While, technically speaking, Miami is listed as part of the Gold Coast, for our purposes it is very much an area in its own right, a vast, sprawling conurbation of almost 2,000 square miles and nearly six million people. Its official centre is Downtown Miami, but there is also Miami Beach, the suburb of Miami Lakes, South Miami and North Miami Beach. South Beach, or SoBe, is the Art Deco district of Miami Beach, while other notable suburban areas are the island of Key Biscayne, gorgeous Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. The city has a high immigrant population and great ethnic diversity, hence you’ll find neighbourhoods like Little Havana and Little Haiti, where the Caribbean influences are extremely strong and Spanish is widely spoken.
While Miami International Airport doesn’t have as many direct flights a week as Orlando, both British Airways and Virgin do fly here daily, while Fort Lauderdale is barely half an hour’s drive to the north. It is a good three-and-a-half-hour drive from Orlando but only an hour’s flight, while a new high-speed rail link from Miami to Orlando should be operating by late 2019.
This is the place to come for some of the most famous beaches in Florida, scintillating nightlife, culture and the arts (including several great museums), the swankiest resorts, memorable dining and an overall Latin flair that culminates each year in Calle Ocho, “the largest block party in the world,” throughout Little Havana over 10 days each March.
Miami was founded in 1896 after railroad tycoon Henry Flagler was persuaded to bring his burgeoning rail route south from Palm Beach. It was named for the Miami River, which in turn took its name from an 18th century Indian tribe. Its reputation as a great holiday destination grew in the 1940s and 50s, and it became a favourite haunt of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, and it has enjoyed renewed growth and popularity since the 1990s. This is also the Cruise Capital of the World, with more cruise ships calling at Miami than anywhere else.