José Martí Park

I decided to check out José Martí Park in the Little Havana neighborhood of the City of Miami. This is an interesting park in a more urban setting than some of the past parks covered in this blog. It sits on the edge of the Miami River, and has a great view of the Miami skyline. One of the most notable qualities of the park is that it sits underneath one of the tallest parts of the I-95 expressway.

The park has a number of amenities, including a playground, a pool, an outdoor gym and basketball courts. The basketball courts actually sit directly underneath the expressway, which makes for an interesting aural combination of ball bouncing beneath and heavy traffic way above.

One of the coolest qualities of the park, in my opinion, is that it borders the Miami River. The river is a somewhat industrial, somewhat rundown body of water and this provides for a different kind of waterfront park. Many cities, such as San Antonio, have turned their river fronts into great pedestrian centers filled with shops, restaurants and a lively sense of community. In Miami, it seems like the river is more forgotten than anything. Perhaps José Martí Park could be a starting point for the same kind of river front evolution here. 

The park was named for Cuban poet and revolutionary activist José Martí, a bust of whom appears towards the front of the park.

Overall, the park was very interesting, probably one of the more unique parks in Miami. It is very much an urban park, and given the fact that Miami is a quickly urbanizing city, placing a newly found emphasis on downtown living and a lifestyle more like that of a New York or Chicago, I think the park could become a focal point for a new kind of urban riverfront experience here. It serves as a reminder that not all the great parks in Miami are the ones that sit along Biscayne Bay or emphasize and “old Florida” nature feel, but that gems can be discovered in the most unlikely of places, such as underneath an overpass.

One final note: I have no idea why the quality of the photos is so strange. I guess the camera I checked out from the library had a diffrent setting that I forgot to change, but for whatever reason all the pictures ended up with the same quality of some 90s indie rock music video. Anyways, enjoy the rest of the pictures!

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Matheson Hammock Park

August in Miami. It is hot, it is humid, it is truly tropical. Where can you escape the heat but still enjoy the outdoors? The best answer might lie along the eastern edge of Miami, in Matheson Hammock Park. Here, the sea breeze cools you with its gentle yet constant presence, and the mugginess melts away.

Matheson Hammock Park is huge, one of the biggest and best in Miami-Dade County. It has that great, only in the tropics feel to it, pushing right into Biscayne Bay. Standing at the edge of the park, one is graced with some of the best views of downtown Miami in the distance.

Since it sits right on the water, the park is a great launching space for people participating in water sports like kite surfing.

Probably one of the most popular features of the park is the man made lagoon and surrounding beach area. Different from any other beach in Miami, this is a unique feature that makes Matheson Hammock one of the coolest parks around.

Retreating inland, the area takes on a different feel, becoming more like a tropical nature park. There are some great trees and funky structures that are perfect for parties or picnics.

The park also has a marina, and a beach side restaurant called Red Fish Grill. After I got home, I was surprised to learn that the park actually extends further inland, west of Old Cutler Road. Here, it turns into a nature hike through a natural hammock habitat that used to cover the whole area before it was developed. My hope is to return to this part of the park, take pictures, and use that for another update. For now, enjoy the rest of the pictures and if you ever need a cool beach to check out, try Matheson Hammock Park.

Hammock foliage

Follow the light…

Waters of Biscayne Bay

Looking out onto Biscayne Bay

The lagoon

Local fishermen

Family members of Sebastian the Ibis

The beach

Red Fish Grill

Cool place for a party


The park borders Old Cutler Road

Wild cat

Who knows what could be lurking in the deep?

The enemy

Nature’s garbageman

South Pointe Park

South Pointe Park is one of my favorite places in all of Miami Beach. Sitting at the southern tip of the island (hence the name), the park extends from the bay side all the way out to the ocean on the other end. A great example of how a park can fit into the urban landscape, you can get great views of the Atlantic Ocean, Fisher Island, the Port of Miami and Downtown Miami all in one place. There’s even a Miami branch of the famous steak restaurant Smith and Wollensky if you desire high end steak and seafood by the water.

The park is basically on the edge of the water, bordered by Government Cut. There is a concrete walkway with only a thin patch of grass and rocks until you reach the water. It makes for a very nice walk up and down the island as you are always surrounded by the water to your immediate south. Among other views, you can sometimes catch cruise ships leaving from the Port of Miami as they enter into the Atlantic Ocean.

