One hour from...Miami

Put on your Pradas for a day at the seaside
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The Independent Travel

After in-line skating down Ocean Drive with the other beautiful people of South Beach, jump in a convertible (don't even think of being seen in anything less) and cruise down the Keys to shopping nirvana.

After in-line skating down Ocean Drive with the other beautiful people of South Beach, jump in a convertible (don't even think of being seen in anything less) and cruise down the Keys to shopping nirvana.

Bal Harbour

This is the place to see and be seen. Join the Miami babes and golden girls and boys who flock to the most prestigious shopping mall in the world, armed with plenty of greenbacks. Like a Rodeo-Drive-on-Sea, it's packed with an A-Z of haute couture designers from Armani to Zegna. Pick up the perfect Prada bag to go with your gorgeous Gucci kitten heels in preparation for a hot Miami night. Pop across the road for a little R&R at the Ralph Lauren-designed Beach House hotel, where power-pec boys hang out by the pool with girls clad in skimpy D&G swimwear. Fabulous, darling!

By car: head north on Collins Avenue; journey time about 20 minutes.

Haulover Beach Park

Get back to nature on this mile-long stretch of white sand, fringed with dense vegetation. The northern end is one of the few clothing-optional beaches in the area and attracts a mixed clientele. The 1,000ft pier plays host to families and fisher-folk alike and there are plenty of picnic tables and food concessions. There is also a great view of the Miami Beach skyline from the end of the pier.

By car: head north on Collins Avenue past Bal Harbour; journey time about 30 minutes.

Shark Valley

This is the most accessible part of the Everglades. Go early in the day to see the wildlife at its best in the "River of Grass". As well as abundant alligators, there are turtles, otters and snakes to spot. A 15-mile road winds round in a loop through the sawgrass and can be covered by rental bike or tram. The cognoscenti take a picnic to eat at the halfway point, Observation Tower.

By car: take US-41 west and follow signs; journey time about one hour.

Key Largo

The largest of the coral rock isles that make up the Florida Keys, Key Largo is also the closest to the mainland. Head off the commercial strip of US-1 to the coast to see turtles, crocodiles and great white herons. Expect mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks and you won't be disappointed. The Dolphin Cove Research Center offers opportunities to swim with dolphins; booking ahead is essential.

By car: follow US-1 south; journey time about one hour.

Fort Lauderdale

The "Venice of America" is more relaxed than Miami but still brims with bodies beautiful, and has established itself as a gay hotspot. Large private yachts and gin palaces litter the 300 miles of glittering waterways and the waterfront, where you can find the Beach Place shopping and entertainment complex.

By car: follow US-1 north; journey time about 40 minutes.

Key Biscayne and Virginia Key

Cruise across the Rickenbacker Causeway to beautiful Key Biscayne, annual host to the Ericsson Grand Slam Tennis Tournament, which attracts top players and takes place this year from 18 to 31 March. The children will enjoy the dolphin shows at the Seaquarium.

By car: head south on Rickenbacker Causeway; journey time 35 minutes.

America Direct (0870 889 0848; www.americadirect.co.uk) offers return flights from Heathrow for £320 per person and car hire from £34 a day. The Abbey Hotel, 300 21st Street, South Beach, Miami, FL 33139 (001 305 531 0031; www.abbeyhotel.com) has rooms from £70 a night.

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