Miami beaches are where locals and visitors go to socialize, sunbathe, surf, swim, see and be seen—or avoid all of that, and just relax. Below, a list of our favorite bits of coastline in and around Miami.
Don't forget to read our guide on beach rules and conventions.
21st–35th Street Beach
A small stretch of sand, with sporadic lifeguard huts and snacks. The Miami Beach boardwalk runs through it, turning into a paved surface as you head south past 23rd Street—ideal for joggers.
53rd–63rd Street Beach
Pleasant, not too crowded and very family-oriented, with a play area at 53rd. On the downside, the otherwise vibrant Collins Street morphs into a soulless backdrop of bland condos around here.
A small beach with a Vita course, nestled inside this famously well-heeled town just north of Surfside. There are said to be more millionaires per capita in Bal Harbour than in any other city in the US—you need to be one to hang out here for long.
These dozen miles of white sand, ocean surf, landscaped dunes and shaded picnic areas rank as one of the area's most scenic stretches of beachfront. Worth the drive or bus journey (take the S from Lincoln Road), the beach is fringed with dense vegetation that blocks out the visual pollution of nearby high-rises. There's a nude beach (between the two northenmost parking lots) and a gay nude beach (north of the lifeguard tower).
Lummus Park Beach
Volleyball, thatched huts and people-watching. There's also a gay beach at 12th Street. Keep an eye out for the funky lifeguard stands: the one at 14th Street, which sports a circular roof crowned with AstroTurf, is our fave.
North Shore Open Space Park
Just north of North Beach, on a seedy two-block stretch of Collins Avenue around 85th Street, is this lovely park. It's home to an underused stretch of pristine beach lined with sea grape trees, sand dunes, a boardwalks, pavilions, barbecue grills and a Vita exercise course.
A small island reachable by private boat or, on weekends, a free 35-seat public boat. Expect barbecue grills, picnic tables, volleyball nets, horseshoe pits and—of course—pelicans. It was designated as the country's first National Wildlfe Refuge in 1903.
South Pointe Park
This verdant spot on the very tip of Miami Beach is part of a 17-acre park with picnic areas, a playground, a fishing pier and great views of cruise ships. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Government Cut channel, it makes for a wonderful respite from the urban madness.
Sunny Isles Beach
Beyond Haulover Beach Park lies Sunny Isles Beach, two miles of public beaches, souvenir shops and hotels. Architectural kitsch and older tourists once prevailed here; in an effort to change its reputation forever, the place has recently undergone a luxury beachside condo boom, irritating most residents but pleasing city fathers with the massively expanding tax base. These days, Sunny Isles Beach resembles more the condo canyon of mid-Miami Beach than the low-rent beach community it was from World War II until just a few years ago.
A sleepy residential enclave less than a mile square, clotted with two- and three-story apartment buildings and boasting little to entice visitors save the promise of less crowded beaches.
Key Biscayne and Virginia Key
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area
Occupying the southern tip of Key Biscayne, this park’s wide beaches regularly make the national top ten lists. But this is more than just a place to catch some rays: there’s history, wildlife and plenty of activities too. You can tour the Cape Florida Lighthouse, the oldest building in south Florida; explore native wildlife planted in the aftermath of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew; and try your hand at shoreline fishing, windsurfing, cycling and in-line skating. Covered pavilions are available for picnics, and the Lighthouse Café offers good food.
Palm trees line Key Biscayne's Crandon Park, and shallow waters, barbecues and picnic tables make it a favorite destination for families. A winding boardwalk and convenient parking complete the picture.
Hobie Beach, named for the late surfboard pioneer Hobie Alter, is unsurprisingly the beach of choice for practitioners of that sport. Windsurf, jet-ski and sailing boat rentals are all available onsite.
Matheson Hammock Park Beach
Scenic park with scores of nature trails and a man-made atoll pool that's flushed by the tidal action of Biscayne Bay. It doubles up as a prime kite-boarding spot. Come with a hammock and gently rock yourself through an afternoon of people-watching.
The Gold Coast
If you want to stop between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, do so at Delray Beach, an intimate town with wide beaches, trolley tours and an impressive cultural scene. The coast has always attracted visitors, from Spanish explorers in the 1500s to today's retirees and sun-seekers. It's not hard to see why: the beach is picturesque, and not too populated.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
A wide and handsome sandy strip with a brick promenade for skaters, joggers and cyclists. Postcard-perfect, it comes complete with bronzed lifeguards and coconut palms, and draws an altogether posher crowd than the beaches in Miami.