A hidden getaway in urban Miami, Deering Estate is worth discovering
~The Deering Estate south of Miami offers a sweeping view of Biscayne Bay that is like a soothing balm on jangled urban nerves. The view alone is worth the visit, but this Miami-Dade County park offers much more.
Located south of Miami, the Deering Estate was the home from 1922 to 1927 of Charles Deering, the wealthy industrialist who was chairman of International Harvester. His half-brother, millionaire industrialist James Deering, built Vizcaya, the Mediterranean palace and gardens also overlooking Biscayne Bay, which is far better known as a Miami landmark.
The Deering Estate is not as ostentatious as Vizcaya and unlike Vizcaya, it lacks its original furnishings. Yet, the Deering Estate has a magic about it, and Yelp reviews are full of people calling it a hidden gem and marveling that they had never been here before.
The Deering Estate is more than historic buildings, it also preserves a remarkable 444-acre parcel of land, which includes pine rockland and coastal tropical hardwood hammock plus mangroves, salt marshes and a coastal dune island.
The site is full of all sorts of stories and history: In an area open only on naturalist-led tours, you can see a 350-year-old oak tree that grows atop a Tequesta Indian Burial Mound.
Visitors can tour two historic buildings that were the home to Charles Deering. Guided tours are offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and are well worth attending. (Tours are included with admission price.)
The Deering Estate tour starts at the 1900 Richmond Cottage. It was originally a hotel in the historic town of Cutler, which disappeared when the railroad passed it by. Deering bought the Richmond Cottage and moved it to his estate.
The other building, the Stone House, is a grand castle-like place Deering built as his home in 1922. Its design was inspired by two castles in Sitges, Spain. Without its original furnishings, the big Stone House seems hauntingly empty, but that is part of its magic. The spaces and views of Biscayne Bay are stunning and without the period furniture, visitors are allowed to wander through the rooms on their own after the tour.
One of my favorite spots on the Deering Estate is the wine cellar — don’t miss it!
Hidden behind a false-wall and a three-ton bank vault door in the basement is a room that housed 4,500 bottles of champagne, wine and spirits, hidden during the Prohibition. It was flooded by a 1945 hurricane and its combination lost. It remained sealed until 1985, when the Deering Estate became a public park and Deering’s new owners hired a famous safe-cracker to break in. The wine cellar has been restored to include hundreds of vintage bottles. Here’s the whole story of the wine cellar.
The appeal of the Deering Estate extends beyond the historic homes.
The most photographed feature is the boat basin on Biscayne Bay, lined with rows of majestic royal palm trees stretching out into Biscayne Bay. In the winter, it’s a spot favored by manatees. Nearby are picnic tables and open space where you can stretch out on a blanket. Visitors are struck by the feeling of isolation of the place; how far away Miami’s bustle appears.
A boardwalk through the mangroves extends along the bay, ideal for meandering when the weather is cooler.
From October to May, the Deering Estate offers a variety of guided hikes and activities, including night-time ghost tours, concerts, a seafood festival and open houses at the seasonal visiting-artist village.
Kayak Biscayne Bay from the Deering Estate
On Saturdays and Sundays, visitors can rent kayaks for $10 an hour. Deering Estate supplies kayaks, life vests, paddles and small dry bags for personal belongings. Guests must be 21 years of age to kayak solo, or accompanied by a parent or legal guardian if between the ages of 9-10. Contact the Deering Estate ticket office at (305) 235-1668 x.233 for availability.
Special Deering Adventure Tours and guided canoe trips to the offshore island of Chicken Key are available for an additional fee. Chicken Key is a seven-acre mangrove island and restored bird rookery one-mile offshore in Biscayne Bay. The island contains sand dunes and mangrove forests and is surrounded by sand bars, tidal flats, seagrass beds and rocky debris.
Final Deering Estate fascinating fact :
More than 20 years ago, on Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew came ashore near the Deering Estate. The 170-mile-per-hour winds and the 16-foot storm surge did millions of dollars of damages to the property. Photos from the aftermath show unimaginable damage, yet it has all been lovingly restored.
Deering Estate at Cutler
16701 SW 72 Ave.
Miami FL 33157
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last ticket is sold at 4 p.m.) Open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving.
- Admission: $12 for adults and $7 for youth (ages 4-14). Admission includes self-guided programs and naturalist led tours of the historic Stone House and Richmond Cottage. The historic house tours are held daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. The natural areas tour is held daily at 12:30 p.m. from October to May. Tours meet on the front porch of the Richmond Cottage.
- Deering Estate website
- Deering Estate tours, classes and programs