A place of soul and community, Coconut Grove has long been the spiritual center of Miami. When Miami’s first settlers set foot on the pristine shores of Coconut Grove, they knew they found the ultimate homestead. Here, they’d discovered a landscape that was abundant in natural resources (freshwater springs, arable land) and astounding in its lush tropical beauty.
Coconut Grove offered an unrivaled trifecta: a wild and verdant landscape, the clear-blue waters of Biscayne Bay, and year-round sunlight and warmth. In 1825, Coconut Grove became Florida’s first official settlement, and the area has been considered the soul of Miami ever since.
During the nineteenth century, the population of Coconut Grove slowly grew. In 1882, English immigrants Isabella and Charles Peacock opened the area’s first hotel, the Bay View Inn (later renamed the Peacock Inn). With this institution firmly established, Coconut Grove became a destination for visitors, and it soon gained a reputation as an idyllic haven where life was both dynamic and relaxed, prosperous and simple. In 1887, yacht designer Ralph Middleton Munroe founded the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club, naming himself Commodore.
Though it had long been a hub for mariners, Coconut Grove was now a center of recreational yachting and a known epicenter of the nautical life. Around this time, Coconut Grove’s first families were also planning and building grand waterfront estates, some of which still exist to this day. Munroe’s house, for example, was built in 1891 and still stands in Barnacle Historic State Park, a five-acre park in the heart of Coconut Grove. In 1896, the Florida East Coast Railway was extended to Miami, bringing with it new resources and unprecedented wealth. The gilded age saw the arrival of new residents, many of whom built impressive homes around the bay.
One such estate is Vizcaya (now known as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens), which was the home of businessman James Deering. Originally set on 180 acres, the villa was primarily built between 1914 and 1922 — although its stunning Italian Renaissance gardens were not completed until 1923. During this age of prosperity, Coconut Grove entered the national spotlight for an entirely different reason. With the United States entry into World War, I in 1917, Dinner Key (located in the bay off Coconut Grove) became the site of one of the country’s first naval air stations.
A significant portion of American aviators was trained here, and suddenly, ever-serene Coconut Grove became a center of technology and progress. In the years following the war, the station at Dinner Key became a seaplane hub for Pan American Airways, the world’s most important airline at the time. In 1925, Miami officially annexed Coconut Grove, a controversial decision that was opposed by many longtime residents of the Grove. But despite this official annexation, Coconut Grove retained its relaxed culture and “separatist” spirit.
Though it was — and still is — one of Miami’s most recognizable and cherished neighborhoods, the Grove has always had a culture unto itself, distinct from that of the fast-growing metropolis to the north. It was precisely this spirit and mindset — relaxed, open-minded, creative — that attracted some of the world’s most lauded artists, writers, and creators during the middle part of the twentieth century. Though the Grove was well established as a retreat for wealthy tycoons, it was also a welcoming hideaway for creative people who wished to inhabit a leafy, private world where they could work and live at their own pace. Dozens of American legends took up residence here at some point. Among them were painter John Singer Sargent, poet Robert Frost, playwright Tennessee Williams, and singer Joni Mitchell.
This influx of talent left an indelible mark on Coconut Grove. To this day, it remains a place where tolerance, creativity, and free-thinking are hallmarks of the community. Each year, myriad parades, art festivals, and parties are held here, keeping the celebratory spirit of the Grove alive. Today, nearly 200 years since it was first settled, Coconut Grove remains an idyllic homestead, a place where diverse residents have found their paradise amidst leafy palms and turquoise waters. The Grove is a place of rare balance, where the highest of luxury living commingles with a relaxed, bohemian attitude. Given this inimitable legacy and the area’s unrivaled beauty, the Grove is undeniably the soul of Miami.
Here, the best of upscale living—yachting, high culture, a vibrant society—meets an easy artistic sensibility. Though it’s located just seven miles from downtown Miami, Coconut Grove represents a peaceful retreat from what has become the country’s most cosmopolitan city.
This rare balance between access and escape is one of the many factors that distinguish modern life in the Grove. Coconut Grove is indeed a serene hideaway, but it’s also a welcoming home. The area is known for its worldclass schools: There are seven private schools in the neighborhood, the oldest of which dates back to 1903. In addition to having access to elite education, residents of Coconut Grove are surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
The enclave boasts 16 picturesque parks. Among these is the Kampong, an 11- acre tropical garden that was originally the home of famed horticulturalist Dr. David Fairchild in the early twentieth century. Other cultural destinations include the charming Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Barnacle Historic State Park, and the famed Coconut Grove Playhouse. The storied enclave of Coconut Grove also has a rich tradition of hosting cultural and artistic events. Each year, the larger Miami community comes together for an array of outdoor festivals and celebrations that take place here. The most prominent of these is the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, but the Great Taste of the Grove Food & Wine Festival and the Goombay Festival (a Bahamian carnival) are highly anticipated events as well.
Within the village of Coconut Grove, outdoor cafés and restaurants line the streets, and residents have access to some of Miami’s best shopping. In addition to numerous local boutiques, the neighborhood is home to two open-air malls, CocoWalk and Streets of Mayfair. Given its diverse cultural offerings, unmatched natural beauty, and unique lifestyle balance, Coconut Grove provides an ideal environment for families to put down lasting roots and take their place in the area’s evolving story.