBe’s most discerning visitors.

Around the corner, indulge in Florida’s homegrown stone crab specialties at Joe’s Stone Crab. Perennially popular, this Miami icon is only open for a limited season each year and regularly seats over 2,000 diners per night. Tables are constantly in high demand and a 3-hour wait is not unusual if you don’t know the Maître d’, but for those who miss out, their most popular dishes are shipped nationwide. 

We must not forget the Fountaineblue Miami Beach, which offers up 12 fine dining restaurants, casual dining restaurants, bars and lounges to suit your mood, plus, opened to huge acclaim, The Edition is a fun-filled destination in itself – not only a hotel, the basement nightclub also holds Miami’s most exclusive bowling alley and ice rink.

South Beach Ocean Drive - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Shopping

Miami boasts infamous shopping streets, beautiful outdoor shopping areas and stylish shopping malls.

The Design District is the destination for serious collectors of furniture, antiques, art and high-end fashion. The designer shopping on the streets of South Beach are synonymous with unique shopping experiences for one-of-a-kind jewellery, must-have merchandise, books and gifts, while Bayside Marketplace and the Bal Harbour Shops on Miami Beach blend shopping with pleasure with a dizzying range of merchandise, breathtaking views, street entertainment, cafes and bars.

Bal Harbour Shops - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Theaters, Arts and Culture

Miami offers plenty in the way of theatre, arts and culture. The Perez Art Museum (the PAM) Downtown is a new museum that plays host to glamorous galas and parties, as well as holding a world-class art collection indicative of the rich culture and wealth of Miami and its many benefactors.

Bass Museum of Modern Art also offers a highly important art collection, while New World Symphony, America’s only orchestral academy, plays to sell-out audiences throughout the season within the bold architecture; reason enough to visit alone.

Next door, the Fillimore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater combines the stunning Art Deco architecture of South Beach with world-class entertainment, music and comedy. 

Art Deco architecture on South Beach - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Miami Fashion Week takes place in Miami mid-May, seeing more than 10,000 people attend fashion shows, seminars, events and after-parties.

Superyacht Berthing

The city of Miami is fast-becoming an essential port of call for yachts over the winter. Not just the gateway to the Caribbean, but a destination city in its own right, Miami offers a wealth of marinas to visiting vessels.

With the water-centric nature of Miami, it is no surprise that condos, private residences and restaurants all battle for the remaining prime waterfront real estate. The waterways, however, always offer plenty of room for visiting boats and superyachts allowing captains to select a berthing location based on the privacy and amenities that guests seek during their stay.

Miami Beach Marina - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Ideally located on South Beach, Miami Beach Marina welcomes yachts up to 250ft (76.2m), putting visitors squarely in the middle of the action. There are no fixed bridges and plenty of deep water making entry and exit easy.

Downtown marinas include the Epic Marina, which although not the largest of Miami marinas, is one of the most lavish, lying in the shadow of Miami’s luxury Epic Residences and Hotel.

If you are looking for a Downtown marina that is livelier in its nature, check out Miamarina at Bayside. Surrounded by shops, restaurants and an outdoor auditorium, it facilitates yachts up to 200ft (60.9m), and along with Pier 5 Marina at the American Airlines Arena, is the best spot to grab courtside seats for the NBA champions, the Miami Heat.

Heading further south, Coconut Grove is one of Miami’s most picturesque marinas, offering 582 slips for vessels up to 127ft, or 38.7m, with 7 feet of draft.

Coconut Grove Marina- Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Yachtsmen seeking a more ‘exclusive’ cruising experience should pursue temporary membership at the Fisher Island Club marina; a ‘members only’ island community across from Miami Beach. Visiting superyachts of up to 246ft (75m) may be granted temporary berthing and club membership with sponsorship from a member or the dockmaster.

When completed, the much-anticipated Deep Harbour Marina, expected in 2016, will accommodate 35 to 75 superyachts between 24.38 and 146.3m making it the largest collection of slips for yachts of this size in South Florida.

Further plans are set to open up the city to more and larger superyachts, but for now, yachts over 3,000GT are asked to contact the Port Authority.

Coconut Grove Marina - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

Sailing regulations and clearances

Entry and cruising requirements for foreign vessels and non-US citizens vary by country of residence and so it is always advised to check the official rules outlined by the Miami tourist board before travelling. 

When navigating in US waters, however, non-US citizens, including captains and crew are expected to abide by standard US regulations pertaining to visa categories in B1 and B2. Non-American guests must have the B2 visa if the visit is purely for pleasure, whereas for business purposes, the B1 visa is required.

Foreign-flagged recreational vessels exceeding 300 gross tons must file a Notice of Arrival (NOA) with the National Vessel Movement Center (NVMC) prior to arrivial in the United States. This is a separate to obtaining a Cruising License from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

There are, of course, regulations in place surrounding cruising licenses, visas, ports and customs, so the best place to start is by speaking to a local yacht agent or management service, or by visiting the NVMC and CBP websites. Guests can also call the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance, Foreign and Offshore with questions.

Sailing conditions

While the heat of summer Miami cools off a little in the winter, the winter climate in Florida is still arguably the best in North America. Warm sunshine and cloudless skies are tempered by cool sea breezes, which makes for an easy outdoor life.

Bay Harbour Intercoastal Waterway - Photo courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

It’s worth mentioning that due to tropical depreciations, the weather can be windy in the winter with the wind prevailing east, but at prime yachting season, no special equipment or preparations are required for cruising in the water surrounding Florida.

Bear in mind that the hurricane season in Florida spans June 1st to November 30th, but don’t let this put a halt to your trip as modern forecasting is now so advanced that there is little chance of being caught by surprise.

Originally written for MegaYacht News.

 

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