Myer, a visitor from Miami, and Capt. Wayne hold the
tiller on the African Queen in Key Largo, Florida.
— Summer is when the stream of tourists to South Florida
slows, deterred by hot, wet weather and the threat of
hurricanes. It’s when rates at beachfront hotels
plummet, spas and restaurants offer special deals, traffic
eases and locals can enjoy discount staycations.
how can we spend those leisure days when we’ve logged
out of the office email and need an alternate source of
entertainment? Many tourist attractions, especially in the
outdoors, close or cut their hours in summer. Sure, you
can spend your time circulating among air-conditioned
bars, museums and movie theaters, but why not take
advantage of only-in-Miami venues?
Miami.com team and I went looking for fun and
not-so-obvious things to do on a summer vacation. We got
sunburned, rained out, bug-eaten and blistered, but we’ve
come up with a week’s worth of distinctively South
Florida activities. Grab your sunscreen and your
comfortable shoes and follow along, from south to north.
CANALS ON THE AFRICAN QUEEN
matters needed to be resolved at the outset of our ride on
the African Queen: What was in the wood box labeled Gordon’s
Gin? And was I about to occupy the same bench where
Humphrey Bogart once sat?
the box was a cooler that contained only bottled water.
And no, Bogart had never sat on this particular bench —
the wood had been replaced since the movie starring this
very same boat was made in 1951. But the tiller is the one
that Bogart, as the cranky drunk Charlie Allnut, used to
pilot the African Queen, Capt. Wayne tells us. And if I
wanted to sit on the same surface Bogart had sat on, he
had spent a lot of time stretched out on the old mahoghany
planks at the bottom of the boat. I declined (although my
answer might have been different if there had been enough
gin in the cooler).
African Queen (the boat) is a 30-foot steel-hulled
steamship that was built in 1912 as the S/L Livingston to
navigate the upper Nile River. It was leased by John
Huston for the making of "The African Queen"
(the movie) and subsequently renamed. Later, the boat was
brought to the U.S. and used for charters, abandoned,
rediscovered, given a makeover, used for rides, then put
on display when the engine died.
year, Lance and Suzanne Holmquist rehabbed the boat —
including replacing the broken steam engine and boiler
with a 1896 model as noisy as the one in the movie — and
began offering rides along Key Largo’s canals.
African Queen holds up to six passengers on its 90-minute
cruises down the Port Largo Canals to the Atlantic Ocean
and back, but my two friends and I were the only
passengers on a sunny weekday afternoon last month. Capt.
Wayne, wearing a shirt and kerchief identical to Bogart’s,
explained how the steam engine works, showed us photos of
the making of the movie, and took pictures of us pouring
liquid out of a gin bottle, much as Katharine Hepburn had
done in the film, or handling the tiller as the African
Queen sailed away from the dock.
we cruised slowly past waterfront homes, the steam engine
hissing and clanking, a tattered old Union Jack fluttering
and Capt. Wayne judiciously tooting the steam whistle, I
conjured up a picture of Bogart and Hepburn fleeing on the
Ulanga River and was glad we were instead in Key Largo
trying to outrun nothing more than white clouds drifting
in a blue sky.
Cruises depart from the Marina Del Mar; park at Holiday
Inn, 99701 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo; five cruises daily;
$49. 305-451-8080, .
A MANGO, GET A BUZZ
at Schnebly’s Winery in Redland on a warm Sunday
afternoon. There’s a crowd around the wine-tasting bar,
people drinking beer under a tiki and a fellow singing and
playing guitar out back. There’s a happy buzz to the
bartender asks what kind of wine you want to taste. You
see a woman sipping and smiling, so you point at her and
say "I’ll have whatever she’s having." He
pours. You take a sip. It tastes like … mangoes?
did you expect? We’re in South Florida. Plants that
blossom in 48 or 49 other states don’t do well here,
whether you’re talking about apples, tulips, or
chardonnay grapes. Instead, fruits that grow in few other
places flourish here. Peter and Denisse Schnebly turn
fruit — mango, avocado, guava, coconut, passion fruit,
carambola, lychee — that doesn’t look good enough to
sell through their tropical fruit business into wine.
