Miami-Dade County's 7 Heritage Parks
A County-wide driving tour to 7 beautiful, unique historic Heritage Parks. Info and tips included.
One of two public beach parks operated by Miami-Dade County, Haulover Beach is boarded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and features a total of 1.4 acres of sandy beaches. A man-made channel along the south side of the park connects the Atlantic to Biscayne Bay and today the beach is a haven for kite-fliers as well as sun worshippers, and the home of the largest public clothing-optional beach in the U.S.
Green spaces are an important part of preserving the historic legacy of an area. And in Miami-Dade County, Florida the survival of native hammocks, rock lands, and the wildlife that thrives within is a vital part of the area's heritage. Today, the Miami-Dade parks system is the third-largest in the country, with 270 parks and additional conservation lands under County management, a total of more than 34,000 acres. Seven of those parks have been designated Heritage Parks.
This barrier island park features two miles of beach on its east side and Biscayne Bay, and its views of Miami, on the west. Boundaries included a unique fossilized mangrove reef, seagrasses, wetlands, coastal hammocks, and abundant wildlife. Amenities include gardens, a nature center, an Audubon-certified 18-hole golf course, marina, tennis center. bike paths, a historic carousel, and, of course, the beaches. Visitors enter the park on a designated State Historic Highway.
The Miami-Dade park system is the third-largest in the country, and it all began in 1930 when William J. Matheson and his son Hugh donated 85 acres off Old Cutler Road to the County. This tropical hardwood hammock became Matheson Hammock Park, the first public park in the county and one of seven designated Heritage Parks. Almost six times its original size, visitors enjoy many bay-front amenities. Matheson Hammock is a popular spot for bikers, boaters, swimmers, and picnickers. The weekends are busy with boaters utilizing the full-service marina facilities and swimmers enjoy the tranquil waters of the family-friendly atoll. Kite-boarding is a popular sport from this location and visitors come from far and wide to dine at the nationally recognized, award-winning Red Fish Grill.
The stone home overlooking the Biscayne Bay was built in 1900 and first operated as an inn by Edith Richmond; it was called the Richmond Cottage. In 1916, an immensely wealthy businessman from Maine, Charles Deering, purchased the building and the 444 acres of land. He moved into the home in 1922 and resided there until his death in 1927. The home remained in the hands of the Deering family for over fifty years and fortunately was well preserved. Additionally, despite being located on the cusp of a densely populated and industrial area, the estate land is home to rare and threatened wildlife. Today, the house and land are open to the public for tours and exhibits of all sorts.The most recent treasure to become a Heritage Park, the Deering Estate, was purchased by the State of Florida in 1986 for $22.5 million and is managed by Miami-Dade County.The 444-acre site is an environmental, archeological, and historical preserve and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The 37-acre Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park showcases more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices, and nuts, including 180 varieties of mangos. The Park is part of the Redland Historic District and also home to a 1906 schoolhouse used as the Welcome Center, and the Bauer-Neill Mitchell House which serves as a café. The Welcome Center has a nicely stocked gift shop filled with tropical treats as well as educational information about the area, its history, and the many fruits and spices grown. It offers an excellent educational experience for children. The Mango Café is famous for its twin lobster rolls.The Park offers guided tram tours daily as well as a self-guided walking tour map, classes, and workshops. The Park is accessible and has wheelchairs available. Strollers can easily navigate the paths. Cost is $10 for adults, $6 for children 6-11, and under 6, free.
Homestead Bayfront Park is a charming destination created on land donated in 1938, by James Sottile, owner of South Dade Farms. The public can access 90 of the park’s 1,200 acres. Neighboring Biscayne National Park, Homestead Bayfront Park has many inaccessible areas that are home to protected natural zones and coastal wetlands. During WWII the site was leased to the Air Force and afterward, with the addition of an atoll pool, marina, and other facilities, the park opened to the public in 1955. The on-site La Playa restaurant has a tasty menu and a great setting. They are open Monday - Friday 11 AM - 8 PM and Saturday and Sunday 11 AM - 11 PM.