Miami Beach

The world-famous island, also called the “Million Dollar Sandbar,” is known for its vibrant mix of cultures and scenic beaches. Come here for a much different experience than other Florida sights.

Reader rating:
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The Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach's South Beach light up the strip at night. [Scott Keeler | Florida Beach Insider photo]
Pros
  • A unique and vibrant culture that you aren’t going to find anywhere else in Florida.
  • An international destination with more than enough to explore for days on end.
  • Lively nightlife keeps the party going until the wee hours.
Cons
  • It’s mega-expensive — parking, food, drinks, just about everything.
  • The traffic deserves its own circle by Dante.
  • Constant construction and nonstop crowds.

Say “Florida” to just about anyone in the world, and the first city they’ll probably think of is “Miami Beach.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean “Miami,” mind you. This nine-mile-long barrier island town is actually separate from the mainland city. Miami Beach is a resort city of about 90,000, and is a favorite destination for tourists, snowbirds and celebrities alike.

Long before Art Deco hotels and South Beach, the city had humble beginnings, when the island was but a sandbar covered in mangroves and swamps. Miami Beach’s modern history more or less begins in the 1880s, when investors attempted to build a coconut plantation in what was previously an all-but-uninhabited island off the coast.

Two Quakers from New Jersey, John Collins and son-in-law Thomas Pancoast bought the land around the turn of the last century. They first switched from coconuts to avocados, but then decided developing the island was the best bet. Collins struck a deal with automobile magnate (and Indianapolis 500 founder) Carl Fisher to help finish a wooden bridge to the mainland, where the Venetian Causeway is now.

By the time the town was incorporated in 1915, dredging and filling operations had almost doubled the size of the land, which was largely cleared and criss-crossed by canals. The island was dotted with estates, a golf course and hotels — the first of which, Browns Hotel at 112 Ocean Drive, is still standing and taking guests (although the steakhouse on the first floor is the popular draw).

The Roaring ‘20s roared loudest in Miami Beach, which rode the boom to dizzying heights through Prohibition, the Great Depression and two World Wars. It wasn’t until the 1960s that “the Beach” hit a decline, when the tourists left and the town’s population began to gray significantly, even as a wave of Cuban refugees moved to the area.

The area became cool again in the 1980s, after an influx of gay and lesbian residents preserved or rebuilt homes, and made Miami Beach a center of art and culture.

In subsequent years, Miami Beach has become one of the hottest resort spots in the world, with a unique mix of cultures, and exceptional weather, turquoise waters and manicured sand — most of which has been dredged up from elsewhere and brought here.

The Hispanic influence can’t be understated. Half the residents of Miami Beach are of Hispanic ancestry, and one in five people are of Cuban descent. This mix of cultures is apparent everywhere: Crossing Biscayne Bay is like entering a separate universe of fritas, bachata and Art Deco.

Just as eclectic is the mix of celebrities who frequent the streets. If star-spotting is your thing, this is probably your best bet outside of Hollywood.

That star power surely helps South Beach’s famed nightlife, notable for its club atmospheres, mysterious speakeasies and 5 a.m. closing times. If you’re planning on going out, don’t expect it to get crowded until near midnight.

There’s still a little something for everyone here, however, because there’s much more to Miami Beach than SoBe!

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GETTING THERE

Children play in the surf on South Beach. [Douglas R. Clifford | Florida Beach Insider photo]

If you’re coming in from more than, let’s say, a couple hundred miles away, your best bet is to fly into Miami International Airport (MIA), which is shoehorned into the urban jungle about 11 miles inland. From there you can get a taxi, shuttle, ride-sharing service or a bus to the beach.

From MIA you can take the Airport Expressway (State Road 112) which turns into Interstate 195 and crosses Biscayne Bay over the Julia Tuttle Causeway, leading to the middle of the island. Another option is the Dolphin Expressway (State Road 836), which charges a toll but goes straight to South Beach over the MacArthur Causeway, changing first to I-395, then A1A. The first option is faster, but the second option is more glam, passing by downtown Miami, the cruise ships docked in Port Miami and Star Island.

For a change of pace, you also could get off the Interstate and take NE 15th Street to get to Venetian Causeway, where the first bridge to Miami Beach was built. For North Beach, take NE 79th Street (State Road 934) to the John F. Kennedy Causeway.

You also could fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which is only about 30 miles north of Miami Beach. It’s possible to take Interstate 95 all the way down, with similar transportation options also available at FLL.