There’s sparkling wine, too — and even beer brewed
from tropical fruit — but no wine made from grapes.
and wine tastings are held daily. There’s a coral-rock
waterfall out back — you can hold a tropical wedding
here! — along with tables, stools and tiki huts. There’s
often live music.
that said, tropical fruit wine still takes some getting
used to. So here’s our advice: Just because wine has
that nice pale straw color that looks like chardonnay, don’t
assume it’s going to taste like chardonnay. In fact, it
won’t taste anything like chardonnay. Think of a glass
of something cool and slightly sweet for a warm afternoon
on the back patio. Or maybe for dessert.
recommend the wine-tasting ($9.95 for either table wines
or sparkling and dessert wines, $5 if you bring your glass
from a previous Schnebly’s outing), but save your money
on the tour ($7).
Schnebly’s, 30205 SW 217th Ave., Homestead; 888-717-WINE
or 305-242-1224; www.schneblywinery.com. Hours: 10 a.m.-5
p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
(cover charge for evening events); noon-5 p.m Sunday.
SOUTH BEACH BY BICYCLE
catches your attention about the DecoBike program in South
Beach is not the retro style bicycles or the bike docks,
which have claimed much of the scarce and coveted street
parking. DecoBike is conspicuous because of the riders —
often lovely model types with inappropriate footwear
(platform wedges, high heels, bare feet). Since South
Beach is deceptively spread out, renting a DecoBike can
get you to your next destination in a manner of minutes,
all the while maintaining your tropical chic look
(including your own very inappropriate footwear).
download the DecoBike smart phone app (Spotcycle) for a
map of every DecoBike dock from South Pointe Park north to
94th Street and Harding in Bay Harbor Island, as well as
the number of bikes available at each dock. Plan your
route around the bike stations so you can lock in your
bike when you aren’t using it. If it gets stolen on your
watch, you will be charged.
your itinerary — be it museum hopping from the
Wolfsonian to the Bass or a date with the natural beauty
of the beach and the botanical garden — a DecoBike
station is only a few blocks away. The DecoBike can also
be helpful for a bar crawl. Just pace yourself; bike
riding does require a certain amount of coordination.
at Khong River House (1661 Meridian Ave.), which has a
DecoBike station across the street, and have a gin
cocktail like the Very Thai Gimlet and chow down on a
plate of Udon Noodle Stir Fry. Across the street at the
coffee window at Abuela’s, get a Cuban colada.
your way to the Holocaust Memorial or a museum, make a
pitstop at the SLS Hotel South Beach (17th and Collins)
for another cocktail. Inside at Bar Centro, the cocktail
list contains a few gems like a liquid nitrogen caipirinha
and the Ultimate Gin & Tonic.
it gets dark out, flip on the bike’s headlights and
continue down South of Fifth for a drink at Radio Bar (814
First St.), a pop-up bar turned permanent that opens at 6
p.m. and has happy hour deals until 8 p.m. There is a
DecoBike station at Alton Road and First Street.
you circle South Beach, hitting hotels, bars and museums
(or not), be ready to be stopped by well-heeled tourists
who want to know where they can get one of those bikes.
Their feet are hurting, obviously.
DecoBike has locations throughout South Beach, Surfside,
Bay Harbor Island; www.decobike.com/miamibeach. Bike
rental is $4 for a half-hour, $6 for an hour, $10 for two
hours, $18 for four hours and $24 for a day pass.