Bordering the walk way is open space, perfect for lounging on the grass, tossing a ball around or playing with the dog. While the western part of the park tends towards a basic open space, the eastern part of the park becomes more controlled, but with a very unique hill that is a mixture of natural grass and concrete steps. In the flat, sea level city of Miami Beach, it is not often that you see even the slightest bit of elevation, and it gives the park a unique trademark.

As you walk further east, you get to the 1st street beach area and a rock pier that you can walk out onto. The rock pier runs parallel to the old wooden pier, which in my opinion should reopen, because what a great walk it would be out into the Atlantic Ocean! The rock pier begins smoothly but soon becomes a mound of jagged rocks that is not as inviting to me as perhaps it is to others.

If you are looking for a park with great views, close to the beach and a place to take the dog or just lounge around with friends, consider South Pointe Park. It does not have the wide open area of other parks reviewed in this blog, but for scenery and location, it cannot be beat! More pictures below!

View of exclusive Fisher Island, richest zip code in the country

Off kilter statue for an off kilter city

On top of the hill, looking at the ocean

Holland Park

Holland Park in Hollywood, Florida, marks the first appearance of a non Miami-Dade park for The Parks Department. At first when I started this blog I figured it would be easier to just limit myself to Miami. I’ve come to view this as foolish. While I don’t spend too much time in Broward County (and even less in Palm Beach), this is afterall, the era of the staycation, and maybe a trip to a park in adjacent counties is a good way to explore close but unfamiliar territory.

Holland Park sits alongside the intracoastal waterway in Hollywood. It can be difficult to find, but it is basically at the east end of Johnson Street on the mainland (Johnson Street technically extends to the barrier island where Hollywood Beach is located.) Located across the intracoastal waterway from Hollywood Beach, you get a full view of Ocean Avenue/A1A from the park. It is a really cool place, and definitely has a more “natural” feel to it than the parks I’ve visited in Miami. In this sense, it reminds me more of the parks and springs I’ve visited in Northern Florida areas like Gainesville.

Since the park is bordered by water, aquatic activities are the norm here. Kayak launches, rowing, and jet skis are all good ideas for fun at Holland Park. There is also a boat launch area, and a nature walk/wooden boardwalk around the edges of the park that are next to the water. There are spiders and birds and other animals all along the walk

One of the best features of the park is the waterfront observation tower. From the top of the tower you can see all across the intracoastal waterway, and over to Hollywood Beach. You can even catch a slight glimpse of the ocean from the top of the tower. This is a really cool place to just hang out and take in the sunshine. Lower portions of the tower also have seats to sit and relax, while still enjoying the view.

Holland Park was such a cool place to visit. As I said, it seemed more of a natural place than many of the parks I’ve been to in the past. This is not to knock parks in Miami, just to point out some differences in how parks are planned. Whereas many of the past parks I’ve been to are so clearly the works of careful planning and design, Holland Park seems to be a natural area retrofitted with certain man made improvements to make it a park. Both concepts serve a purpose, it is just nice to experience both and have some variety. I look forward to coming back to Holland Park in the future, and recommend everyone, whether you live in Dade, Broward or anywhere else, to visit the park. Thank you to Michelle for the pictures, more after the jump.

Walking amongst the mangroves
Just a warning for the dogs

Protection measures
Crew boats

Le Tub, a great waterfront restaurant

Surveying the landscape
A peak at the Atlantic Ocean

Boat launch
BBQ along the water

Dante Fascell Park

Dante Fascell Park is located in the suburban city of South Miami, on Red Road east of US1. It is a small, but pleasant park located in what is basically a small, and pleasant city. Despite its smaller size there are plenty of recreational opportunities. The park has clay tennis courts, a handball court, half court basketball and beach volleyball.

The best thing about Dante Fascell Park is the shade. If tanning is your thing, this park might not be for you. There are a lot of trees and it was so nice to be able to relax from the hot sun. As seen above, even the handball courts are given the benefit of tree coverage. This park would be a great park for a picnic. There are plenty of picnic tables, and a chickee hut as well.

