While most of the action in Miami Beach occurs in the South Beach and Central Beach areas, you may want to venture south to the quieter isles of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.
To get to Key Biscayne you'll have to take the Rickenbacker Causeway, which begins south of downtown Miami and soars high above the turquoise water of Biscayne Bay. But first you must cross Virginia Key, a tiny island smothered in immense Australian pines and quiet beaches. Here, Planet Ocean and the Miami Seaquarium will entertain both you and your kids (see the preceding “For the Kids” section).
Farther on, you'll arrive at the larger isle of Key Biscayne, a lush flatland dotted with bushy sea grape trees and willowy pines. Ponce de León dubbed it the Cape of Florida when he ran across it in 1513. Charming strip shopping centers, golf fairways, and manicured low-rise condominiums line Crandon Boulevard, the Key's main road, which cuts 2 miles through the length of the island without a single fast-food restaurant or high-rise. An excellent cycling path runs its entire length.
At the end of Crandon Boulevard on the island's tip in the 406-acre Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park stands the Cape Florida Lighthouse. You can take a ranger-led tour Thursdays through Mondays at 10:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M. to climb the 109 steps in the lighthouse and see the keeper's home. Afterward, go for a swim on the beach lining the Atlantic side of the park. You can see several stilt houses, built decades ago by fishermen to escape paying taxes, clustered together offshore. Admission to the park is $5 per car. (Open daily 8 A.M.–sunset, 305-361-5811)
Cape Florida Light, built in 1825 and the state's oldest remaining lighthouse, rises 95 feet from the dunes and looks out over the Atlantic. It survived a Seminole Indian attack in 1836 as well as an onslaught by Confederate sympathizers to disrupt Union shipping during the Civil War.