If, for some reason, you decide to drive into the Miami area, be prepared. Not only is the traffic intense, but the drivers double the danger by largely being either careless or overly aggressive. Roads can be cramped and in disrepair, and clearly underserve the amount of people sandwiched between the coast and the Everglades.

To add to the hectic roads, construction is an everyday sight. (What’s the state bird? The construction crane.) Beyond the usual overdevelopment, Miami-Dade County in general and Miami Beach specifically are dealing with the eventuality of sea-level rise. In an effort to fight increasingly bad flooding, there are scads of projects focused on drainage, canals, road-raising and more.

Once you’ve made it onto Miami Beach, walking is possible if you plan on staying in one area, like South Beach. But if you plan on venturing out, especially if you’re visiting in the summer, you may find a car preferable, if not totally necessary. Even people accustomed to the subtropical climate will be drenched in sweat if they attempt to walk far distances, so either keep it short, or find a ride. Uber and Lyft are pretty cheap to get around.

The city of Miami Beach has a free, citywide trolley that uses four different loops that run all along the coast. Citi Bike bicycle rentals are also available at dozens of stations.

Miami-Dade County offers several Metrobus routes to move between the island and the mainland. The buses including connections to trains from Metrorail (connecting Miami and its suburbs), Tri-Rail (linking Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties) and Brightline (a private line that will eventually link to Orlando) services. The downtown Miami area also has a free elevated people mover called Metromover to help you get around on the mainland. A public transportation route map is here.

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PARKING

Take a deep breath.

Horror stories about Miami Beach’s traffic abound, and are roundly deserved, especially on the weekends. The town has been known to literally close the island when too many revelers come over the causeways. Consider for a moment that at the height of the winter snowbird and tourist season, the population can more than double on the weekends. And it feels like all of them are trying to cruise Ocean Drive.

For those of you that have chosen a car as the best mode of transportation, there actually are plenty of options, but boy is it going to cost you.

All three sections of Miami Beach — North Beach, Mid-Beach and South Beach — are littered with metered street parking, and there are gobs of parking lots and parking garages off Collins Avenue and the city blocks further inland. Just remember, it will take some time to find a spot, anywhere.

Miami Beach offers a list of city-owned garages and lots, which you can view in relation to the three sections of beach or with a nifty interactive map. There are hundreds of available spaces, some of which denote electric vehicle charging spots. Private parking also is available, but the offerings are vast and varied, and sometimes change as redevelopment continues to roll through town.

If you’re looking for a lot close to the beach, with restrooms and sometimes a playground, the city’s parks are the best places to park. The parks are all included in this link, if you’re willing to do your research.

Just don’t expect to drive through Miami Beach and come back with your wallet intact. The parking can get plenty pricey, with high hourly rates most places that only get more expensive as you move closer to South Beach.

When looking for street parking, PayByPhone and ParkMobile come in handy to pay via phone app instead of fumbling for quarters.

For hotel guests, near the beach or otherwise, your best bet is to use valet parking if your lodging offers it (not all of them do). This allows you to retrieve your car however many times you wish, all for one price, no matter how steep the fee it may be. Figure on $20 or more as a baseline. Your other option would be to park in a garage, many of which have a set overnight price.

The same goes for attempting to hit one of the trendy eateries along Ocean Drive or Collins Avenue, or anywhere in the city, really. You may get sticker shock from the valet parking price, but grit your teeth and think of all the headaches you’re preventing by letting someone else park your car.

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BEACH SCENE

Mid-Beach has all the swank hotels, beachfront and fine dining of South Beach, but without the crush of people. [Cat Gloria | Florida Beach Insider photo]

Miami Beach, the actual beach, really manages to live up to its famous reputation. Even without the lively cultural mix and neon lights, it’s still a nearly picture-perfect strip of (largely man-made) beach. It’s one of the best stretches on the Atlantic Ocean.

Since it’s such a long island, there’s a space for every type of beachgoer. You’ll find locals and families to the north and bougie hotels in the middle. And just about everyone congregates on South Beach at some point, making it the party spot.

As for drinking, well: Bars close at 5 a.m. in Miami Beach (it’s 2 a.m. for the rest of the state) and liquor stores can stay open 24 hours in Miami-Dade County.

The law says drinking is prohibited on the beaches and streets, full stop.

In practice, however, the laws don’t appear to be enforced too often, except for the one about no glass containers. Bars and restaurants routinely allow patrons to walk away with alcoholic beverages, which is technically a no-no. Folks around these parts say the only time the government truly cracks down is on holidays.

Use your best judgment, because there are penalties on the books.

If you’re looking for greenspace, there are a lot for such a packed island. We’ll mention a few, but the city offers a directory here.

