As I walked historic Charles St. in West Coconut Grove, four minivans packed with tourists passed me on a drive-by of Coconut Grove Cemetery, but none of them stopped. Also known as West Grove or Black Grove, the neighborhood's rough reputation keeps white foot traffic to a minimum, but in reality, it's safer by day and more rewarding than people realize.
The cemetery of prone tomb stones and scatter of wooden "Conch" cottages in the surrounding streets belong to a community whose Bahamian ancestors were among Miami's founding families. (The Conch architectural style of building on piers came to South Florida from the islands.) You could almost say Bahamians pioneered Miami, although no one does. At a time when only Seminole Indians occupied the Florida mainland, they sailed and settled here on the Miami River.
As white families and black workers joined them, a segregated community called Jack's Bight developed -- today's Coconut Grove -- that often joined forces for common goals.
"My great, great grandfather was one of the signers of the city charter, although he wasn't allowed to vote," said a resident whose family has been established here since the late 1800s.
Bicycling is a great way to take in the West Grove, starting at the Saturday farmers market at 3300 Grand Ave. The produce supplied by
Glaser Organic Farms may come from all over -- South Florida's growing season is seriously heat challenged -- but the people are as exotic as the tropical fruits.
Find the cemetery at 3650 Charles Avenue, and wind around the side streets where the old houses are immediately recognizable.
Coconut Grove's main magnet, CocoWalk, is touristy but has fun restaurants and bars (3015 Grand Ave.). Better to take your picnic to a grassy bayfront spot in Peacock Park (2820 McFarlane Rd.), where, for all you multitasking sports types, you'll also find a skateboard park and lessons.