A compact, immaculately manicured community, KEY BISCAYNE , five miles off mainland Miami, is a great place to live - if you can afford it. The moneyed of Miami fill the island's upmarket homes; Richard Nixon had a presidential winter house here. The only way onto Key Biscayne is along the four-mile Rickenbacker Causeway ($1 toll), a continuation of SW 26th Road just south of downtown, which soars high above Biscayne Bay, giving a gasp-inducing view of the Brickell Avenue skyline.
Crandon Park Beach , a mile along Crandon Boulevard (the continuation of the main road from the causeway), is one of the finest landscaped beaches in the city, with crystal-clear waters, barbecue grills and sports facilities (daily 8am-dusk; $4 per car; tel 305/361-7385). Three miles of yellow-brown beach fringe the park, and give access to a sand bar enabling knee-depth wading far from shore.
Crandon Boulevard terminates at the entrance to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area , four hundred wooded acres covering the southern extremity of Key Biscayne (daily 8am-dusk; $3.25 per car; tel 305/361-5811). Hurricane Andrew took a devastating toll on the area in 1992, but most of the destroyed trees are beginning to grow back thanks to aggressive replanting, and the trails and boardwalks have been repaired. An excellent swimming beach lines the Atlantic-facing side of the park, and a boardwalk cuts around the wind-bitten sand dunes toward the 1820s Cape Florida lighthouse . Only with the ranger-led tour can you climb through the 95ft structure - attacked by Seminoles in 1836 and incapacitated by Confederate soldiers aiming to disrupt Union shipping during the Civil War.