A COOKING CLASS
discreetly on the second floor of the Publix in
Plantation, just above the dairy section, is the Aprons
Cooking School — complete with two chef’s kitchens,
seating for 48 and plenty of television screens to watch
close-ups of the cooks at work. You may have never
considered a supermarket as an option for a summer cooking
class, but this hidden gem may just be the best-kept
culinary secret in South Florida.
are given six days a week in either a demonstration or
hands-on format. In the demonstration class we attended,
two Publix sous chefs — Jack Bernowitz and Ray Braynen
— guided the class of nine through a four-course meal
that included wine pairings. The menu, based on a vanilla
bean theme, started with a frisee salad with peaches,
feta, honey and vanilla vinaigrette, then a pan-seared
snapper with whipped potatoes and vanilla buerre noisette,
a grilled pork tenderloin with vanilla and maple sweet
potato gratin, and closed with a vanilla and anise poached
pineapple with vanilla coconut crème brulee.
chef would show you how to make the dish as you watched
from your table while the other chef would prepare the
plates and serve them just as the cooking chef completed
the dish. As they prepared the courses the charismatic
chefs would give you tips (like how to slice the skin of
the snapper so it doesn’t curl as it cooks, or asking
the produce department to slice your pineapple) and answer
questions. They would let you know of ingredients you
could buy at Publix and one-night only discounts on
kitchenware they used during the demonstration. It’s
like dining at the chef’s table of a top restaurant —
but without putting a bruise on your wallet ($40 per
person); literally at times, as top local restaurants
(Morton’s Steakhouse, Truluck’s Seafood) will take
over the kitchen for a demo from their menu.
demonstrations can hold up to 48 people, and do get full
around the holidays, the hands-on classes are for a max of
12 students. Here you stand up around the cooking area and
actually make the food with the chefs, such as sushi or
pasta or fish. Bernowitz, who left a New York restaurant a
year ago to work for Aprons, said students can put
"as much as they want" into learning how to
cook, and that at times husbands who attend the hands-on
classes with their wife may be more comfortable in a
spectator and support role.
Classes and demonstrations range from $35 to $75. Publix
at Plantation is located at 1181 S. University Dr. It is
the only Publix cooking school in Broward and Dade
counties (there’s one in Boca Raton); publix.com/cookingschools.
ON AL CAPONE’S ISLAND
rustled as a lizard skittered through the underbrush, a
small motorboat chugged by on the Intracoastal, a distant
bell signaled a bridge was opening, but I heard no human
was on an almost-deserted island in the Intracoastal
Waterway, a 53-acre triangle near the Broward-Palm Beach
County line. Al Capone once planned to build a mansion
here. But instead, it ended up one of Broward’s wildest
and least-known parks.
Island Park is just north of the Hillsboro Boulevard
Bridge, accessible only by boat. The county provides a
free shuttle from tiny Sullivan Park on weekends and a
six-slip marina for small private boats.
island has trails, although most of the boardwalk through
mangrove swamps was closed after it was discovered that
the support pilings had shifted. Picnic sites, each with a
table and a grill, are scattered in clearings near the
marina, and one pavilion for large parties is available
for rent but barely used.
other weekend, only two other visitors took the shuttle to
the island with me, and we quickly headed in different
directions. Soon, it was as if I were alone on the island.
I followed a winding trail through tunnels of foliage,
past live oak, sea grape and wild coffee plants, strangler
figs climbing larger host trees, ferns growing from the
trunks of palms.
the trail, patches of land were roped off as refuge for
gopher tortoises. The ground was pocked with finger-size
holes where blue land crabs retreated, holes the size of a
child’s fist where armadillos hid their eggs from
raccoons. But I saw no wildlife except small birds that
cried from their perches in trees and a pair of
swallowtail butterflies that followed each other in a
silent dance through the foliage.