Other features of this park are a nice playground, an exercise trail circling the park and an interesting but strange statue. Dante Fascell Park is a great community park and a fitting tribute for the man it is named after. Dante Fascell was a long serving Representative of Florida in the U.S. House. Among other things, he championed the creation of Biscayne National Park. Anyone with an interest in Florida history would do well to seek out The Dante B. Fascell congressional papers at the University of Miami Special Collections. Thank you to Michelle Nakah for the photos, more after the jump!

a strange statue

the park borders a canal

small hill
great place for a picnic

David T. Kennedy Park

David T. Kennedy Park is in the Miami neighborhood of Coconut Grove, the city’s oldest neighborhood and certainly one of its most vibrant. The park sits on the eastern edge of the city, just before Miami gives way to the water. Public access to waterfront land is a big thing that is missing from Miami, but as long as places like Kennedy Park exist we should take full advantage of them.  Though at times the water might be hidden behind trees entirely, you can never truly forget it is there. In a way it is comforting, knowing that at some point the land must stop, Miami’s rapid development must stop, we can all stop to sit and look out at the ocean.

When I first came to Kennedy Park, it was to play soccer, and we picked one of the many open space areas to set up matches. At times there were even nets to play with, although they were absent on this visit. There is also a sandpit and nets set up for beach volleyball.

Other features of the park include a playground for young kids, a bike path that surrounds the whole park, and a dock that leads you to the other side of the park, bordered by the water and mangroves. Mangroves surround the park, and the area is dotted with a mixture of different kinds of trees, from pines to palms. The most interesting trees to me were those seen below, all bending at the same way towards the water. 
 Once you cross the small dock to the other side of the park, there are two separate, fenced off areas exclusively for dogs. Although there were many dogs on leashes in the other parts of the park, this would seem to be the area where dogs can truly stretch their legs, roam free, and just act like dogs. There is even a water fountain fit for man and beast!

On a hot day like today, you might be tempted to jump right into the water that borders the park. Luckily there is A.C.’s Icees, a Miami institution! Quench your thirst with a frozen lemonade or delicious fresh squeezed juice.

Kennedy Park would be a cool place even away from the water, but sitting on the edge of Coconut Grove along Biscayne Bay really sets it apart. What Miami needs is public access to waterfront land, and more of it! More waterfront parks, more public beaches, more places where we can go and enjoy the coastal region we all live in. Thank you to Michelle for taking the photos, there are more after the jump.

houses along the water
ibis in the mangroves
A.C.’s Icees

outdoor gym

Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay

bike path
marina next to the park
man’s best friend

Merrie Christmas Park

Merrie Christmas Park is a beautiful, well maintained park on Le Jeune Road, east of US1 within the City of Miami. One of the first things that you notice as you pull up to the park, or even if you are passing by it, is the decline of elevation from the road surrounding it into the park itself. It’s almost as if the park sits in a kind of geographic bowl. For a place like Miami, where flat topography is the norm, this difference in elevation is striking. It’s not exactly rolling hills, but it is still unique from other parts of the city.

One of the best qualities of this park is that its focus is really on open space. There are so many parks in Miami that seek to control space, to use the land for specific, physical purposes: a basketball court in this corner, a pool in the other etc. That is not to say this can’t be successful. Look no further than my previous post on Flamingo Park to see a park with a highly controlled use of space to see how a park offering a wide variety of recreational activities can be great. Still, there’s something to be said about the feeling you get in a park that is simply open space to do as you please.

A playground, swingset and picnic tables/benches are the only real built objects in the park. The rest of the space is open to trees, and there are a lot of them. The shade provided by the trees was a welcome relief on what was a scorching hot day. In a city like Miami where tree coverage is low, it’s nice to go to a park and seek relief from the brutal rays of the sun. 
It was a great experience to go to a park where less was more. The park was well maintained but you never felt like it was controlled. Even on a hot day, walking beneath the huge trees of Merrie Christmas Park was an excuse to be out in the open. The wide open space allowed for families to sit around, throw a baseball, and have a recreational experience that wasn’t dictated by already built structures. Thank you to Michelle Nakah for taking the photos. I also heard that the hit horror short film Play Dead filmed a scene at the park, so when that movie gets big, you can go here as a part of Miami movie history. More pictures after the cut.

