Adventures in Miami: Exploring the Redlands
After two weeks of hectic holidays, and a miserably gray and cloudy Saturday afternoon, we decided we needed a peaceful day driving out in the country. (Yes dear readers, the fabulous and glamorous Miami has an agricultural country side to it!) When I was younger, I used to accompany my mom on trips down to The Redlands. Our day would consist of driving through narrow two lane roads through vast open farm lands in (South) South Florida, in search of plants, fresh fruits and veggies. Every now and then we'd come across old historic Florida homes, newly built McMansions in the middle of nowhere, palm tree farms, fields of u-pick strawberries, tomatoes and fresh flower farms, and quaint corner stores. Nowadays, the only time we drive through The Redlands is on the way down to the Keys.
I did some googling around to see what was open, and if the same spots I visited as a kid were still around, and came across a savvy blogger whose family roots are all over The Redlands, The Redlands Riot. Low and behold, Rob posted a self guided tour of the area with detailed information on everything/anything in The Redlands. Jotted down some ideas, plugged addresses into the GPS and our adventure was ready to begin! (The Redlands is about 28 miles south of Brickell heading down US1, it's not as far as you may think, but it really does take you into another world of the magic city!)
Our first stop was at Burr's Berry Farm, founded in 1965. This is THE strawberry place of my childhood. They have upgraded and modernized their strawberry picking area, so no more bending over, breaking your back searching and picking fruit on your knees.
You can still pick your own strawberries, just walk through the fields and strawberries are at your hand/height level. (Though the best berries were on the bottom and hidden in the leaves...so you still bend down quite often) Rows and rows of searching for the juiciest strawberries, it's quite relaxing and competitive to see who can find the prettiest juicy red ones...you can also pick your own tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, different lettuce and herb varieties. We left with almost 2lbs of berries, for a measly $6. The stand in front also sells already picked fruits and veggies, but those are a tad pricier.
Burr's also sells one of the best strawberry milkshakes I've tasted, along with strawberry sundaes, cupcakes, coffee cakes and pretty much anything else you could add strawberries too.
After some time in the fields at Buur's, we drove by Anderson's Corner: The corner store of the pioneer days. Deteriorating and pretty much not worthy of a picture with all the weeds surrounding it, but still, a historic landmark of South Florida's old farming days.
Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple was our next stop. The Thai Temple is a pretty recent addition to the Homestead area considering the rest of the area's history. Constructed in 2002, we've always wanted to go by and wander through the golden gates of the temple. Surely, in the middle of nowhere, it is the nicest and best location for a Buddhist temple in South Florida. It's quiet, empty streets, and green fields for miles emphasize the peace of truly being disconnected.
When you walk onto the grounds...the incredibly stunning vat (aka Buddhist temple) is the first thing you notice. White buildings, decorated with gold accents and Spanish tiles....how have we not visited this place any sooner? The perfect blend of Thai architecture with a Miami vibe.
The scent of incense and serene silence immediately relaxes you as you walk around and soak in the surroundings. Several monks live at the vat, and are seen walking around most of the time. Sadly, we didn't come across any monks on our visit. There are several do's and don'ts to know before you stop by and visit!
I'm assuming anyone and everyone who has grown up in Miami has had a cinnamon bun and/or milkshake from Knauss Berry Farm. If you haven't, I'm sorry that you were deprived of this sticky warm goodness in your childhood. Saturday mornings, 8am, it is known that lines of determined, hungry customers wrap around the lot waiting for their order of fresh baked hot cinnamon buns. Rather than be an obnoxious, yawning person in line, we decided to make KBF our last stop. Wrong idea. The place is still packed around 4pm. Cars parked all over the street, lines worse than the morning rush....as much as we were in the country side and relaxed, there was no way in hell we were making that line. We're still city dwellers with zero patience and easily annoyed...Guess we'll just have to suck it up and wait in line at 7am next time.
As recent urban balcony gardeners there were two more farms we wanted to check out, Redland Organic Herb Farm and Fairchild Farm Fruit Market. Both farms were already closed for the day, so we'll have to make another drive down south to visit them and everything else we missed!
Besides the spots we visited, there are many other Miami Musts to do in The Redlands and surrounding areas. Coral Castle, Monkey Jungle, Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park, Everglades Alligator Farm, Robert is Here, Phil's Berry Farm, Cauley Square, Schnebly Winery, Fruit and Spice Park, and more are all within a few miles. If you're on the hunt for fresh, local organic farms, stop by Redland Organics for information, most of the farms sell to the public or offer CSA shares. Be sure to check farm hours on their websites, and note that most farms are cash only!
If you're planning on a fun day trip down to The Redlands in the near future, check out the Redland Heritage Festival on Saturday, January 11 and Sunday, January 12, 2014 and Rob's Redland Riot Road Rallye on Saturday, January 18, 2014. A $10 scavenger hunt by car with fun gifts and prizes awarded at the end of the day.