Sun, sea and sand: visiting Miami

South Beach

My friend and I had talked about visiting Miami for years (ever since Scandi Adventure, in fact). Partying with Paris Hilton featured heavily at the top of our list (and on my bucket list too, actually).

So when it came round to booking our next trip, Miami seemed to be the obvious choice! Spanning ten days in total, #scandigoesstateside featured three cities: Miami, New Orleans and Boston. It was pretty full on (thank God our sunglasses hid the bags under our eyes).

Three years to the date we set off on our Scandi Adventure, I made the ten hour plane journey from Manchester, UK to Miami, FL; whilst my friend travelled from Seattle. Essentially, we were meeting in the middle.

So why Miami first? Because we’d be at our skinniest, obviously! Ten days of eating pancakes, French toast and mac’n’cheese would most definitely not be a good idea before hitting the beach!

Both of our flights were delayed on the Friday night, and we met at Miami airport around 8pm, both feeling ridiculously tired. We caught a taxi to the hotel we were staying at – The Langford, a boutique hotel with an art-deco vibe in downtown Miami.

Our room was nice, and the rooftop bar on top of our hotel was voted one of the best in Miami, which was a bonus!

Miami at night

Once we’d unpacked our cases, we ignored the jet lag and headed out for a quick drink. Top on our list was Bardot in downtown. Typically for us, once the taxi had dropped us off, we wandered up and down the street for a good twenty minutes before realising the bar was closed!

Realising that there wasn’t much going on in downtown, we caught another taxi to Miami Beach and went to The Regent Cocktail Club instead. A cute hotel bar with a jazz band playing, it was chilled out, although I so could have easily fallen asleep on one of their sofas! We soon called it a night to go to sleep.

Day one

The jet lag was messing with me, so I woke up really early. The sun shining into our hotel room was too much of a draw for me, so I got up at 7am. We headed downstairs to take advantage of the free breakfast: I was looking forward to pancakes, waffles and all of the sweet stuff.

Turns out though that the “free breakfast” was only on a tiny corner of the restaurant – essentially, it was a couple of mini pastries. You even had to pay extra for fruit; which I was firmly told as a server came running over while I was scooping a few slices of watermelon on my plate.

With my American breakfast dreams shattered, we left pretty early and ordered an Uber to take us to South Beach.

What I found surprising about Miami was the lack of public transportation, and how it difficult it was to walk around the city. The buses to the beach took over 90 minutes, despite it being only five miles from our hotel, and the free monorail only did a loop of downtown.

There was however a metro, which we assumed would take you to the stops in the areas that they said they would, but it didn’t. More on that later…

This meant that we spent a lot of time and money in taxis as we navigated our way around Miami.

Elle and Laura South Beach

Anyway, we got a spot on South Beach pretty early on our first day there. We were really lucky with the weather as I’d been checking everyday virtually for a month, and it was showing constant thunderstorms. We didn’t get a single one however, and whilst the sun may not have been out all the time, it was still a tropical 30 degrees.

We headed into the ocean, which was really warm, and the water was clear (I have a thing where I don’t like going into water where I can’t see what I’m standing on).

Unfortunately, my friend managed to get bitten, and I was stung by a jellyfish. Literally, I had no idea that jellyfish were a thing in Miami, but once we went back to our sunbeds, we saw the flag change on the beach from “safe” to “warning: sea life”. Honestly, a warning would have been nice earlier.

South Beach Miami

The rest of the day was spent sunbathing, lunching and planning the rest of our holiday. A pretty great day really!

As the temperature dropped at around 4pm, we headed back to the hotel and got showered and changed. Whilst there didn’t seem much to do in Miami besides go to the beach, I wanted to check out Bayfront Park. The views were pretty and it led us to Bayside Market, which had a whole host of shops, restaurants and live music. I think it was probably my favourite part of Miami.

Bayside market

In the evening, we decided to head into a different neighbourhood, and Coral Gables in particular sounded nice. Supposedly it had a great beach, and was well-known in Miami for its wide choice of restaurants. According to Google, we just needed to catch the metro out to either Douglas Road or University, and we’d be right in the heart of Coral Gables.

So naturally, Douglas Road was our first stop, but when we were faced with a car park and a loud bang that didn’t sound dissimilar to gun shots, we quickly got back on the metro and carried onto University.

Except… when we got off at the University, all we could see was a really busy highway. Like a lot of America I’d imagine, there were a load of cars, but no one walking.

Consulting Google again, it seemed that as long as we walked up the highway for twenty minutes, we would then be in Coral Gables. Forty minutes later, we were still on that highway. With so many cars and no one around, it really didn’t feel safe, so we hopped in an Uber and got it to take us to Miracle Mile.

It was 10pm by this time, and we really wanted to go out for cocktails, so we shared a pizza and then headed back to our hotel.

We’d read that Miami – much like New York – was a city that “never sleeps”; so surely that meant all the bars and clubs would be open late, right? We had a nap so that we could actually stay awake the night, and when we woke up at 11.30pm and started getting ready, we soon realised that a lot of rooftop bars we’d wanted to go to shut at midnight. Oops.

