Miami's 10 Best Beaches for Fun in the Surf and Sun
By Priscilla Blossom
Miami Local Expert
If your perfect vacation day includes soaking up the sun, playing in the sand, or swimming in the ocean, then our Miami guide is just what you need. Our 10Best list highlights the best places to work on your tan, take a dip, collect seashells, have a picnic, jump on a jet ski or even do a little fishing.
While most people think of South Beach when they think of Miami's beaches, they don't realize that it's actually a rather expensive area that changes personality every few blocks. What most folks are usually imagining is actually the stretch of land known as Lummus Park Beach. Located right on the world-famous Ocean Drive, and lined with palm trees and Art Deco buildings, Lummus Park is the go to place for tourists.
For a more family-friendly beach excursion, there are beaches like Crandon Park Beach and Virginia Key Beach. Both of these are located on Key Biscayne, and each bring their own flavor of beach life to visitors. Crandon features an outdoor skating rink, an educational visitor's center, and both beaches have their own antique carousels.
Then of course there's Haulover Beach, the only clothing-option, nudist-friendly beach in all Miami. It's truly a sigh to behold.
Whatever your inclinations, check out our list to find the right beach for you.
Venture past the toll booths on the Rickenbacker Causeway into Key Biscayne and you'll quickly find a striking number of colorful sailboards floating to your right. That's when you'll know you've hit Hobie Beach. Also known as Windsurfer Beach, Hobie is the place to go for windsurfing in Miami. A local windsurf concession stand operates right by the water here, and have done so for over two decades now, with a strong reputation for great equipment and fair prices. Hobie is also quite popular with four-legged beach lovers and many often come to let their dogs splash about in the shallow waters. (305-361-2833)
Commonly referred to as "The Venice of America," Fort Lauderdale is also considered the yachting capital of the East Coast and is home to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. While the wealthy city stands on the cutting edge of fashion and the arts, it's also a fun-loving beachside community awash in souvenirs and sunscreen-wearing beach-goers. Picturesque surroundings, historic sights, museums, sidewalk cafes and a 22-block waterfront walkway contribute to the city's captivating appeal. Although still popular with the college crowds, Fort Lauderdale beach now sees more diverse visitors swimming and sunning on its shores. Anyone spending a day on the sand will enjoy the short distance to food and fun at Las Olas.
Virginia Key Beach
Historic Virginia Key Beach was once known as the only beach in Miami that could be used by African-Americans. Today, it is simply one of many beautiful stretches of sand and surf available for picnics and swimming by all locals and tourists alike. A miniature train was built decades ago to transport visitors around the area and an antique Allan Herschel carousel still remains on site. Virginia Key Beach is often used as an event space, and there is an event meadow, a pavilion, and a dance floor as well as several shelters available for rent. Two playgrounds are also located near the beach for children to play at. (305-960-4600)
Oleta River State Recreation Area
This beautiful recreation area set on an idyllic strand of Biscayne Bay is a great place to get away from it all. Visitors enjoy miles of walking paths and mountain bike trails, canoe and kayak rentals, a peaceful man-made stretch of beach, a designated fishing area and a well-appointed playground for the kids. Picnic tables and grills are available for those feeling so inclined. Those wanting to stay for a weekend can rent a cabin or camp on site. A jewel of natural beauty in the center of Miami's urban landscape, the 1,043-acre Oleta River State Park is the largest urban park in the state. (305-919-1844, 305-919-1846)
Matheson Hammock Park
Matheson Hammock Park, which also harbors the full-service Matheson Hammock Marina, offers several enticing features: natural, native landscaping, featuring old live oaks, mangroves and palm trees; a hammock trail (different from the main road, which some also call a trail) for a gorgeous, scenic walk that actually leads into Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden; Red Fish Grill, an upscale restaurant carved into an historic coral rock building, where prime dining hours are between sunset and star shine; and a man-made atoll pool that is fed by Biscayne Bay. Shallow enough for babies and attended by a lifeguard, it's also perfect for kite-boarders because, while calm and gentle, stiff breezes sweep through here. A snack bar, picnic pavilions and locker/restrooms make Matheson a convenient spot for families to take in the sun and saltwater. As a bonus, there's also an awesome view of downtown from across the bay. (305-665-5475)
