Head out for a hit of morning sun with a walk along the golden sands of South Beach. See the early morning joggers and the famously colourful lifeguard stations while getting a first glimpse of the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic. Keep going along the beach or boardwalk until you reach the fishing pier at South Pointe Park where you will be rewarded with outstanding views of the downtown skyline.
Enjoy a spot of breakfast and people watching at the quaint News Café, located on the corner of Ocean Drive and 8th Street, before exploring the Art Deco architecture of Ocean Drive and adjacent Collins Avenue. The Art Deco Welcome Centre is the ideal place to start where you can either join a walking tour or explore independently. After this area was flattened by a vicious hurricane in 1926, there was a building boom in South Beach which took in Mediterranean and Miami Modernist styles but was mainly centred on the Art Deco movement.
Pastel coloured architectural highlights include The Beacon and Colony hotels, while film buffs will recognise The Carlyle from its appearance in the gangster classic Scarface. Round off the morning with a visit to the Wolfsonian-FIU design museum on Washington Avenue, home to a fascinating collection of American and European decorative and fine arts produced between 1885 and 1945.
Take a cab to bohemian Coconut Grove for a bit of window shopping and lunch. This charming bayside village within urban Miami has a pedestrianised centre filled with cafes, galleries and boutiques. For lunch you can’t go wrong with a trip to Jauguar Ceviche Spoon Bar.
Head to nearby Biscayne Bay for a visit to the grandiose Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a 1910’s Venetian style mansion within 10 acres of gardens and former home of the industrialist James Deering. The main house is filled with art and antiques, and there are also the Renaissance gardens, historic village and native woodland landscape to explore.
Then move to the nearby area of Coral Gables. Known as ‘The City Beautiful’, it’s home to wide-open streets and an old-world ambience and was one of the first planned communities in the US. Spend some time exploring the stylish shops of the Miracle Mile before heading to the neighbourhood’s 1920’s centrepiece, the Biltmore Hotel, for a signature cucumber gin and tonic.
Next pay a visit to Little Havana, a vibrant slice of Cuba within the heart of the city. Wander the main drag Calle Ocho, home to numerous cafes, galleries and hand-rolled cigar shops. Stop by the historic Ball & Chain bar – where legends like Billie Holliday and Count Basie have performed – and enjoy live Afro-Cuban and salsa music with an expertly mixed mojito or two. Recover with a steaming cup of Cuban coffee and head to Domino Park to watch the older generation play the liveliest games of dominoes you will ever see.
If you have time it’s worth a journey to check out the former warehouse district of Wynwood, now reinvented as the city’s arts hub. The famed Wynwood Walls features a stunning display of colourful murals from renowned street artists. As well as street art walking tours, there are a wide range of galleries, hip bars and restaurants to enjoy.
Head back to the beach for a late afternoon swim before a sunset aperitif at one of Miami Beach’s many rooftop bars.
South Beach is home to some of America’s greatest restaurants with options to suit all tastes and pockets.
Located on Washington Avenue, Joe’s Stone Crabs has been a Miami institution since 1913 and serves up fresh jumbo claws during the Stone Crab season. They don’t accept reservations however so do be prepared to queue.
The panoramic views alone make a visit to the James-Beard award winning Juvia worthwhile; with a menu fusing French, Japanese and Peruvian cuisines it is an unmissable rooftop dining experience. Make sure to reserve in advance, particularly for a spot out on the terrace. For a simpler pleasure, Lincoln Road’s Pizza Rustica is a deliciously filling option; try a huge square slice of the signature Rustica pizza – featuring artichoke, olives and prosciutto ham.
Miami Advice 24 hours in the Magic City...
We tell you what not to miss and insider tips of where to stay.
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