Glossy magazine photos and slick TV shows may lure many travelers to South Beach, but it’s the miles of sparkling ocean vistas that capture their hearts forever. Many vacation destinations offer restaurants, bars and nightclubs, but in South Beach you can add the oceanfront Miami Beach Boardwalk into the mix. It begins at Indian Beach Park at 48th Street and continues down to 23rd Street where it becomes a paved surface that runs through the Ocean Drive Promenade to 5th Street. Then from South Pointe Park an ever-expanding Baywalk runs up the west side of the island. You can ride a bike, jog, sip a tropical drink or simply walk hand in hand with someone special.
At oceanfront hotels some guests gravitate to the padded lounge chairs circling the pool where drink service and even sunscreen wielding “tanning butlers” make a day in the sun a truly pampering experience, but just beyond the confines of the pool deck, an elevated boardwalk runs along the Atlantic shoreline from the Mid-Beach hotels south to 23rd Street where the decking shifts to a paved, ground level promenade. At this intersection, the rules change. The boardwalk down to 23rd Street allows no dogs and no bikes – just pedestrians. The promenade is open to bikes, skates and endless beachfront adventures.
Closer to Ocean Drive, the eastern sidewalk gives way to Lummus Park, a meandering green space that wends its way south from 15th Street beach and offers scenic views of the pastel hotels that comprise the Art Deco District. Popular with cyclists, rollerbladers and joggers, the wide pathway also provides a cool respite under the shade of seagrape trees and swaying palms. At the southern reaches of town, South Pointe Park stretches the Atlantic shore to the edge of Biscayne Bay creating an ideal destination for sunset strolls, a happy hour toast or a photographer’s ideal spot to shoot the massive cruise ships that glide by from the Port of Miami.
Travelers looking to take the perfect vacation photos can start their safari at 52 Street Beach where a large public parking lot gives way to a beachfront kid’s playground and the golden sands of Miami Beach. Walk south along the shore toward the Eden Roc Hotel (4525 Collins Avenue) where the Cabana Beach Club serves lunch, dinner and perfectly-tropical cocktails overlooking the boardwalk and the sea. Just next door, La Cote at the Fontainebleau Resort (4441 Collins Avenue) offers cocktails and light Mediterranean fare on an elevated dining terrace set just above the scene. Head south to 21 Street Beach and the Collins Park Promenade where the south end of the elevated boardwalk gives way to the beautifully landscaped Beach Walk.
Hotels in the Collins Park area such as the W South Beach and the newly renovated Shelborne South Beach provide a welcome respite for thirsty beachgoers who can snap pictures from the Rooftop Lounge at the Perry Hotel (2377 Collins Avenue), sip cocktails poolside at WET (2201 Collins Avenue), or hit happy hour at Lucy’s Cantina Royale (1801 Collins Avenue) for 2-for-1 margaritas and tacos.
For more upscale sipping, the Pool & Beach Bar at the Setai (2001 Collins Avenue) serves complimentary tapas Fridays and Saturdays from 5-7pm when you order one of their specialty cocktails or Taittinger champagne. While the hotel itself is one of the most expensive in town, Sunset Hour guests enjoy complimentary valet parking while taking in the endless ocean views.
As you make your way down the Boardwalk, mornings along Ocean Drive are all about brunch and some of the more popular spots you’ll find are BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel (1440 Ocean Drive), the raucous drag brunch at the Palace (1200 Ocean Drive) and 24 hour people watching at the News Cafe (800 Ocean Drive).
For a mini-excursion around the Deco District, you can join an excellent guided walking tour at the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive) daily at 10:30am to see South Beach’s landmark historic properties in just 90 minutes.
An ideal way to take in the action before crowds of beachcombers fill the streets is Deco Bike, the short term cycle sharing program with over 100 solar-powered bike rental kiosks all over town. Simply slide in your credit card and pedal away snapping Art Deco photos, sipping drinks and cruising the scene. When you arrive at a destination, lock the bike back into a nearby kiosk and help keep the City of Miami Beach green.
Another healthy way to start the morning or celebrate the sunset along South Beach is Third Street Beach Yoga (300 Ocean Drive), a twice-daily oceanfront practice that is accessible to everyone 365 days a year. Bring a towel, some water and a little sunscreen to join with the regulars who roll through their downward dogs and sun salutations starting at 7am and once again at 6pm. Once a month at the full moon, the group gathers on Third Street at 6:30pm for a Full Moon Meditation which will take place April 6, May 6, June 4, July 3, August 2, August 31, September 30, October 29, November 28 and December 28, 2012. See for yourself what makes the Moon Over Miami so special.
The City of Miami Beach invested millions of dollars to create a family-friendly waterfront promenade at the southern tip of South Beach where travelers and residents gather to bike, skate and picnic by the sea. Home to the popular oceanfront hangout Nikki Beach Club (One Ocean Drive) at the east end and Monty’s at the Marina (300 Alton Road) on the western shore, this public park is an ideal spot for sunset photos and happy hour toasts.
With ample public parking just south of Joe’s Stone Crab (11 Washington Avenue), the takeaway counter at this South Beach landmark will pack up a delicious seafood picnic and a chilled bottle of wine to carry into the park for a romantic feast. The steakhouse Smith & Wollensky (One Washington Avenue) serves drinks and dinner at tables on the water’s edge and their popular alfresco bar provides the perfect vista for toasting bon voyage to Miami’s massive cruise ships as they pass by.
As the sun dips below the horizon, happy hour cocktails at the Miami Beach Marina and a hearty steak dinner at Texas de Brazil (300 Alton Road) are a glorious way to end a long day exploring the beaches, boardwalks and tiki bars that make for some unforgettable Miami Beach memories. To add to the excitement, free WiFi makes it possible to upload all of your vacation photos straight to FaceBook from the comfort of your poolside lounger overlooking Biscayne Bay so all of your friends chilling back home can share in the excitement of your sunny South Beach vacation. After all – it’s never too soon to let everyone know how much fun you’re having. Cheers!
Cabana Beach Club at the Eden Roc
4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
La Cote at the Fontainebleau
4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
WET at the W Hotel South Beach
2201 Collins Avenue, South Beach
Pool & Beach Bar at the Setai Hotel
2001 Collins Avenue, South Beach
BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel
1440 Ocean Drive, South Beach
Palace Food Bar Drag Brunch
1200 Ocean Drive, South Beach
News Cafe (24 hours)
800 Ocean Drive, South Beach
Nikki Beach Club
One Ocean Drive, South Beach
Smith & Wollensky
One Washington Avenue, South Beach
Joe’s Stone Crab & Takeaway
11 Washington Avenue, South Beach
Monty’s at the Miami Beach Marina
300 Alton Road, South Beach
Texas de Brazil at the Miami Beach Marina
300 Alton Road, South Beach
Miami Beach Bicycle Center (rentals)
601 Fifth Street, South Beach
Fritz’s Skate Bike & Surf (rentals)
1620 Washington Avenue, South Beach
Deco Bike Rental Kiosks (short term rentals)
723 Washington Avenue, South Beach
Art Deco Walking Tours
1001 Ocean Drive, South Beach
300 Ocean Drive, South Beach
Beachfront Playground & Sun Gym
5200 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach