Since 2015, Zika virus (ZIKV) has spread throughout Latin and Central America. This emerging infectious disease has been causing considerable public health concern because of severe neurological complications, especially in newborns after congenital infections. In July 2016, the first outbreak in the continental United States was identified in the Wynwood neighbourhood of Miami-Dade County, Florida. In this work, we investigated transmission dynamics using a mathematical model calibrated to observed data on mosquito abundance and symptomatic human infections. We found that, although ZIKV transmission was detected in July 2016, the first importation may have occurred between March and mid-April. The estimated highest value for R0 was 2.73 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.65–4.17); the attack rate was 14% (95% CI: 5.6–27.4%), with 15 (95% CI: 6–29) pregnant women involved and a 12% probability of infected blood donations. Vector control avoided 60% of potential infections. According to our results, it is likely that further ZIKV outbreaks identified in other areas of Miami-Dade County were seeded by commuters to Wynwood rather than by additional importation from international travellers. Our study can help prepare future outbreak-related interventions in European areas where competent mosquitoes for ZIKV transmission are already established.