Repour Bar cocktails

In the end, we headed over to Miami Beach and South Beach. We started off with Repour Bar on James Street, and drank several cocktails out of teacups.

We then went to Wall, which was hailed as one of the best clubs in all of Miami. The entrance had Miffy and Hello Kitty fountains, which put it in my good books! It also had an amazing terrace where you could lounge around in the heat.

Hello Kitty and Miffy

Inside was another story however. The air con was so cold that it left me questioning whether I’d got hypothermia again, and a single vodka and orange in a plastic cup cost me $20… and it wasn’t even real orange juice! Plus, the people we met there were just weird (and I wasn’t even being that judgy).

Honestly, I’d just avoid this place if you’re considering going – I’m sure there are way better clubs to visit! Oh yeah, and it shut at 4am, so Miami wasn’t actually a city that never slept.

Day two

We may have had about three hours sleep when we had to get up and ready for our trip to the Everglades.

A bus picked us up at 10am outside Bayside Market, and it took us about 45 minutes to reach the Everglades.

The Everglades spans over 1.5 million acres and is home to hundreds of animals including alligators, snakes, foxes, deer and the Floridian panda.

Elle and Laura Everglades

The day trip we booked meant that we were spending five hours in the swamp area. For the first three hours, we got to take our own boat out onto the swamp (my friend very kindly did the driving… I kept crashing into lillipads when it was my turn, and that was the one thing they told us NOT to do!).

Our boat was very close down to the water and for the first half an hour we were worrying that an alligator might come and jump up onto us, causing us both to lose limbs. We needn’t have worried however, as in three hours neither of us saw a single alligator!

Everglades

After the three hour boat trip, we then went on ANOTHER boat trip (this time an hour long), where we were taken to another area of the swamp. We got to see two alligators, but it seemed like this was quite unusual… maybe they were hiding because of the hot weather?!

We then watched a half an hour alligator show, and got back to Bayside Market for 6pm. The day trip set us back $120 – probably worth it if you actually got to see more alligators, but it just seemed like a bit of a rip-off.

We had dinner at an Italian by the Market (and I had an Alabama Slammer as close to Alabama as I’d ever been before), and then headed back to the hotel.

View from Pawn Broker

Miami sure does sleep on a Sunday, with nearly every single bar shutting at 10pm. We headed up to the bar at our hotel – Pawn Broker, and the cocktails were delicious. Mine had moonshine in it, which gave me severe flashbacks to nights out in Lithuania. The views weren’t bad either!

Day three

For our final full day in Miami, we had just two requests: pancakes and pool party; and we wanted to do both in matching Mermaid swimsuits. We got the first one at Front Porch Café on Ocean Drive (I’d recommend the chocolate chip pancakes with syrup).

Mermaid and pancakes

Styling out some awkward sunburn

We assumed that there must be several pool parties taking place in Miami every single day, and one place we’d heard did them well was Dream Hotel. Not so: their pool was tiny, and their staff weren’t very friendly (don’t go!).

Instead, we headed to Raleigh Beach, where you could use their pool for a full day for $30, or it was free if you bought drinks at their pool bar. There may not have been a party going on, but it was miles better than the Dream Hotel, and if we’d been staying any longer in Miami, we definitely would have gone back.

Raleigh Beach hotel

Our flight to New Orleans was at 9.30pm, so we left the pool at 6.30pm to collect our cases from the hotel, and head to the airport.

What did I think of Miami?

It was so amazing to finally be in Miami, as it was somewhere my friend and I had wanted to go for ages. The nightlife wasn’t quite up to how I imagined it to be, but the beach (jellyfish aside) was amazing… although I preferred Miami Beach to South Beach.

Palm trees

For sure I’d go again, but I’m not really a beach person: I don’t like lying around doing nothing. I’d use Miami as a base in the future to check out the rest of Florida, and catch the ferry over to the Bahamas.

But if you love beaches and hot weather, then I think you should definitely head over to Miami! Find out more about #scandigoesstateside with my trips to New Orleans and Boston. Alternatively, check out all the outfits I wore in Miami!

Elle Pollicott

13 Comments

  1. Fun read! I thought the trip to the swamp was going to carry the most drama, wasn’t expecting the jellyfish attack and the (probable) gunshot! didn’t know there were pandas in Miami, hope they were cute!

  2. Such a fun read! so sorry to hear you got stung by a jellyfish. i’ve been to Miami several times and never jumped into the water. hahahha, sound silly but now im glad i didn’t. i agree that miami is a good base. maybe check out key west next time?!?!?

  3. thanks for that really informative post. I might be going to miami this year and have saved it 🙂

  4. Great documentary style in this post! I agree with you about the beaches. I’m not a beach person, so Miami was more like checking out the city scene and as a base for other cities. It’s a fabulous city, nonetheless, but i woudln’t go solely for the beaches either. =)

  5. Public transport troubles and a jellyfish sting! Looks like you made the best you could outta this trip!

  6. I live in Miami 🙂 its a very interesting city to live in. so interesting so learn your PERSPECTIVE as a true tourist. safe travels. – mariella

  7. Thanks for this post! I’m planning a trip to Miami and still figuring out my itinerary. So this is super helpful. Definitely going to check out wall. I need a selfie with Hello kitty!

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