What comes to mind when people hear the word Miami Beach? Soft, powdery sand, turquoise water, the tanned bodies of Florida’s super-rich, boardwalks lined with palm trees, luxury boutiques and night clubs? Or the Art Deco buildings immortalized by the 80s TV series Miami Vice?
Miami Beach features all those things, and much more: Scenic parks are perfect for outdoor activities with the whole family, galleries and museums present the works of famous artists, and countless restaurants take you on a culinary trip around the world. Add an abundance of shopping opportunities and the cultural heritage of the Jewish community, and you have a city that captivates beach-goers, architecture fans und culture lovers alike.
THE DISTRICTS OF MIAMI BEACH
Even though most visitors only associate Miami Beach with trendy and up-scale South Beach, the city consists of three districts, all with their unique flavor and interesting sights.
If you want to get away from tourists and enjoy the quiet side of the city, North Beach is the ideal place for you. Party-goers seldom venture here. Instead, North Beach is popular with couples and families. Its status as a well-hidden gem comes with other perks: It is in North Beach that you find many budget accommodations for less than 100 USD per night.
Secluded from the big hotels stretches North Shore Open Space Park, an idyllic beach with adjacent green areas. If you want, you can start the famous Miami Beach Walk here. Hiking paths and boardwalks lead a whole 10 miles along the coast to the southern end of the island.
Surfside is another well-kept secret of North Miami Beach. Here you find charming ice cream and frozen yoghurt shops, art galleries and miles of beach complete with boardwalks. The area is also known for its many Jewish restaurants and delis.
This trendy district stretches along the coast from 63rd Street to the city center.
Swimmers and sunbathers should visit Indian Beach Park with its immaculate sand, turquoise waters, playgrounds, excellent cleanliness and relaxed vibes. A hotspot for shopping fans is Collins Avenue, known for its many fashion boutiques and hotels in the Art Deco style. Most famous among them is the Fontainebleau. In its heyday superstars like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley performed here. Expect to pay at least 200 USD a night. For this price, however, you will get the VIP treatment – just like in the nearby 4 Star hotel Riu Plaza Miami Beach.
If you want to dance the night away on Collins Avenue, look no further than the “Basement“. There is more to this underground club than meets the eye, as the Basement comes complete with its own bowling alley and even an ice-skating ring. If you are looking for peace and quiet, take a stroll through Collins Park with its pavilions, picnic tables and playgrounds. Art connoisseurs, on the other hand, should take a look at the sculptures and paintings in the “Bass“ Museum.
Fans of the TV series Miami Vice who always wanted to cruise the streets of Miami Beach like their onscreen heroes can fulfill their dream with the organizer “City Tour in an Antique Car“. And if you want to improve your handicap on the green, you should take a detour west to the Miami Beach Golf Club. This picturesque course designed by golfing legend Arthur Hills satisfies beginners and pros alike.
Pastel-colored buildings, promenades under palm trees, upscale shops and luxurious mansions – South Beach is THE epitome of coolness in Miami Beach and houses some of Florida’s most famous sights.
South Beach, which bears the same name as its district, stretches for miles along the coast. Here you can swim in the pleasantly warm water, walk on powdery soft sand and enjoy the view of the colorful lifeguard huts.
Next, take a trip from the perfectly tanned bodies at South Beach to the luxury cars on Ocean Drive. The city’s most famous street runs all the way to the southern tip of the island. Here, you can gaze at more than 800 Art Deco houses as well as the mansions of celebrities like the late Gianni Versace. In the evening, there is no shortage of nightlife options, as restaurants, bars and clubs of every kind advertise their promo offers. No doubt: If there is one place to paint the town in Miami Beach, it is Ocean Drive. But of course, you can always just relax, grab a cocktail to go, bask in the neon lights and admire the sports cars.
For all those who want to keep fit, Lummus Park is the perfect spot. Here you can go jogging, cycling and rollerblading under the shade of the palm trees – or pump iron at the park’s Outdoor Gym. Children enjoy themselves on the playground, and if you are looking for relatively cheap accommodation in South Beach, some hotels in the vicinity are available for less than 100 USD per night.