A couple of other things for visitors to note: This is an international destination, full of every kind of nationality, language, sexual orientation and preference you can imagine. That’s part of what makes it great for people-watching! The bottom line is, don’t come to Miami Beach if you don’t appreciate such a rich tapestry.

South Beach, especially, has a reputation as a meat market, so you may get attention you don’t want when you’re out. Men here are known for catcalling women (or men, to be honest), at any time of day. Combined with a fairly high crime rate in parts of the city, and the best bet (especially for ladies) is to always travel with a friend and stick to busier streets. The kids should probably be home at a reasonable hour, too.

A note to travelers: Even longtime Floridians sometimes get confused when talking about the difference between Miami and Miami Beach, not realizing they are separate cities. Similarly, many often don’t realize that South Beach is actually a part of the city of Miami Beach, and not a separate entity. Remember that when talking to people about these locations, in case there’s a fine distinction involved with directions or recommendations.

With that in mind, let’s work actually work from the top down, so we can devote a special section to South Beach all on its own ...

NORTH BEACH

North Beach is the local’s beach. It’s a great choice for families who want something quieter, away from the hustle and bustle. Extending from 87th Street to 63rd Street, it isn’t as long as Mid-Beach, but it’s a haven just south of the town of Surfside.

It’s more like a small town up here, with a lot of park space fronting the beach. Like Mid-Beach, North Beach’s landscape consists of fancy condos, hotels and homes.

While the Miami Beach Boardwalk (see the Mid-Beach section) ends at 46th Street, Atlantic Way fronts North Beach in a similar fashion. This walkway runs north from about 63rd Street all the way through Surfside and Bal Harbour.

North Shore Open Space Park is huge, running from 79th Street to 87th, and is a family must-do. Not only is it covered in trees, it has a dog park, pavilions with grills, a playground, a beach — and best of all, it’s entirely free.

Ocean Terrace is a small loop east of Collins Avenue, from 73rd to 75th streets, although it doesn’t offer much more than some hotel frontage and street parking. It’s just north of the North Beach Bandshell, a public space next to a community center and volleyball courts. There’s a sizable parking lot across from the bandshell, which schedules concerts, yoga, opera performances and more.

There’s also Allison Park, sometimes referred to as 64th Street Park, which was recently renovated. It has a large parking lot, a playground and a handicapped exercise area.Restaurants and stores line Collins Avenue, but for the most part it’s Anytown USA here compared to the southern part of the city. You’ll find more grocery stores and pharmacies than t-shirt shops and bars.

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The Miami Beach Boardwalk is a true wooden walkway in Mid-Beach. In South Beach it's mostly concrete. [Cat Gloria | Florida Beach Insider photo]

MID-BEACH

Sandwiched between North Beach and South Beach is, appropriately enough, Mid-Beach. This is the middle of Miami Beach, from 63rd Street to 23rd Street.

Mid-Beach is better known for its upscale resorts and condos than its party scene. It’s close enough to the action to get around easily, but far enough away from SoBe to offer some real relaxation.

A notable feature connecting Mid-Beach to North and South Beach is the Miami Beach Boardwalk. Extending from 5th Street north to 46th Street, the walkway is wooden in some areas and concrete in others. The path runs behind the hotels on Mid-Beach, providing access to the water. The best part is that many areas along the boardwalk feature shaded seating.

If you’re staying at one of the hotels, Mid-Beach is the ideal place to relax in a cabana on the beach or at the hotel’s bar. But for those of you who are just visiting the beach for a day, be aware it’s common for hotel pools and bars to be off limits unless you’re a guest.

Mid-Beach does have a few beachside parks for visitors, though. One is Indian Beach Park, equipped with a playground, showers, a snack bar and restrooms. Oh, and a giant parking lot. There’s also the 36th Street Park, which is a bit smaller, but still has a bathroom, shower, parking and a beautiful strip of beach.

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SOUTH BEACH

The Atlantic Ocean is stellar along South Beach, even if the beach is man-made. [Scott Keeler | Florida Beach Insider photo]

Welcome to the main event!

South Beach is not just a major tourist destination, it’s arguably the cultural and commercial center of South Florida. Most of the big-draw restaurants, beautiful people and popular clubs are on this part of the island, so be prepared to battle the crowds.

South Beach, often referred to as simply SoBe, starts at South Pointe Park at the southern tip of the island and ends at about 23rd Street.

The park is home to a beautiful view of cruise ships, great art sculptures and a pretty good fishing pier running along the jetty. If you’ve got the time to spare, you must come here to watch the sun set over Miami at least once.