Hourly shuttle from Sullivan Park from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
the time we got to Palermo’s Bakery in Boynton Beach, we
were stuffed, so it was fitting that the food set before
us was a platter of stuffed bread. Semolina bread, stuffed
with broccolo or chunks of sausage or strips of roasted
peppers. It was good, and we all managed to stuff
ourselves a little more. And oh yes, with miniature
were on a historical and culinary tour of Delray Beach and
Boynton Beach, and by this point we had eaten shrimp in
remoulade, a Jamaican sampler (curry goat, jerk chicken,
BBQ ribs, cornbread), pizza, mini cupcakes, macarons
(French cookies), and whatever we’d bought for ourselves
at the Delray Beach green market.
tours offer a brief symbiotic relationship. Guests get to
sample food from various eateries without committing to an
entire meal, and the businesses introduce themselves to
people they hope will come back later. A friend who joined
me for the tour was so enamored of Sundy House — our
first stop — with its gorgeous tropical gardens that as
soon as she sampled the shrimp remoulade, she texted her
daughter that she’d found the spot for this year’s
Mother’s Day brunch.
tour has about 30 partners, so the stops rotate and each
tour is different. Guests ride a bus to most stops and
walk between some.
Palm Beach tours — another one goes to Lake Worth and
Lantana — are a bit different from most culinary tours.
Put on by the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History,
they also include a hefty dose of history and culture. We
learned about the history of Delray Beach’s historically
black neighborhood, the churches, Henry Flagler and his
railroad, and other key figures in the town’s history.
We also stopped at the Art House of Delray, a nonprofit
Taste History Culinary Tours of Historic Palm Beach
County, 561-243-2662, .
Tours of Lake Worth/Lantana are held on the second
Saturday of each month. Delray Beach/Boynton Beach on the
third and fourth Saturdays. Cost: $40.
number of other food tours are held in South Florida.
Check these out:
Tours of Miami, walking tours of South Beach on certain
Saturdays and Sundays; www.foodtoursofmiami.com.
Culinary Tours, daily architectural, historical and
culinary walking tours of Miami Beach;
Cuban cuisine tours of Little Havana given by HistoryMiami
about one a month; www.historymiami.org.
Rapids Water Park in West Palm Beach, it’s seldom that
anyone exits a water slide without sporting a dazed grin.
most water parks, Rapids features screaming children,
cheesy pseudo-tropical décor, tattooed customers, and
dizzying water rides. But recently, the nearly 35-year-old
park has added new rides, other features and promotions
that make it ideal for a day-long family visit.
features include the FlowRider wave simulator; poolside
cabanas with personal servers and Wi-Fi; park pavilions
for group events of up to 1,000 people; and a new Gold
Card Season Pass option that offers savings for frequent
good day the 35-acre park can draw 5,000 to 7,000 visitors
— about half of them from Miami-Dade and Broward
counties, said spokeswoman Tina Hatcher. "Here, you
don’t need to drive so many hours to get to Orlando and
then pay for gas and a hotel," Hatcher said. "It’s
an easy thing to drive here and then drive back to Broward
Taleff, 37, a West Palm Beach resident who visited the
park with his wife and three daughters, said: "It’s
like enjoying a vacation for a day."
new visitors come to experience the FlowRider, a simulated
wave system that shoots 30,000 gallons of water per minute
at a body boarder or knee boarder, simulating a 35-mile
per hour wave.
ages can do this," Hatcher said. "You have kids
riding the wave, as well as surfers."
Padrino, a 31-year-old visitor in panama hat and heavy
beard stubble, said the FlowRider "is the best the
park has to offer."
who may be uneasy over the idea of hopping into the park’s
water may be assuaged by Hatcher’s assurances. The park’s
pump system and its employees, she explained, constantly
monitor the water’s chemical levels to ensure
in the water, it is undeniably fun. A drenched Samuel
Guzman, 15, climbed out of raft, post-ride. "It’s
awesome!" he shouted, teeth chattering violently as
he grinned. "The water is a little cold."
Rapids Water Park, 6566 N. Military Trail, West Palm
Beach; 561-848-6272; www.rapidswaterpark.com/index.cfm.
Admission: Monday-Friday (excluding holidays) $38.99;