Miami is highly skilled in the art of reinvention — keeping visitors on their toes with a pick-and-mix of new hotspots to explore each season, as well as one of the world’s most important art fairs, Art Basel, in December. But cool-hunting is exhausting. Luckily, another of Miami’s charms is the ease with which one can escape it for somewhere entirely different in look, feel and atmosphere — within a matter of hours. Set sail along the Florida coast or eastwards to the Bahamas — in either case, you don’t know Miami until you know where its chicest inhabitants go for a break.
1. Florida Keys
The 181.9 kilometre string of mangrove-filled islands that are the Florida Keys offer a taste of the tropical without having to venture from American waters. Connected by sandbars and a series of bridges and causeways, the pace of life is so leisurely that it makes you feel a million miles from the nearest metropolis. “In the Keys, you really feel like you’re getting away from it all,” says Thomas Moloney, owner of 28 metre Paragon yacht Endless Summer. “It’s a slowed-down lifestyle and the atmosphere is so different.”
A true cruising ground in its own right, the Keys offer plentiful stop-offs, including the private enclave of the Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, where Moloney spends part of the year. But the ultimate destination is the famously eccentric Key West. Proud of its nonconformity, its palm-lined streets offer an enchanting mixture of tin-roofed bungalows alongside the odd extravagant mansion and a drinking attitude rivalled only by that of New Orleans. “It’s more than a party destination,” says Billy Lockhart, captain of 37 metre Trinity yacht Finish Line. “There is really great snorkelling and diving, such as at the Vandenberg wreck, which was sunk in 40 metres of water.”
Beyond the Keys lie the islands of the Dry Tortugas, another half day’s journey but worth the jaunt if only to see the red-brick Civil War-era Fort Jefferson. Amid a protected state park, it looks perfectly out of place by the bright turquoise waters.
CLAIM TO FAME: Key West is a famous Ernest Hemingway haunt. Pay a visit to his former home and wander around the rooms and lush gardens, home to more than 40 polydactyl (six-toed) cats.
BOOK TICKETS: Ocean Reef’s annual Vintage Weekend takes place from 1 to 4 December, when classic cars, planes and yachts are ogled by retro aficionados.
Picture courtesy of Gettyimages.co.uk / Corey Jenkins