If you are looking for a day of fun in the sun without the beach crowds, take a drive south to John Pennekamp State Park. The park is approximately one hour south of Miami, and it is extremely easy to get to. Located in Key Largo, the park allows you to enjoy the relaxing, laid-back atmosphere of The Keys without having to drive all the way down to Key West.
Pay for parking upon arrival, which is based on vehicle occupancy. Then you can enjoy a full day of activities for all levels of ability and intensity. You can take a snorkel tour, a glass-bottom boat tour, or simply enjoy the beach. Campsites are also available.
On our recent visit my family enjoyed an afternoon of kayaking through the mangroves. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent by the hour and include mandatory life-jacket. This is a great activity for all age levels, even if you have no experience paddling.
Navigating the waters around the mangroves is an amazingly relaxing experience - as if you had stepped back in time, no noise, no traffic, just beautiful natural surroundings. Your boat rental includes a water-proof map, so you are very unlikely to get lost.
Restrooms include shower and changing areas. I highly recommend a change of clothing, as you will get wet kayaking or canoeing. Water shoes are also a good idea - as well as sunscreen.
Picnic tables are available right next to the water so you can bring your own lunch, or purchase from the snack shop. The beach area is not large and it's not fancy, but it's a great way to cool off after an active day.
My family makes it a point to visit the park at least once a year, and it is always a great escape from the hustle & bustle of Miami life without having to hop on a plane.