Miami Beach Neighborhoods & Towns
Miami Beach is a 20-square-mile barrier island that is separated from the mainland by the Biscayne Bay. Several causeways connect the two.
From celebrity models to senior citizens and families with kids, the South Beach area is the most well-known, popular and busy part of the city. Three main roads run parallel to the shoreline. The hotels and trendy restaurants of touristy Ocean Drive are closest to the water, meanwhile the northern part of Ocean Drive is known as the Art Deco District for its distinctively pastel-painted hotels, nightclubs and retail shops. To its west is Collins Avenue (or State Road A1A), home to a range of more affordable hotels and a large collection of high-end shopping spots. The largest and most popular nightclubs are located farther west along noisy Washington Avenue.
Intersecting Washington Avenue between 14th and 15th streets is the Espanola Way Historic District. A historically Spanish village, the small area is filled with shops and restaurants housed in Mediterranean-style buildings from the early 20th century. Espanola's southwest neighbor, Flamingo Park, has plenty of green space for walking and tennis and basketball courts for those who want to work up a sweat, as well as a playground for the kids.
Miami Beach's North Shore -- located along Collins Avenue -- features a comparatively quieter and less chaotic coast. The main feature here is the North Shore Open Space Park, which has clean beachfront and green space.
Farther north along Collins Avenue are several other neighborhoods, such as Surfside, which have a distinctly quieter and more family-friendly feel with fewer parties. The accommodations here are also a bit more cost-effective. Sandwiched between Surfside and Sunny Isles is the Bal Harbour suburb, which is best known for its exclusive gated communities and posh open-air shopping mall.
Sunny Isles Beach
If you're looking to avoid the crazy crowds of South Beach, head about 10 miles north along Collins Avenue (Route 1A) to Sunny Isles Beach. Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracostal Waterway, this small town makes a great day trip -- or even a great home base -- for Miami Beach visitors.
Although Sunny Isles Beach is often overlooked by Miami and Miami Beach travelers, this tiny town has plenty to offer. Its golden stretches of shoreline beckon to sun-seekers, while a variety of local and chain eateries are sure to satisfy any appetite. Swingers can aim for par at nearby Greynolds Golf Course; history buffs can head to the Ancient Spanish Monastery (constructed in the 12th century); and the kiddies can cool down at Samson Ocean Front Park. And although the nightlife isn't as reputed as it may be in South Beach, night owls will have no trouble finding ways to occupy themselves through the wee hours of the morning. But the party doesn't always stop at sunrise: To see a livelier side of Sunny Isles Beach, visit in October during the vibrant Sunny Isles Beach Jazz Festival.
Miami Beach is generally a safe city for visitors. However, as with most major tourist destinations, pickpocketing is the biggest concern, particularly during the chaotic nighttime and along busy Washington Street. Be sure to walk in groups at night and avoid any unfamiliar territory. If you have a car in town, keep valuables hidden so your car is not made a target for a theft.
When swimming, stay near a lifeguard station and watch for the flags, a system that follows the same pattern for beaches across the state. Green means the water is calm, while orange signals some moderate surf conditions. Purple signifies the presence of marine animals like jellyfish. Note that you are forbidden from entering the water when a red flag is raised.