Key Biscayne: Miami’s ‘hidden treasure’

Donatela Vacca // Contributing Photographer

A massive bridge propels visitors into clear blue skies, making it seem like there is no land – just water and sun. With the hectic city life out of sight, suddenly the white sand and peaceful shores become more alluring as guests soar above Biscayne Bay and down into a getaway paradise known as the islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.

The ocean and a bridge are all that detach these barrier islands from the rest of Miami, giving them the feel of a faraway haven, despite being only 15 minutes from campus.

Senior Gabriella Canal explained that since the island is separate from the rest of Miami, the feelings she gets from visiting its beaches are pure bliss and relaxation.

“Knowing that not every single tourist will be invading the beaches and streets makes me really comfortable and at peace,” Canal said. “I go to Key Biscayne because it’s a paradise within another busier paradise, and I do so when I want to get away, but not so far away.”

Enclosed by Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and Crandon Park, the 1.4-square-mile island is surrounded by an invigorating mass of nature and water, making it ideal for recreational activities.

Beyond the beaches and parks, the island is home to various local dining and shopping options.

The two most exclusive spots are those inside Bill Baggs Park: Boater’s Grill and Lighthouse Cafe, both of which overlook the extravagant skyline of Biscayne Bay.

In the past few years, Key Biscayne has seen an influx of international residents, making the island a cultural hub of traditions and customs, thus leading to more diverse dining options.

The island has also raised the bar in terms of coffee shops and traditional French boulangeries, housing more than four coffee houses that offer classic French pastries and delicacies until late in the afternoon.

Visiting these patisseries has become an islander tradition, making these spots social centers for daily gossip and chitchat.

Kari Madera, a realtor who moved to the island from Hawaii 33 years ago, explained that Key Biscayne is attractive because of its diversity in activities, cultures, traditions and natural surroundings. She went on to describe what makes the island a true gem.

“The island has no through traffic, it is safe, it has numerous amenities and it makes you feel like you live in an oasis, but just 20 minutes away from true civilization,” Madera said.

It is true the island might eventually loose its charm as it becomes more popular, but for now it remains a hidden treasure within the busy streets of manic Miami.