The only off-leash dog park in the city is here, and for humans there’s a path for walking or biking, plus a small waterpark for the little ones to enjoy. A snack shop and bathrooms are here, and a Smith & Wollensky chophouse is right in the center of the park.

As you’ve probably guessed, parking is limited and hard to find. The self-pay lot is only so big, so get there early, especially if you plan to head north for the day.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Ocean Beach Park, on the southern end of Ocean Drive between 2nd and 3rd streets, is a green oasis with a playground.

The popular part of South Beach, meanwhile, starts at 5th and Ocean Drive and ends around 14th Place.

When you’re crossing the street onto the beach in that strip, you’ll end up in Lummus Park, a must-visit for sporty types. There are volleyball courts, paved paths for biking, blading, skating and more, plus Muscle Beach, featuring an outdoor calisthenics gym.

The beach is man-made, but the sand is fine and full of swimmers and sun-worshippers — a lot of them. If you are traveling with children, it may be smarter to head to the northern beaches: The partying here is pretty hard, with revelers routinely flouting laws concerning alcohol and public nudity. Topless sunbathers are a common sight, even though this is not a clothing-optional beach.

Turn away from the Atlantic and these few blocks showcase everything the brochures promise: Neon-lit hotels, salsa music and the smell of churrasco.

The hotels along this stretch of Ocean Drive are a highlight of what’s often called the Art Deco Historic District, a notable neighborhood filled with pastel architecture dating from the 1920s. (Read more in the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District section below.)

Along those lines, if you’re not looking for a tourist trap hotel or a big resort, Collins Avenue (A1A) is a couple of blocks west of Ocean Drive and has plenty of hotels that are priced a bit lower. The big-money shopping is along here, and you’ll still be in the heart of the action, but it avoids a lot of the Ocean Drive tourist traps.

Taking Collins Avenue to 21st or 22nd streets brings you to Collins Park, which serves as the grounds for the Bass Museum of Art. There’s also a major league city parking lot on the east side of Collins Avenue.

When night falls, a wild South Beach emerges and the party is on. Just make sure you bring your fanciest outfit to go out, because the bar is high for club dress codes here. The action doesn’t really pick up until after 11 p.m. at the earliest, so plan accordingly. You can eat first!

If you’re planning to dine in South Beach, the restaurants along Ocean Drive deservedly have a reputation for food that is often overpriced and under-cooked. The drinks will also break your bank; Stop by during happy hour to cushion the blow.

Of course, if you’re just looking to relax, you may decide the packed sidewalk cafes are more than worth it. Almost every building features awnings and fans to shelter patrons from the sun, making for a tolerable respite from the worst of the daytime heat. You can watch all of the action, something you can’t do off the strip. And that’s why you’re here, right?

ARCHITECTURAL HISTORIC DISTRICT

The Art Deco movement was a driving force when many of the buildings on Ocean Drive, seen here from Lummus Park, were built in the 1920s and onward. [Cat Gloria | Florida Beach Insider photo]

South Beach first started to take off about the same time as the Art Deco movement, so many of the buildings in this part of Miami Beach feature the distinctive architectural style. There are also plenty of Mediterranean Revival buildings, as well.

The area from 5th to 23rd streets on Ocean Drive and beyond feature more than 800 buildings built between 1923 and 1943. The Art Deco portion is the more famous of the two, so it gets all the glory, but anyone who has spent more than 48 hours in Florida will realize Mediterranean Revival is a big deal here, too.

Period hotels like the Beacon or the Colony are lit up at night to emphasize the bright colors, strong lines and geometric features of the Art Deco movement. Many of the houses in the area and the Amsterdam Hotel illustrate the tile roofs and stucco walls of the Mediterranean Revival movement.

At one time, much of this history was in danger of being lost. A lot of these building were slated for demolition during Miami Beach’s downturn, before the Miami Design Preservation League formed in 1976. They successfully lobbied for saving much of the area, which now is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

If you’d like to tour the area, the Miami Design Preservation League offers several on a regular basis, focusing on the crowd-pleasing Art Deco portion and the social fabric of the region. The Mediterranean Revival tour is offered by request.

Even if you don’t take a tour, stop by the group’s Art Deco Welcome Center in Lummus Park. There’s an Art Deco Museum and a pretty boss gift shop that sells distinctive Miami Beach gifts people would actually keep.

PLACES TO STAY

North Beach

Casa Norte Boutique Hotel

For those who wish to stay on North Beach and save some money, this boutique hotel may be what you’re looking for. It’s just a block from the beach and it has all of the hotel amenities in a smaller space. Since it’s in North Beach, it has a quieter neighborhood feel.