Flamingo Park

Sometimes you might hear Miami referred to as the “sixth borough”, in reference to its status as a haven for New York City vacationers and retirees. If you run with that idea, then maybe Miami Beach is a stand in for Manhattan island, and we can go ahead and count Flamingo Park as Miami Beach’s own “Central Park”.

Flamingo Park is located in South Beach, in between 11th and 15th street and Alton and Meridian. It is a large urban park with plenty of different recreational activities available. One of these is tennis. Flamingo Park is a popular place in the area to play tennis. Unlike in most tennis complexes, which utilize hard courts, the Flamingo Park tennis courts use clay. So if you want to channel your inner Rafa Nadal, then partake in some rallies here at Flamingo Park. It seems like they are hoping to renovate the court complex soon too.

The park houses not only a tennis complex, but a community pool as well. The pool area has a unique design, and looks like a fun place to go take a swim.

The pool and the tennis courts are just some of the draws to Flamingo Park. There is a nice area of wide open space to roam around in, areas to bring the dog, basketball courts, and places for racquetball and baseball/softball as well. There is even a football field with a track circling around it.

Some of the best qualities of the park are its landscaping. The park makes really good use of different kinds of trees and plants, and many areas of the park are well shaded. In a city where temperatures commonly approach triple digits, a little shade can go along way to making a park seem more welcoming.

Flamingo Park is a great park, and it shows given its high use rate by the community. When I went, there was a mixture of patrons: families at the park and playground, tennis players using the courts, basketball players, and even people just walking across the park to get where they needed to go. Its location is a great one, right in the heart of the aptly named Flamingo Park neighborhood. This area of historic art deco style apartment buildings surely benefits from having such a great park at the doorsteps, and given Miami Beach’s condensed nature, the park is close to many of the city’s other residents too. You can get up close and personal with the Flamingo Park neighborhood just by standing at the edge of the park, but you can also view some of South Beach’s taller residential buildings just standing in the center too.

Flamingo Park is a well maintained and exciting place. It has everything from a pool to youth athletic leagues to a Boys and Girls Club. It has something for everyone, whether you’re interested in sports, leisurely walking, or just sitting under the trees. Miami Beach is a dense, unique city, with plenty of cultural activities. Plus, there’s also the ocean. Still, it was refreshing to see, even with all the other recreational activities available in the area, a public park remain so prominent in the area, filled with people. A great experience from a park I had previously known little about, despite my living in the area!

More images after the cut.

Margaret Pace Park

Plain and simple, this is a blog about parks. I’ll use the blog to document exploration of a number of parks throughout Miami, the city that I live in. At times, I might venture outside of the county limits, but for now will stick with mostly Miami. There are a number of parks I hope to visit, and hopefully along the way other people will be able to learn more about the numerous places one can enjoy cheap or free leisurely fun.

Margaret Pace Park is the first park I visited for the purpose of this blog. I had been to it only once before, to play tennis with some friends who live in the neighborhood. It is a City of Miami park that is located at 1775 N. Bayshore Drive, in the area commonly called “Omni”, over the by the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Hidden by high rise apartments, Margaret Pace Park is an urban, waterfront park that will make you appreciate the coastal nature of Miami. From the park you can see Miami Beach, as well as the different bridges and causeways linking the mainland to the barrier island, and small islands dotting Biscayne Bay. When I went it was cool, windy and cloudy, which made for an interesting view and feel of the park, in comparison to Miami’s stereotypically hot and sunny days.

The park is multifunctional, with basketball, beach volleyball, and tennis courts, a playground and an outdoor gym. The best feature of the park though, is its wide open green space that leaves plenty of room for roaming, or just relaxing. You can even walk down to the edge of the water and stand on the rocks and look out onto Biscayne Bay.

Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it is the hidden nature of the park in a neighborhood under the heavy burden of road construction, but there was a surprising lack of visitors to the park. Despite the multiple recreation offerings, and its unique, waterfront location, most of the people I’ve seen on both visits have been a mixture of dog walkers and joggers encircling the park, never truly entering it. One would think that, with its proximity to a number of high rise residential towers, you would see more people enjoying a waterfront park right at their doorsteps. Hopefully in the future, I can visit Margaret Pace Park and see a more vibrant scene appreciating this true gem. In a coastal area with a surprising lack of public access to waterfront, a park like this one should be appreciated by all.

More pics after the jump, and thanks to Brian Ray for being the camera man!