Everybody knows Miami Beach, at least by its name. When you think about this place, the following words might come to your mind: beach, parties & bling bling. These are truthful clichés, but the city also offers great surprises to its visitors. I am sharing my own experience with you after living for 3 years in one of the most famous places worldwide.
View over South pointe (South of Miami Beach) from a boat.
Even if people are wrong about it, Miami Beach and Miami are actually two different cities. Miami is located on the continent while Miami Beach is an island, accessible through a few bridges (o with a boat for those who own one!).
The city of Miami Beach is very young as it celebrated its 100 years old in 2015. Indeed, Miami Beach was created in 1915, named first “Ocean Beach”, before becoming Miami Beach in 1917. As part of its anniversary, the city made a short video relating its 100 years of existence in 100 seconds:
After living for the past few years in Miami Beach, I think that I have a quite good idea of what this city is. I am sharing with you my top10 activities on site, and I drew this map to help you locating these places:
Watercolor drawing of Miami Beach, Bertille
1. Lincoln Road Mall :
Obviously, one of the most famous street in the city, with a lot of shops and restaurants. I am not a big fan of these places (generally quite cheap), but the best thing to do there is walking around or do some people watching while drinking some cocktails. Indeed, Miami Beach and especially Lincoln road is one the places where you will see many weird people walking around there which is sort of a free show!
- Go to the Segrafredo bar for some amazing cocktails and tapas. This is also a great place for People watching 😉
2. Ocean Drive :
Quite close to Lincoln Road and to the beach, you can’t miss this famous street. Ocean drive is one of the best places to see some Art-Deco. For more information about this type of architecture, click here.
3. Española way :
This is a very charming pedestrian street close to Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive. Buildings have a Spanish architecture, and the street is strewed with nice trees which gives a romantic atmosphere to the street. We used to live close to this street and we walked in there a lot.
4. South Beach Botanical Garden:
The first time that I entered in the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, I found the place very nice but so small! However, this is a great garden with Japanese Gardens, yoga classes, market days, art events, etc…And a peaceful place to spend some time away from the busy Lincoln road (just 5 min walking distance).
Tip: Free entrance everyday, from 9 am to 5 pm.
The Botanical garden during Art Basel.
5. The Holocaust Memorial:
You will probably not hear a lot about this place as it is very far from the usual places to visit in Miami Beach, but the Holocaust Memorial is a moving place to visit. It was built in 1990 to pay tribute to all the victims of Holocaust during WW2.
The visit includes pictures & explanations on walls. You walk around a pond until a tunnel where you will find a giant hand, with sculptures of prisoners on it, in the center. This is overwhelming but very interesting.
Tip: Free entrance everyday from sunrise to sunset. For more information on guided visits, click on this link.
6. South Pointe :
South Pointe is one of my favourite places in South Beach. It is located on the extreme south of Miami Beach, under the 5th St.
- You can bike or walk from the Marina to the beach as there is a quiet trail in the area, close to the bay.
- For a drink or a meal, try Monty’s Sunset which has a view on Miami Downtown.
7 . Sunsets on the bay:
As Miami Beach is located on the East coast of Florida, you will never get sunsets on the sea. However, we can have outstanding sunsets on the bay here.
Tip: The Mondrian would be a great option to see the sunset while enjoying a cocktail (this place is a bit expensive).
The Flamingo building is the oval one.
View on Miami Dowtown from the Mondrian Hotel.
8. Venetian Causeway:
Venetian Causeway is one of the 3 bridges located in the south of Miami Beach connecting to the continent. This is the only bridge where it is great to have a walk or bike. We had the habit to cross the bridge biking to go to Miami Midtown. It was such a good exercise! On the way, you can see a lot of iguanas, houses of rich people and outstanding views on Miami Beach and Miami.
9. Walking in the heart of South Beach:
After visiting the most emblematic streets of South Beach, and if you still have some time, I would highly recommend you to take a long walk in the heart of South beach itself. It means leaving the touristic streets and go anywhere your steps take you all around 😉 You will find colorful and unexpected buildings and houses.
10. Around Collins Park :
∼ To conclude ∼
After introducing you to all these great and different activities to do in Miami Beach, it might seems that life there is amazing (which is true on some aspects!). However, French people who moved in South Beach stay on the island for approximately 3 to 4 years before going back to France or moving somewhere else. Their departure is often related to a new exciting opportunity in their same company, or they simply have the impression that there is not much more to see.
Why did we take the decision to leave Miami Beach? Here are a few answers that might help anyone who has the project to move there:
1.Distance: Miami Beach is located at about 4o min in car to my husband’s job (without any traffic). after 3 yearsdoing that, it was time for a change.
2. Prices: Life on South beach is expensive (restaurants, food, accommodation, etc…). We were paying around 1,700 $/month for a small apartment (1 bedroom). And we were the ones paying the cheapest rent when we compared it to our friends. The explanation was easy: we only lived in latin buildings (which are not always renovated), and, generally, expatriates choose to live in modern buidlings offering a lot of commodities (gym, swimming pools, shops, etc…), and so with more expensive rents: Around 2,000$ for a 1 bedroom, 2,500 $ for a 2 bedrooms. From our point of view, there was absolutely no way to pay that kind of price, and at the same time, we were willing to live in a house for a long time, which was completely unthinkable in South Beach (too expensive).
3. Not recycling: You can find some recycling garbage in the city, but companies and some residential buildings do not recycle. I worked in three different buildings that were not recycling at all, so I have seen a lot of wasting, which should not be happening nowadays. I was bringing back home my own trash to recycle. But absurdity do not stop there, as my own building was not recycling either! So, my husband was bringing all the trashes to his university where, finally, they could be recycled… this was so frustrating! I have to mention that the city of Miami is doing a much better job as they recycle a lot and offer alternatives in terms of transportation (free trolley, metromover, etc…)
4. People: While we have lived in a very quiet borough, we were most of the time surrounded by tourists, which was not really an immersion. Also, people there are not really the ones that you would see anywhere else in Florida (or in the US), as they are generally quite superficial and just like showing themselves (we know some people who are not like that of course!). It was not really the kind of life that we were looking for on a long term.
Some guys met close to the beach that really wanted to be taken on picture! (credit: Christophe Bonenfant)
∼ To conclude, I would say that it was not easy to leave South Beach as it is one of the rare places in Florida where you can have without using a car all the time. I enjoyed my time there, and I like going back to Miami Beach, especially when I have some visits from France. Finally, spending some time in South Beach without living there has become a great compromise. ∼
If you currently live in Miami Beach (or if you lived there), what’s your point of view about this city? If you visited the city, what did you like/unlike about it?
Bye bye South Beach.