The Oleta River runs through the northern reaches of the metropolitan Miami area. While Miami is famous for its glitz and glamor, over the top shopping, and clubs, as well as its showy Atlantic Ocean beaches, those from farther away may miss out on this, the largest of all Florida’s urban state parks. Locally it is thought of as the Central Park of the Sunshine State. It is an incredible natural escape from the glittery city that surrounds it.
Refreshing the park is the Intracoastal Waterway and the scenic Oleta River. The river no longer flows northward to the Everglades. However, many of its ancient features can still be seen in the 1,043-acre park. The river’s name “Oleta” was selected by Florida land boom developers in 1922. The term “Oleta” means “Old Home Springs.”
The signature features of the Oleta River State Park include the beach on Biscayne Bay, the paved hiking trails, the relaxing and challenging bike trails, convenient kayak rentals, bird watching, and fishing. The human-made sandy beach is 1,200-feet long. It is in a protected position that offers calm when the ocean beaches are too windy to enjoy. Manatees are often spotted lazing along the shoreline.
Oleta River State Park offers miles of off-road bicycling trails. So whether you are a beginner or enjoy the thrill of challenging trails, there’s something for everyone. You can rent a bike, which is a great convenience for families, or you can bring your own. Mountain bikers will be surprised by the hilly terrain as they enjoy the rigors and delights of the Gilligan’s Island four-part Diamond track, a loop with dips, obstacles, and technical challenges.
There are canoe and kayak rentals at the park, too; in fact, some portions of the park are only accessible by these crafts, affording a water level view of the old mangroves and the subtropical setting. Hikers can explore more than ten miles of walking trails. And your well-behaved dog is welcome to hike with you, kept on a leash.
There is a per-car fee to enter the park, there are rustic but air-conditioned cabins you can rent for an overnight stay, as well picnic tables, grills, and pavilions that can be rented. Weekdays are usually quiet; weekends are hectic between May and October. Oleta River State Park has so much to offer: Coves and beaches, native Florida wildlife species, ample parking, and relaxation in an old Florida setting.
So why not start planning a summer trip? And for those of you who have been here before we’d love to hear about your experience!