Pretty much since my earliest days in Miami I’ve loved Coconut Grove (“The Grove”). It’s not only really walkable with a lot to do, but it has charm and character. It feels more to me like a medium city’s town center than a neighborhood of a big city. Back before the bars in Wynwood developed, it was also one of the few places to go with a concentration of more relaxed bars. It has some great restaurants and one of the closest movie theaters to downtown (especially if you didn’t want to deal with South Beach traffic).
Coconut Grove is the oldest neighborhood in Miami (at least that’s still inhabited). Some of its earlier residents were Bahamians or originally came from the Northeastern United States. It also was home to one of the earliest black communities in South Florida. It used to be it’s own city and then was annexed by the city of Miami in the 20s. I think there has always been a bit of discontent over that annexation by some Grove-ites. More recently some businesses re-branded the Grove as the “Nearby Republic of Coconut Grove” I think partially out of that discontent…
The Grove is stocked full of restaurants, shops (both national stores and boutiques), bars, and historical buildings. For a while the Grove had gone relatively “cookie cutter” with a lot of national stores and chain restaurants (most concentrated in CocoWalk Mall) from its time as Miami’s 60s hippie center. While many of those places are still there, the Grove I feel like on a resurgence with more local restaurants and boutique/local shops filling up storefronts or planning to open, like new locations of Harry’s Pizzeria and Panther Coffee. Some other favorites of mine are GreenStreet Cafe, Jaguar Ceviche, and Monty’s (down on the water near City Hall). CocoWalk Mall isn’t terrible, but the best parts are definitely outside of it in my opinion.
One “recent” weekend (I am catching up on a number of posts) I really wanted to get out of downtown. It was Ultra Weekend and it was talking place half a block from my apartment… I wanted to do an adventure that wouldn’t be too hard to get to. Bonus points if I didn’t have to try and get my car out of the Ultra traffic nightmare to get there. The Grove came to mind because I really wanted to check out Plymouth Congregational Church. I had come across a few pictures and boy did it look cool! I always had enjoyed many of the Grove’s churches, schools, and historic homes I’d seen along Old Main Highway. Plymouth I had never seen directly, because it’s a bit off the road, but its stone wall had certainly caught my attention many times. I also knew I could take the Metrorail reasonably close to the Grove (the Coconut Grove station is about a mile from the center of the Grove’s business district) and then walk or try and find a Car2Go.
I was already committed to doing the Grove when my friend from Oregon texted me the night before. All it contained was a screenshot of a map of the Grove with the Cruz Building highlighted… Kind of a freaky coincidence to say the least. For a while there wasn’t even a message to go with it… Eventually I found out (when I was on my Grove adventure the next day) that his cousin was getting married at the Cruz Building and he wanted some suggestions on Airbnbs. He asked if I liked the Grove. As I mentioned above I already loved the Grove, but partway through my adventure my response was along the lines of “I LOVE THE GROVE!!!” Hopefully why is clear below.
I decided to walk from the Coconut Grove station and at first it’s nothing special going down 27th Avenue from US-1. But then I veered off after Bird Road and got into a part of the Grove that has a lot of trees and foliage. There’s a mix of new and old buildings (some quite old). It’s pretty quiet and calm back there. It’s all residential at this point, but I still loved walking down the streets and seeing where I ended up.
Eventually I got more into the center of the Grove and my attention was drawn to the Mayfair Building. I had been to the Mayfair once for brunch and also had just been by many times. It was always a really interesting building, but this time I noticed parts I hadn’t even seen before. I walked around the Mayfair and got some shots of the the building. I also enjoyed being in that part of the Grove near the Mayfair and behind CocoWalk. It’s not as busy most times as other parts of the Grove, but I love the feel and atmosphere. It almost seems European to me with the courtyards and “narrower” streets with (somewhat) tall buildings “towering” over.
I then made my way past the CocoWalk Mall and down Commodore Avenue to Old Main Highway. The area around Commodore, Main, and Grand Avenue has a lot of restaurants and stores. I passed the Cruz Building and was blown away that I had never noticed it before. It’s stunning! It looks like it’s straight out of New Orleans. I Googled it and saw that the inside is just as impressive (Google it- you won’t regret it). I made my way down Old Main Highway past the Coconut Grove Playhouse (unfortunately currently vacant, but there always is the hope it’ll be renovated and reopened). After a few blocks the businesses begin to fade away and you are passing a lot of homes (or their hedges/gates), schools, and churches. Many of the homes are historic (for Miami) and on the water side can be quite large.
On my walk I passed the most expensive house listed for sale in Miami at $65 million- La Brisa. I also passed Ransom Everglades School and then made it to Plymouth Congregational Church a few blocks from the end of the business district. Plymouth Church exceeded all of my expectations! It was built in 1917 and was modeled after an old Spanish mission. It’s now covered in a good amount of ivy. I also visited right before a wedding ended and there was a historic Rolls Royce parked out front, which only added to the awesomeness!
Across the street from Plymouth is the Chabad of the Grove. I had just read an article about chalkboards they had set up with the title “To Make A Better World.” There then were lines of “I will _________” and chalk available for people to write in their commitments to make the world a better place. It was pretty cool to walk by and see.
I kept walking down Old Main Highway past Carrolton School (always been a fan of their gate) and then down Douglas Road. Along the way I passed the Kampong, which is a National Tropical Botanical Garden and the only one outside Hawaii. I’ve been meaning to go for years and really need to finally get on it! Most of the walk has the big trees arching over the road and a lot of foliage, which is why I’ve always been in love with the Grove in the first place.
At that point I had walked a decent amount and I figured I might as well walk down to the Coral Gables Waterway and the traffic circle where LeJeune hits Old Cutler Road. I’d love to have walked down Ingraham Highway, but there are no sidewalks or paths and the road is narrow. Instead I continued down Douglas Road, took Edgewater Drive when Douglas ended, and still ended up at the bridge over the waterway and the two parks along it- Ingraham Terrace Park and Cartagena Park. I walked through and looked down on the waterway before walking back the route I came. Eventually I went all the way back to Coconut Grove Metrorail Station. In total I walked about 7 miles… Far more than I was expecting, but it was worth it.
Surprisingly this was going to be just a photo blog initially, but it certainly has turned into something more. I guess when I start talking about the Grove I just can’t stop. I know most visitors come to Miami and want to do South Beach (and now Wynwood), but I think the Grove is absolutely worth a stop. You get a great sense of kind of old school Miami and there are so many cool places to see (Plymouth Church, Cruz Building, etc.). Take a look at the pics below with their names in the captions. And take some time to visit “The Grove!”
*3015 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove, FL is the address for the CocoWalk Mall, which is centrally located and a good reference point for the Grove.