We are using Miami as a staging point for our onward journey to Rio, where we fly to late on Tuesday night for the Olympics. I am a big Miami fan and know the city and it’s assorted environs pretty well. Today however we saw Miami from a different vantage point. From the water.
We booked a morning boat tour with Ocean Force Adventures, and a 30 ft rigid inflatable boat, or RIB, with our own captain, who doubled as a very knowledgable guide. He took us on a two and half hour tour of Miami’s waters getting up close to the celebrity mansions of Star Island, Palm Island and Fisher Island, the enormous Port of Miami and busy cruise ship terminal (1 in every 7 passenger cruise ships in the world departs from here), Key Biscayne, Biscayne National Park, Cape Florida Lighthouse, the historic Miami River and some mouthwatering views of the downtown Miami, Brickell and South Beach skylines.
We also saw up close something I never knew existed. Sat out in the ocean off Biscayne Bay is an underwater 172,000 acre National Park. There’s a dozen or so man-made islands, a host of wildlife, including dolphins, a family of whom followed us around for a bit today plus something quite odd.
A mile offshore in view of the Cape Florida Lighthouse are a curious collection of houses perched on stilts sat on sand banks. The sea homes are collectively known as Stiltsville and legend has it that Stiltsville’s first shack was built by a man known as “Crawfish” Eddie Walker in 1933. It was the time of prohabtion so beer was available as was bait and Eddie’s delicious crawfish chowder.
Eddie’s island kingdom also offered gambling, which was apparently legal if located at least one mile offshore. A few years later Eddie was joined by a handful of other social clubs, whose members also appreciated the legal leeway that came with distance from the mainland, and by the bohemian 60’s there were 27 stilt homes in total.
The houses look like they have been drawn by a young child with colourful crayons. Colourful, defiant, decaying. Like mirages they sit apart on the water as if they’ve had a fall out with each other yet represent some sort of bygone community.
Hurricanes, fires and probably some excessive partying means that only seven remain, but I’m glad I found out about them before they all disappeared.