First-Time Visitor Guide to Miami Beaches

Miami's best beaches range from pristine nature preserves to family-friendly oceanfront oases lined with cafes, condos and hotels.

South Beach might be Miami’s, if not America’s, most famous beach. Though it’s still the place to be to experience Miami’s beach party scene, the destination is home to many beaches of varying vibes that range from pristine nature preserves to family-friendly oceanfront oases lined with cafes, condos and hotels.

First-time visitors need not fret. This guide breaks down Miami’s best beaches so you can have fun in the sun and sand.

South Beach Miami

A Guide to South Beach

America's party place located at the southern tip of Miami Beach stretches from South Pointe Park all the way to Collins Park and is anchored by Lummus Park. At the north end sits the opulent Bass Museum of Art and W South Beach resort.

The energy of the beach scene increases as visitors head south along the shore, fueled by a young, lively and ever-present crowd seeking entertainment and a great tan. South Beach is the site for street festivals including the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Art Deco Weekend, Miami Swim Week and Urban Beach Week, all of which are held on Ocean Drive or in the sand.

The 12th Street beach is gay-friendly, marked by rainbow pride flags and nearby Lummus Park is considered by Miamians as one of the best beaches for people-watching.

The people aren’t the only thing worth gawking at, however. South Beach is the epicenter of the Art Deco movement and the colorful architecture is simply striking. Locals with families often opt for South Pointe Park Beach, which features kid-friendly facilities, a mini splash and play area and the South Pointe Park Pier. Don’t forget to take a photo of one of the famous multi-colored South Beach lifeguard stands.

12th Street Beach Miami

A Guide to Mid-Beach

From 21st Street north to 78th Street, central Miami Beach is a popular stretch for strolling, jogging and skating thanks to the elevated boardwalk. Sidewalk cafes, bars and unique, eclectic shops can be found within walking distance and umbrellas and beach chairs are available for rent near Collins Park and Indian Beach Park for a nominal fee.

Famous for towering beachfront resorts, the district showcases extravagant Miami Modern (or MiMo) architecture, characterized by modern forms and flamboyant details. The Fontainebleau Miami Beach and Eden Roc Miami Beach are lasting icons MiMo design and harken back to the glamorous era when they were the playgrounds for stars like Frank Sinatra, Elvis and Elizabeth Taylor. As a result, Mid-Beach tends to take on a much more relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere than busy South Beach.

Mid-Beach Miami

A Guide to Sunny Isles Beach

As Miami’s northernmost beach, this two-mile stretch of powder-white sand and sparkling turquoise water is popular for snorkeling, diving and water sports. At its center is the classic Newport Fishing Pier, a popular local landmark built in 1936 that is free to the public and home to The Beach Bar, which offers seafood and steaks served alongside breathtaking ocean views.

Samson Oceanfront Park is another great place for families thanks to a children's play area and a summer outdoor concert series. Plus there are many small cafes and restaurants just a short walk from the beach.

Sunny Isles Miami

A Guide to Key Biscayne and Crandon Park

A few miles south of Downtown Miami, across the Rickenbacker Causeway and just beyond Virginia Key is Key Biscayne, one of Miami's great treasures.

Crandon Park is a sprawling campus of beaches and amenities situated at the entrance to the island. Perfect for families, the waters are shallow and clear and offer some of the most picture perfect ocean views in the area.

Countless rows of lush palm trees are a stark contrast from the rest of Miami’s many beaches where condos and hotels clutter the skyline. Here ecosystems of dunes, mangroves, coastal hammock and sea-grass beds are home to diverse species of plants, fish and wildlife. There’s even Bear Cut Preserve, a natural Environment Study Area where naturalist-guided tours are available.

Thrill-seekers can rent kite-boarding, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding equipment and Eco-Adventure Tours are also available. Explore the Family Amusement Center, beach volleyball, on-site grills and even a place to rent cabanas, which have showers, exclusive picnic tables on the beach and an assigned parking space.

Make your way to the southern tip of Key Biscayne to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Its wide beaches consistently make national top-10 lists for best beaches. It’s also home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse, built in 1825—the oldest building in South Florida. Climb to the top for a magnificent view of the city and Biscayne Bay. Free guided tours are available and the Lighthouse Café is the ideal place to pick up snacks and drinks for a beach picnic.

Key Biscayne, Miami

Justin Braun
About the author

“An adventurer at heart, I...