Crandon Park Beach
The two-mile beach at Crandon Park routinely ranks among the top 10 beaches in the US. Without a doubt, it is the most photographed beach in South Florida.
A lagoon-style beach protected by a sandbar just wading distance off shore, it's one of the most popular recreational destinations in the area for locals and tourists alike. If you visit weekdays, you're likely to see somebody filming something. If you come on the weekend, you're likely to see crowds. The parking lot holds 3,000 vehicles.
The attraction is far more than the perfect beach. The 808-acre (337-hectares) park has concession stands, kite-board and kayak rentals, eco-adventures, self-guided nature walks, a nature center, bird and butterfly walks, a mangrove boardwalk to a fossilize reef overlook and cabana rentals. The Crandon Family Amusement Center, open weekends only, features an outdoor skating area, a splash fountain and a 1950 carousel.
If you come for the beach, park in the southern lot. If exploring nature, particularly the Bear Cut Preserve, pull into the north parking area.
Squint as you look south along the beach, and you may be able to spot the lighthouse that has survived Indian attacks and hurricanes since it was built in 1825. If you want a closer look, turn left (south) as you exit the park and drive through the Village of Key Biscayne to the entrance of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. (Admission: $8 per vehicle with no more than eight passengers). Hours:8 a.m. to sundown.
The original "Miami Vice" series filmed several episodes at the lighthouse, which was also seen in "The Mean Season," a grisly murder story based on a novel by Miami Herald reporter John Kazenbach. The park has two restaurants with Cuban dishes: Lighthouse Café near the beach and the bayside Boater's Grill on No Name Harbor. And the beach there, too, is a winner.
Crandon Park Visitors and Nature Center
6747 Crandon Boulevard
Key Biscayne, Florida
Parking: $5 weekdays, $6 weekends.
Free for cyclists, joggers and pedestrians