Mid-Beach

The Fontainebleau

This famous resort has everything you would ever need. Not only is it a known celebrity hangout, it has an award-winning restaurant, a notable club called LIV and a luxury spa. In the heart of Mid-Beach, it offers guests beach access right from the boardwalk. It’s one of the more expensive options, but for a reason.

Eden Roc

Another exclusive hotel on Mid-Beach is the Eden Roc. This resort houses two prominent eateries: Nobu and Malibu Farm. The rooms are top-of-the-line, the amenities are unforgettable, there’s nothing you won’t like about this hotel.

South Beach

The Villa Casa Casuarina

Located on Ocean Drive in the heart of South Beach, this luxury experience is far more than the average hotel. It’s Italian designer Gianni Versace’s former mansion. The Villa has 10 ornate suites, a private pool, restaurant, rooftop lounge and more amenities, just steps away from the beach. Your wallet may take a beating, but you’ll be able to say you stayed at Versace’s house.

Beacon South Beach

The Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive are a big draw among the tourists. The Beacon is indicative of the experience, with renovated rooms inside a hotel built in in the 1930s, across from Lummus Park. Like most of the lodging on the strip, it can be noisy and expensive, with rooms that are period-sized (meaning small), but that’s to be expected in these older buildings. The bar in the lobby also is tiny, but friendly, just like the rest of the staff. Best of all, you can walk out the door and be swept up by South Beach.

The Betsy South Beach

If you want to be right on South Beach without the seediness, this is a good choice. It has been named a top hotel in the country by several publications. A Georgian Revival-style building from the 1940s features a high-end restaurant and a sun deck.

Whitelaw Hotel

The Whitelaw is in the heart of South Beach on Collins Avenue, but it’s also affordable. The rooms are spacious and the service is friendly. The ornate lobby is home to a hotel bar that serves free drinks every night from 7 to 8 p.m. This way you can be close to the action, but on a budget.

Casa Victoria Orchid

Another option for those trying to save money would be this hotel just a few blocks from South Beach’s waterfront, in the Espanola Way area. Its European-style rooms differ it from other hotels. It offers free breakfast plus the usual amenities.

Full Moon Drum Circle

This celebration takes place every full moon on the beach at Collins and 79th Street. People bring drums and other instruments to play, sparking a beach around them.

South Beach Wine and Food Festival

This annual event brings thousands of foodies to South Beach to taste the best dishes and drink the best wine. Hosted by the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, the festival features top TV chefs like Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri for a weekend of tastings, parties, demonstrations and more. It usually happens the last weekend in February.

Art Deco Weekend

For a few days in January, South Beach’s buildings become the center of action, with Art Deco sculptures, jazz music and food channeling the 1920s. The beach features dozens of free events to go along with the them.

Miami Beach Gay Pride

The LGBTQ community of Miami Beach is thriving, and this colorful week — yes, a whole week — draws tons of people to South Beach each April. It features a huge parade, performances and other events designed to bring together the community with a message of tolerance, support and celebration.

Art Basel

Art lovers await this event each December, as the complement to the contemporary art fair that started in Basel, Switzerland (there’s another in Hong Kong each year, too). It all takes place in the Miami Beach Convention Center, where thousands of artists display their work. The event continues into the nights, with parties all over Miami Beach.

Winter Music Conference

EDM music lovers, DJs, celebrities and artists come together every March for this weeklong conference. Over the week there are hundreds of music-industry related events, workshops and shows to enjoy. People from dozens of countries fly into Miami Beach for the parties and to learn from the best.

THINGS TO DO

The Palace Bar's daily drag shows are legendary. The business recently moved, but is still going strong. [Dale Stine | Photo courtesy of The Palace Bar]

There is no shortage of things to do in Miami Beach, as we’ve tried to list, but keep in mind it’s an island just east of thriving Miami and its suburbs. To that end, we’ve gone to the mainland for a few things to do, too.

The Palace Bar

The premier drag bar of South Florida is a South Beach landmark that’s been around for three decades. The food and drinks are good, but the drag queens are the main attraction, so we're putting it up here as must-see entertainment if you are sans children. It offers weeknight shows and weekend brunches (bottomless mimosas!) full of singing, acting and comedy. The house is packed most of the time, so call ahead for reservations. Read more about the Palace Bar here.

Bass Museum of Art

The Bass is Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum. Come here to be inspired by the colorful sculptures, installations, architecture, fashion and other art forms all on display. The place screams Miami Beach.