Worlds apart from the party folk on Ocean Drive lies South Pointe Park. Here, at the southern tip of Miami Beach, guests relax under tall trees, watch the ocean liners and direct their view from South Pointe Pier to Fisher Island, the vacation getaway of America’s super-rich. Next to the pier stretches the beautiful South Pointe Beach.
MORE SIGHTS IN SOUTH BEACH
- Flamingo Park: scenic green spaces with sports facilities and a water playground
- ARTECHOUSE: a museum for interactive and experimental high-tech art
- Art Deco Museum: vivid exhibitions about the architecture style Miami Beach is most known for
- Soundscape Park: Artfully designed gardens with free broadcasts of the New World Symphony Orchestra
- Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial: impressive and emotional memorial site, most famous for its 43 feet bronze sculpture
- Miami Beach Botanical Garden: exotic plants and Japanese gardens
- Wolfsonian-FIU: a museum housing artworks, furniture, inventions and many other items from the years 1885 to 1945
- World Erotic Art Museum: erotic artworks from several centuries.
Hungry visitors are in for a treat, as South Beach boasts a wide variety of restaurants. Burgers, steaks, seafood, Italian trattorias, Greek, Mexican and Asian restaurants as well as vegan and organic choices make this district a foodie´s heaven. Of course, prices on trendy Ocean Drive are higher than average. If you are on a budget, Lincoln Road and Espanola Way with their many Latin American restaurants are your top pick.
Of course, South Beach is also a perfect shopping destination. A multitude of international boutiques like Armani, Tommy Hilfigger and Victoria’s Secret grace the famous Ocean Drive. If small, independently owned shops are for you, there is always a bargain to be had on Washington Avenue. And if you still have not found what you were looking for, the Lincoln Road Mall with its over 400 stores has you covered.
LOCATION, DIRECTIONS AND GETTING AROUND IN MIAMI BEACH
Guests coming by airplane best arrive at the Miami International Airport, just 20 minutes from Miami Beach. Of course you can haul a taxi there, but this will easily cost you 40 USD. A cheaper alternative is the Airport Flyer Bus. One way tickets are available for 2 USD.
There are many car rentals at the airport, so you can drive to the hotel yourself. Exploring the city by car provides a great sense of freedom. But beware: Parking spots get more and more expensive the further south you go. In South Beach it is not uncommon to pay 4 USD per hour. If you want to save money, just take the South Beach Trolley. This bus serves all tourist areas in South Miami Beach as well as other districts. On weekdays the bus is in operation from 6 am to midnight. On Sundays it is 8 am to midnight.
For all those who want to explore Miami Beach the eco-friendly way the company Citi Bikes is worth a try. Rent your bicycle at stations scattered across the city and return it at any station you like. This way you can easily combine public transport, bicycle trips and walks to explore Miami Beach at your own leisure.
WEATHER AND BEST TRAVEL TIME IN MIAMI BEACH
Before you start packing your swimsuits and sunglasses, the question remains: What is the weather like in Miami Beach?
There is good news for beach-goers: Temperatures in Miami Beach range from warm to hot all year round. On average, you can expect 7 hours of sunshine a day. Even during the coldest month, in January, the water still has 71.6 °F.
While the winter months are dry and pleasantly warm, temperatures reach up to 91.4 °F in the summer. Precipitation increases during that time. Most showers are strong but quick, clouding the sky only for a short time before the sun appears again. However, many visitors find the high levels of humidity hard to bear. What is more, the summer months, particularly August and September, bring with them tropical storms. This does not seem to deter too many people, so summer is still considered the main season in Miami Beach. Prices spike accordingly.
To sum up: Miami Beach is a destination that can be visited all year round – be it for a swim in the ocean, a stroll on the beach or a sightseeing trip. If you like it moderately warm and want to avoid rain and masses of tourists, the low season between November and April is the perfect travel time for you.