Ghost tours, Indian burial grounds and other family adventures

Pictured are Palmetto Bay residents Adam and Jennifer Levy with their children, Aidan and Jordyn, enjoying an afternoon at the Deering Estate.
Pictured are Palmetto Bay residents Adam and Jennifer Levy with their children, Aidan and Jordyn, enjoying an afternoon at the Deering Estate.

With school back in session and family vacation time lost to the daily grind of the school year, family adventures don’t have to wait until the next school break.

In our own backyard is the Deering Estate at Cutler, a wonderful spot for families or individuals to enjoy the bay, some Miami history and ecology. The Deering Estate has been called Miami’s best kept secret.

Situated on 444 acres along the shore of Biscayne Bay in Palmetto Bay, the estate is open every day to visitors. It is operated by the Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department in partnership with the Deering Estate Foundation, a charitable, community-based non-profit organization overseen by a volunteer board of directors and the foundation’s executive director, Mary Pettit.

Individual day passes to the estate may be purchased at the gate for $12 for adult and $7 for children. Alternatively, you can visit as often as you like throughout the year by purchasing an annual membership from the foundation. That serves as an annual admission pass during regular operating hours, as well as free admission to the popular Deering Seafood Festival held in March each year. Memberships can only be purchased through the foundation either online or by calling the membership office at 305-235-1668, ext. 263. An annual family membership is $95 dollars, and individual and couple memberships are also available. Membership at Deering provides free admission to many special tours and activities including night hikes complete with s’mores over a camp fire.

Few know that paranormal activity has been identified at the estate. Regular ghost tours, if you dare, are conducted, typically during evening. From a lecture about paranormal activity at the estate to conducting your own guided investigation after dark, the ghost tours are fun and exciting for all.

For those hearty souls, there is a “Spookover” from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. on select nights. The 444-acre Deering Estate was once inhabited by a band of Tequesta Indians and a walk or hike along the many trails on the property will lead visitors to ancient burial grounds and many Indian artifacts. Guided tours are offered daily.

Tours and trails lead through some of the world’s most environmentally sensitive habitats, including a hardwood hammock where endangered plants and species, including beautiful exotic butterflies, can be seen. The Deering trails can be walked as part of a guided tour or self-guided tour.

After your hike, you can relax on the estate’s expansive lawn on the shore of Biscayne Bay, enjoy a family picnic and often observe manatees frolic in the beautiful boat basin. Or you can find your way to the People’s Dock and drop a fishing line.

When sitting on the lawn of the Estate, some will remember that the rows of the tall Royal Palm Trees were used in an aerial shot during the opening credits of the 1980s hit TV series Miami Vice.

For the more adventurous, the estate provides kayak rentals on weekends to access and paddle along the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay. Special sunrise and moonlight guided canoe trips are available to Chicken Key, a sevenacre mangrove island located a mile offshore. Check the website for dates.

Deering Estate, originally the outpost town of Cutler, was purchased and renovated by International Harvester Corp. industrialist Charles Deering between 1916 and 1922. Closed for decades as the home fell into disrepair, the gates were re-opened to visitors in 1986 when the estate was purchased from Deering’s heirs by the state of Florida and Miami-Dade County.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can tour the historic buildings on the property, including the prohibition era wine cellar hidden in the basement of the main house, as the foundation and the county work to bring the estate back to life, while preserving Florida’s history and Deering’s legacy.

Join the foundation and make the Deering Estate at Cutler your back yard on the bay. Enjoy all of the great family adventures and activities the estate offers while helping to restore and preserve this beautiful property. With a family membership, it’s a great value and a worthy investment in helping to sustain this community treasure. To join, go to <> or call 305-235- 1668, ext. 263.

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