Ancient Spanish Monastery

Construction of the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux started in Spain back in 1133 and housed monks for seven centuries. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst bought the monastery and moved it to the United States, where it sat in storage for years. More than 35,000 stones were reassembled in North Beach and opened to the public in 1964.It’s an active church now, but you can still tour it or have an event here.

Miami Children’s Museum

A great, if pricey, air-conditioned option to take the kids when you want to run the sillies out of them. It’s on Watson Island, in Biscayne Bay between South Beach and downtown Miami, on the MacArthur Causeway. There’s a 6-foot-tall piggy bank, a big sand castle and a music studio. The warehouse-sized museum does offer free admission once a month (the third Friday), but good luck getting in on that day.

Calle Ocho

On the mainland, 8th Street is the heart of Little Havana, a famous strip of Cuban restaurants, bakeries and stores. It’s worth taking a walk here just to experience the authentic culture. Make sure to hangout at Domino Park if you want to talk to some folks who have seen it all — and mind the wild roosters.

Wynwood Art District

Once a fringe neighborhood that is still a little rough around the edges, this graffitied hipster haven has become a worldwide destination. Imagine an art gallery, but all over the streets. Most walls and sidewalks are covered in murals created by renowned artists from across the globe. The Wynwood Walls, a graffiti gallery, is at the epicenter, but more galleries, shops and restaurants are scattered across the district. Expect to be up late, going out for drinks and dancing at places like SHOTS Miami and El Patio.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

This lavish estate was built by farming equipment scion James Deering during the Gilded Age and still stands today. It’s settled on 180 acres of land where one of the only native forests in Miami is found, and features a dock and boathouse right outside the main living space. The museum has 34 rooms of art and Deering’s personal possessions, plus an enormous orchid collection and extensive European-style gardens.

Venetian Pool

If you want a break from swimming in the ocean, this spectacular pool in Coral Gables is a must-visit. It is the only pool listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When Coral Gables was first developed, the pool was designed as a hangout spot for locals. Its Mediterranean-style architecture, caves and pool became a celebrity favorite.

WATERSPORTS AND FITNESS

Miami Tours and Water Adventures

This shop in South Beach offers jet skiing, parasailing, snorkeling and other watersports. They also have an adventure package with multiple options, for those who can’t decide what they want to do most.

Jet Ski Rentals and Tours

If you’re staying in Mid-Beach, this is the place to go for renting jet skis, parasailing trips and boats. They also have scuba diving, kayaks, boogie boards and just about anything else you can use in the water.

Watersports Miami Beach

Also located in Mid-Beach, this shop offers the usual rentals plus more. Take their sunset cruise, fishing charter or yacht charter to experience Miami Beach in a different way.

Fun Rental Boats

If you want to escape from the crowded beach and enjoy the water on your own, this rental company makes it possible to get a boat. It’s located on North Beach. Just call the number and tell them what kind of boat you’re looking for and they will handle the rest.

State of Yoga

Whether you’re a yogi or not, this studio will take your practice to the next level. The serene rooms and world-class teachers make it more than just another yoga class. It’s just a few blocks from Ocean Drive in South Beach.

South Beach Boxing

While you’re on vacation, why not stop in for some strength training? The staff here are committed to building confidence and power in people. They offer boxing, kickboxing, bootcamp and even anti-bullying classes.

Marinas and boat ramps

This is an island, so there are several options to put in at ramps or dock your boat (although the way to show you’ve really made it is to dock at your own waterfront manse). Miami-Dade County maintains a list of marinas here, but here are some suggestions.

Miami Beach Marina

If South Beach is your goal, this is the marina you want. There are 400 slips, some accommodating ships as long as 250 feet. You can walk to Ocean Drive from here, stopping for a bite at Joe’s Stone Crab.

Sunset Harbour Yacht Club

Looking for something a little more exclusive than a public boat ramp or transient slip? You can compare boat size at this members-only marina between the Venetian Islands and Sunset Islands. There’s a boat ramp in Maurice Gibb Memorial Park right next door, with a parking lot and playground for the kids.

Miami Yacht Club

Don’t let the name fool you, because the public is encouraged to stop by. On Watson Island across from the Miami Children’s Museum, this club offers sailing classes, a restaurant and free parking and transient dockage.

Pelican Harbor Marina

At the north end on 79th Street, on the way to North Beach just off the mainland, this marina is on its own island, complete with a playground a picnic area. There is a set of three boat ramps across the street.

PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

Joe's Stone Crab in South Beach has been a Miami Beach staple since 1913. [Chris Zuppa | Florida Beach Insider photo]

North Beach

Buenos Aires Bakery

Don’t leave Miami without getting an empanada here. The food is freshly baked and authentic to Argentina.

