Just a mile away from Downtown Miami and nearby the Key Biscayne Island is Virginia Key Beach Park, a preserved park and a truly oasis just in the heart of one of the most vibrant cosmopolitan centers in the world. Besides having one of the most beautiful beaches of Miami, the island is famous for the well preserved natural beauty and also for its history about the segregation time in the United States. Other attractions in the island are the famous Miami Seaquarium and the Miami Marine Stadium. Access to the island is by Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects Miami to Key Biscayne and Virginia Key islands.
Virginia Key Beach Park: Truly oasis in the heart of Miami
The park administration works together with the city of Miami not only to preserve the biodiversity of the island, but also the historical and cultural richness of Virginia Key, from the time of racial segregation in the United States. Virginia Key was for many years the only island “Colored Only” (Learn more on the topic below: “History of Virginia Key”).
Virginia Key Beach: the “anti-South-Beach”
Unlike South Beach and other trendy beaches in Florida, Virginia Key offers a quieter environment that allows real contact with nature. You won’t see supermodels or celebrities showing themselves off. It is a different public.. just “normal” people and families enjoying their children, doing picnics, swimming, fishing, etc.
You must pay for access to the beach (about $ 8), but the ride is worth it. The beach offers complete infrastructure with parking, picnic shelters; bathrooms; rent chairs, umbrellas and tents; Kayak rentals, Snorkeling and Stand up Paddle. There are security guards and lifeguards.
Besides water sports the island also offers trails for bike cross in the north part. For mountain bike lovers this is a unique experience to be in touch with the natural beauty of Virginia Key (see next topic).
Virginia Key Miami Mountain Bike Trail
In the northern part of Virginia Key there is a mountain bike trail built by volunteers from Virginia Key Bike Club ( VCBC ) in partnership with the park and the Miami City Hall.
Biking in the trail is a delightful and unique opportunity to experience the contrast of being surrounded by the impressive natural environment of the island while at the same time feel the vibrations of being in the heart of Miami, enjoying Biscayne Bay view.
Below is an image of the trails (courtesy of the VKBC – click on the image for a larger picture).
The trails offers three levels of difficult: Novice, Intermediate and Advanced.
Novice: This level offers most flat trails with minor elevation.
Intermediate: The Intermediate level offers trails with climbs and drops with moderate elevation. In some points there are also bermed corners (where bikers can try taking them at speed). There are also some points with different elevations to test bikers balance.
Advanced: Advanced trails have a qualifier at the entrance so bikers can try to complete the qualifier before deciding to go for the complete trail. If bikers are able to complete the qualifier without putting the feet down, then they are well qualified for the complete run. Advance trails might also have difficult climbs and descents which are very hard to go up and really fast to go down. At some points there will be bridges, stones, tight corners and other obstacles.
You can learn more about the Mountain Bike Trail by waching this video
The Mini Train Station & The Historic Carousel
An interesting fact in Virginia Key Beach Park is the historic carousel and the mini train station, both built in the ’50s, At that time carousels and mini trains where common entertainments you could see nearby the main beaches. Today is quite hard to see one , but in Virginia Key Beach Park both have been restored and remain today for those who want to enjoy. The carousel and mini train where restored preserving it’s original characteristics (see pictures below)
Virginia Key Miami History
The Virginia Key Island brings considerable cultural and historical heritage, dating back to sad time of racial segregation in the United States. For a long time Virginia Key was a “Colored Only” beach.
The racial segregation period in the USA has lasted for over 100 years even after the Civil War put an end to slavery in 1865. This sad racist attitude was most evident in the southern US states. Only in the late 60s with the laws of Civil Rights (1964) and the right to vote (1967) there was a guarantee of equal rights without discrimination based on race, thus ending the period of institutionalized racial segregation in the United States.
Until 1945, due to the existing racial segregation, no Miami Beach gave access to african-americanas, Hispanics or any other people considered of darker complex. At this time Miami was already a pretty tourist town known for its beautiful beaches. Many tourists came from the north of the country where segregation was frowned upon. This caused discomfort to the political and Miami authorities.
On 1 August 1945 an agreement between the Miami authorities and african-american leaders in the region was established decreeing Beach Virginia Key as “Coloured Only” . Virginia Key Beach became the only beach in Miami that allowed access to so-called African-americans.
At that time there was no road or access linking the mainland to the island. Access was made by fishing boats of the local african-american community. At the end of the day, whoever missed the last boat back had to spend the night over the island.
In 1947 the road known as Rickenbacker Causeway was built, connecting the mainland to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Picnic shelters and other infrastructure were made in Virginia Key. When Congress passed the laws of Civil Rights (1964) and the right to vote (1967), which guaranteed equal rights without discrimination based on race, thus ending the institutionalized segregation. With the official ban on segregation in the United States, all the other beaches of Miami have come to accept african-americans.