Haulover Beach Park
Known for its spacious expanses and small crowds, Haulover Beach offers free parking and endless leisure activities. With landlubber sports, including tennis and golf, water activities such as surfing and swimming, and interesting extras like kite-building and flying workshops, not to mention hiking trails and fishing coves, Haulover has something for everyone. The February Kite Festival does draw substantial crowds, and it's well-worth going, even as a spectator. Haulover is mostly known for being Miami's only public, clothing-optional beach. Visitors are welcome to shed their bathing suits and avoid tan lines. Everyone is expected to act appropriately, and generally, everyone does. (305-947-3525)
Sunny Isles Beach
Pristine, white-sand beaches away from the chaos of other Miami-based beaches and a beautiful pier are all found at Sunny Isle Beach. With fewer tourists and clear waters, Sunny Isles Beach is perfect for a day of snorkeling, sun bathing, diving, and more. It's a great place to spend a day or a weekend at, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and other eateries nearby, including the Newport Beach Bar, located right on the pier, which serves everything from sushi and sandwiches to scallops and steak. There's also an oceanfront public park for children in case your littles get tired of building sand castles. Sunny Isles is the perfect beach to relax and unwind at. (305-947-0606)
This two-mile stretch of beach is a great destination; its clear water protected by the offshore sandbar and several lifeguards always on duty. In addition to the beach, the park maintains walking trails, picnic and cookout areas, and concessions. The Visitors' and Nature Center has a gift shop and hosts numerous nature walks and programs. The Family Amusement Center sports a refurbished carousel, outdoor skating rink, beachfront playground, and splash fountain. Crandon Park Gardens boasts over 200 acres of lush tropical habitat and carefully designed botanical gardens. Crandon Park Golf Course and Tennis Center are adjacent to the park; Crandon Park Marina, across the street, offers boat rentals, fishing charters, and other amenities. (305-361-5421)
Lummus Park Beach
Because South Beach is such a broad description, and the varying beaches here go on for miles, we thought we'd narrow it down. Lummus Park, the area of the beach located along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Street, is the all-encompassing South Beach experience. This is the strip of sand that is always the most crowded, which makes for excellent people watching. There is a mini playground before the entrance to the beach for children ages two through 5, however, the kids will generally tire out playing in the water all day. With Brazilian bikinis and fluorescent tans as far as the eye can see, adults will likely tire their necks from spinning around doing a double take at colorful locals. Once you've soaked up all of the sun you can possibly fit into one day, the strip of restaurants and bars lining Ocean Drive are close at hand. (305-673-7000)
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Beach
One of Miami's most relaxing beaches, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Beach is a scenic, sunny bit of paradise. It was named the "Cape of Florida" by Ponce de Leon in 1513 during his first Spanish expedition to the area. Located at the far east end of Key Biscayne, this beach is the perfect place for a family picnic, a day of biking by the shore, or a calm afternoon by the sea. There are bikes and quad bikes for rent at their concession stand and plenty of trails to ride on. Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and snorkeling are all possible at Bill Baggs. If you get hungry, there are two restaurants on site. The historic lighthouse was built in 1825 and is the oldest standing structure in the county. Guided tours of both the light house and the lighthouse keeper's cottage are available. (305-361-5811)
About Priscilla Blossom
Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.
She spent the bulk of the past decade taking trips on a whim, falling in love with and in such places as New York City, New Orleans, and a large portion of Nicaragua.
In 2011, she took off on her own and traveled around the U.S. via bus, bunking with strangers thanks to the power of CouchSurfing. She is currently writing a novel about this.
Read her words at PrisBlossom.com.
Read more about Priscilla Blossom here.