Cafe Prima Pasta

This Italian tavern offers an extensive menu of authentic Italian dishes. The colorful pastas and extravagant desserts make for an unforgettable meal on North Beach.

El Rancho Grande Cocina Mexicana

This authentic eatery makes authentic Mexican dishes that are rare on most restaurant menus. Its affordable and freshly made cuisine makes it a busy spot for locals.

Spora

It’s easy to overlook this small strip-mall cafe, but the simple, healthy fare is cheap and delicious. Once you order, you can watch your food being made from scratch. The tuna wrap is especially delicious.

On The Rocks

A dive bar that’s open every single day of the year. You’ll find cheap cocktails, plenty of locals and all TVs tuned to sports. On top of that, they play good music and have various bar games to play.

Mid-Beach

Scarpetta

The restaurants at the Fontainebleau are guaranteed to be good, but this one is the best. Its Italian menu includes handmade pastas and freshly cooked meats. The prices are high, but so is the quality.

The Forge

If you want fancy food and a royal atmosphere, come to this steakhouse. It’s one of the top farm-to-table style restaurants on Miami Beach. If you don’t want to eat, even visiting only the wine bar is worth the trip.

Matador Room

Take a step into the ‘50s at this high-end, pan-Latin restaurant. The dining areas recall mod supper clubs, and the dishes are works of art. Bring a camera and your Instagram followers will thank you.

Bird & Bone

This Southern-style country cuisine is its own niche in these parts. From biscuits and gravy to country fried steak, it has all your farmhouse favorites brought to a new level. For chicken and waffles, you’ll have to come for the Sunday brunch.

The Broken Shaker

If romantic atmospheres and delicious drinks are your thing, you must come here. On the first floor it seems like any other hostel, but go up the stairs into another dimension to find a hip bar. The backyard features tables and hangout spots scattered around a dimly lit pool.

Basement

Nightclub, bowling alley and ice-skating rink all in one place? Yep, that’s Basement. Located in the basement of the Miami Beach EDITION hotel, this serious dance club hosts famous DJs and artists. Make sure to come dressed for the evening.

Bleau Bar

This bar in the lobby of the Fontainebleau is a celebrity favorite. It’s grand centerpiece bar is all elegance and class, with superlative drinks.

South Beach

You won’t find the best food right on Ocean Drive, since it cares to the tourists. Most notable places are a walk from the beach, or at least around the corner.

Stubborn Seed

Top Chef Season 13 winner Jeremy Ford, a Jacksonville native, is behind this one. This high-end American eatery brings fresh ingredients together in unexpected ways. From the foie gras to the carrot cake, many reviews have said every single menu item is good. They also serve brunch.

La Sandwicherie

For a quick bite on South Beach, this place will satisfy your sandwich cravings. Their menu includes the classics or homemade creations in large portions. Try their Bora Bora Smoothie with tropical fruit if you need a treat.

Joe’s Stone Crab

This South Beach institution has been around since 1913. They offer the best seafood, especially crab, but they’ve also got salads, chicken, steak and killer Key lime pie. It’s just one of those places you gotta visit, you know?

Bodega Taqueria y Tequila

This joint is no joke. We have no qualms about calling these the best tacos in Miami, authentic and relatively cheap (less than $5 apiece). Look to the right of the Airstream window from which you order and you’ll see what looks like the door of a Port-a-Potty. Dare to enter it and you’ll find a secret world of craft cocktails and hip music that gets packed at night. Sunday brunch features $10 margarita pitchers, too.

Macchialina

This fine-dining option is a delightful Italian option. Spaghetti, lasagna, veal Parmigiana ... you name it and they make the best version of it. It was named Best Restaurant by Miami New Times the year it opened.

News Cafe

Okay, there are a couple places on Ocean Drive we recommend. This cafe is open 24 hours a day, with decent food and good service. This beachside haunt was rumored to be the cafe of choice for fashion designer Gianni Versace every morning.

Mango’s

You can’t say you visited South Beach if you don’t stop in Mango’s. It’s known for the dinner and a show, but at night it becomes a popular club. The drink list is extensive — and expensive — so prepare your pocketbook.

Mac’s Club Deuce

Every town has a bar that says it’s the oldest in town. Mac’s lays claim to that title in Miami Beach. It’s a South Beach institution, with a “2-4-1 Happy Hour” that lasts from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., in case you can’t decide on your schedule.

