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The Best Tour of Miami Waterfront

The Miami area is home (at least part time) to more than a few well-known celebrities. Since, as you might expect, many of their magnificent homes are on the waterfront, it is quite easy to include some “star gazing” among your charter activities. So let’s start this trip by heading immediately to Star, Palm and Hibiscus Islands, which are on Biscayne Bay just west of South Beach, and have some spectacular celebrity homes. Gloria Estefan and her husband/producer Emilio live on Star Island, as does the Miami Heat’s star center, Shaquile O’Neal. Oh yes, Sean Combs, better known as “Diddy,” has a home on the island also, though he doesn’t live here full time.

We must confess that some of the homeowners are richer than they are famous, and many of the most beautiful homes will turn out to belong to people you may never have heard of. But their dwellings are sure spectacular and well worth seeing. This part of the bay also contains Monument Island, a popular public park that’s accessible only by water and features an obelisk built in tribute to Henry Flagler, one of Miami’s founding fathers. He was the man who built the railroad that eventually reached all the way to Key West and was largely responsible for the development of Florida’s east coast, especially the communities of St. Augustine, Palm Beach and Miami. The Monument Island area is also a good spot to anchor for swimming and/or to use the WaveRunner, though there are better places elsewhere. But if you want to be sure we don’t run out of “WaveRunner Time,” we can take care of that activity right here and now. When we leave Monument Island we have a choice. There’s a channel that runs just inside Miami Beach’s barrier islands, all the way up to Bal Harbour. We can pass through the Venetian Causeway’s East bridge to cruise up this channel and return via the ocean, or, on those days when they ocean is less than hospitable, we can go north just inside Miami Beach and return via the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway that runs down the west (mainland) side of the Bay, just so we don’t have to cover the same ground twice.

But let’s say the weather is perfectly delightful today and the wind direction suggests a south to north trip would be the best bet on the ocean. So we’ll head toward Government Cut, the main ship channel, and go out into the Atlantic for a whole different view of the glamorous strip of sand, sunshine and sea that is known to the world as South Beach. As we head out Government Cut, we’ll have the very southern tip of Miami Beach (known as South Pointe) to our left, and the exclusive and ultra expensive community of Fisher Island to our right. Soon we’ll have only stone jetties on either side, placed there to help keep the cut open and deep enough to handle the cruise ships and freighters that also use this route to and from the open sea. But once we reach the end of the jetties, we’re not restricted to the marked channel, as are the huge ships. We can immediately turn left and head back toward South Beach to run north just outside the “swimmers only” area immediately off the beach. South Beach is world-renowned for its glamour and excitement. People come here from all over to see and be seen among the crowd. But not everyone gets to see South Beach from the ocean. Running close to the beach gives us a different perspective of the popular Ocean Drive and Art Deco District. Believe us, everything looks totally different. But it is still exciting and memorable. Actually, South Beach is only a third of the Miami Beach experience. The barrier island, which runs from South Pointe to Bal Harbor, actually has five separate sections. Within the City of Miami Beach there are South Beach, Mid Beach and North Beach. Each is different, not only in the accommodations and attractions ashore, but also as seen from the water. At the end of North Beach comes the City of Surfside and then, Bal Harbor. At the north end of Bal Harbor there’s another channel from ocean to bay, called Baker’s Haulover. The name derives from ancient times: this portion of the barrier island was, and is, narrower than it is farther north or south. The Caloosas and Tequestas who lived here centuries ago would haul their canoes over the beach at this point to get from bay to ocean or vice versa, because they’d have the shortest haul. In modern times, this spot was chosen for dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers primarily because it would require less work.

At Haulover, we head back down the channel that runs inside the main barrier island of Miami Beach all the way back to Government Cut. It passes by Indian Creek Village, a community so exclusive that its few citizens built their City Hall over on the main barrier island in Surfside so visitors wouldn’t have to drive onto the island! This village, in which every house has water on one side and the island’s central golf course on the other, is home to such notables as Don Shula and Julio Iglesias. Further down we pass LaGorce Island, another gated community with some interesting and historically notable homes. Then comes North Bay Drive, a street of remarkable waterfront dwellings that includes one estate where the occupants commute by helicopter, several homes that belong (or once belonged) to world-famous entertainers, one that was used in the movie, On Any Given Sunday, and one extremely unusual mansion that would seem to belong more in a Gothic novel than on an island in Miami Beach. There are several places along the way where there are no restrictions on using the WaveRunner, so a stop to anchor is not out of the question, though if swimming is also in your plans, continuing on down to Monument Island is perhaps better because we can anchor closer to the shallows there. If there’s time, which depends on what we’ve done along the way, we can also swing by the stars’ homes on Sunset Islands II & III. When we reach the Venetian Causeway, we can go through the East Bridge to again visit Monument Island. If you haven’t yet used the WaveRunner, this might be the time. But honestly, as long as time permits, there’s no reason we can’t stop to do it again – many people want that “just once more, please.” If you don’t wish to stop at Monument Island at this phase of your cruise, we can take the channel that runs north of the Venetian Causeway to cross over for a closer view of downtown Miami including, American Airlines Arena (where the Miami Heat plays basketball) Bayside Marketplace and Bayfront Park. As always, the exact route will be up to you – and, of course, the limitations of time, which always seems to run out all too quickly, regardless of the length of your charter. So, ultimately, we must head back to where we started, and the end of another memorable cruise.

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