Lost Weekend

Sometimes you just want a dive: A pool table, cheap beer, some retro video game cabinets, an ancient bar backed by a dirty mirror and shot specials. Lost Weekend off Collins Avenue on Espanola Way is that dive.

SHOPPING

The shopping in Miami Beach is mostly district-centric, with much of the action centered in South Beach. Instead of focusing so much on individual stores, which have a tendency to come and go with some frequency, we can suggest some entire areas for you to visit.

Lincoln Road Mall

Heading north from South Beach, between 16th and 17th streets you’ll find Lincoln Road, with this appropriately named mall on it. If you want to shop or spot a celebrity, this outdoor mall is the place to hang. There are tons of stores and restaurants, and herds of people to go with them.

Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue

South of the Lincoln Road Mall, on these iconic streets you’ll find plenty of both high-end and not-as-high-end shops. Clothing stores such as Dash, Tommy Hilfiger and Vans are just a few businesses on these streets. It’s kind of a drag mid-summer, but during the high season it’s an easy stroll.

Espanola Way

A historic village featuring Mediterranean architecture is just off Washington Avenue, toward the northern end of South Beach. Walking the streets you’ll find small shops and galleries, plus some beachy shops that aren’t as gauche as the norm. Most places here are open late.

Fifth and Alton

Coming right off the MacArthur Causeway from the mainland is this contemporary indoor mall. Just about any chain store you could want is here, including a Total Wine and More and a Publix supermarket.

WHAT'S BREWING

Abbey Brewing Company

This is the only craft brewing option actually on Miami Beach, and has been around since 1995. It calls itself a brewpub, but the big attraction is that they offer cocktails, too.

Veza Sur Brewing Co.

This Latin-themed watering hole highlights Colombian roots but is owned by Anheuser Busch. Still, it’s so well-managed and fun that it’s a Wynwood craft-beer favorite. There’s a food truck that’s permanently adjacent to the grounds, and specializes in offering Brazilian Chopp drafts and micheladas.

Boxelder Craft Beer Market

A serious repository for all manner of craft beer, this Wynwood bottle shop and taproom offers food and beer pairings and tastings all the time. Check the events calendar for the next to-do.

Wynwood Brewing Co.

This Wynwood beer pioneer (est. 2011) is at the far end of the festivities, but specializes in seasonal and limited releases. Enjoy the extra-large murals on the buildings outside.

Concrete Beach Brewery

If you’re looking for an outdoor beer bar, this is your place. A distinct techno-rockabilly atmosphere draws an eclectic crowd.

J Wakefield Brewing

A particularly good choice for the geek drinkers, with sci-fi toys and models lining the bar. The takeaway feature are bigger-than-life murals of the Star Wars cantina scene from A New Hope.

Bousa Brewing

A brewery in Little River that focuses on its owners’ South American roots, but this time isn’t owned by AB InBev. It opened two weeks after Hurricane Irma, if that give you an idea of how scrappy the brewers are.

M.I.A. Bruhaus

The tasting room for the beer company, which is a major player in canning and selling its wares statewide. There’s food and more than 50 beers on tap, so prepare for paralysis by analysis.

The Tank Brewing Co.

A craft brewer that likes to focus on unusual combinations or perfecting styles. Abbey-style ales, IPAs and seasonal releases are the norm.

Biscayne Bay Brewing Co.

A taproom and bottler near the airport, not the bay. The offerings trend toward beers best enjoyed in hot weather.

Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Co.

This oddball brewery revels in everything weird and unusual. Challenge your friends to identify the root references of all the many brews (ex: the “Avenge Me” Irish Red).

Titanic Restaurant and Brewery

The Abbey claims Miami Beach, and Titanic claims Miami proper as the oldest brewpub in town (although it opened a few months after the Abbey). A dozen beers are on tap, there’s an extensive menu, and live music and karaoke nights are lined up weekly. The Titanic moniker has more to do with Miami’s history as a cruise port than the famously ill-fated ocean liner.

TIPS FROM TOWNIES

Spanglish — that is, Spanish and English — tends to be the lingua franca in pockets all over South Florida, but especially among people in the smaller shops and businesses. It’s not necessarily a requirement, but knowing a few words of Spanish will help you, even if it’s to read some restaurant menus.

Joshua Gillin is Florida Beach Insider’s Beachcomber-in-chief. When he’s not actively looking for a clear spot on the sand with his family, he enjoys hiking, martials arts, comparing drink specials and shopping for American-made products.
Cat Gloria, private eye for FloridaBeachInsider.com, enjoys working alongside the ocean. Her beach expertise stems from her childhood spent on the shores of Wildwood, N.J.
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