“Flamboyant Miami, sandwiched between fast-living America and the Latino rhythms of the Caribbean, has mingled the best of both cultures to offer an unbeatable melting pot of beaches, restaurants, shops and local people.”
The Magic City
From quirky Art Deco buildings to glamorous white-sand beaches, Miami is flamboyant from start to finish. Florida’s southeastern tip is an easy-on-the-eye jumble of beaches, skyscrapers and colourful, cultural districts. And it all backs on to the huge Everglades National Park – prime crocodile-spotting territory.
One of the most iconic snapshots of Miami has to be South Beach, known affectionately to locals as SoBe. Take one look and you’ll see why. Rolling on for more than seven and a half miles, it’s not just a beach, it’s a community. Here, bronzed tourists bathe on the vanilla-coloured sands, rollerbladers speed down the boardwalk and art lovers gawp at the impressive 1920s backdrop.
Sunrise to sunset
Miami may be famous for its beaches, but there is life beyond the sands. There’s a café culture to rival any European city – Little Havana, Miami’s Cuban quarter, is home to some of the most charming. Then there are the museums, extravagant manor houses and wildlife parks. After dark, choose between the city’s Spanish-style, al fresco bars or join the A-listers at the swish mega-clubs.
Things to See and Do in Miami
Loaded with beaches
There’s no shortage of Caribbean-like sands in Miami. In fact, it’s got around 35 miles of shoreline to its name. With a lively boardwalk, ivory sands and every kind of watersports going, South Beach is the heavyweight here. But the beach scene doesn’t stop there. The further south you head, the party-hard stretches give way to peaceful patches.
This belt of sand, found at the southern tip of Miami Beach, is instantly recognisable. It’s starred on the silver screen countless times, boasts a unique Art Deco backdrop and is packed with tanned exhibitionists. There’s no place quite like South Beach. Action aside, there’s a reason it’s so popular. The soft white sands are complemented by cyan-blue seas and swaying palms.
Key Biscayne is just south of Miami Beach, but while tourists flock to the latter, the former manages to slip below the radar. This means the beaches are much more do-not-disturb. For a small entry fee, you can tread the sands of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. They’re backed by rugged grassland, a couple of running tracks and a historic lighthouse.
Tiffany & Co, Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s easy to see why Bal Harbour mall is regularly nicknamed Miami’s Rodeo Drive. But that’s where the comparisons end. This al fresco centre has been designed in true extravagant Miami style, with palms, marble fountains and koi ponds.
Lincoln Road has a real pick ‘n’ mix of shops, bars and restaurants. The pedestrian-only strip is packed with jewellery stalls, multi-storey clothes stores and souvenir shops. So, it’s a great place to snap up take-homes on the cheap, as well as roaming Forever 21, Lacoste and H&M.
It’s all about designer names in Miami, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar. Hit up discount stores, like Sawgrass Mills and Marshalls, where you’ll find clothes and outlet shops from the likes of Nike, Gap and Ralph Lauren. Just be prepared to rummage to find your bargain.
One thing Miami’s certainly not lacking is bars. The glitzy mega-clubs might be the most attention-grabbing, but laid-back lounges are where it’s at. These haunts promote cocktails and intimacy over shots and shouting. Watch the sun turn pink from a swanky rooftop bar or sink speciality cocktails in a moody cocktail den.
Will Smith sang about Miami’s all-night party scene – and he wasn’t wrong. You’ll find bustling clubs pumping out Latin-infused grooves and basslines like an LA earthquake. From hipster bars and al fresco beach clubs to high-life haunts with A-list DJs and giant martini glasses, there’s a night scene to suit everyone.
The Cuban equivalent to an American hamburger, the frita is a Miami must-try. The tender patty is a mix of beef and chorizo, topped with shoestring potatoes, onions and ketchup.
Cubans like their sandwiches as much as any New Yorker, but they’ve added their own twist. Roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles are piled high in between crispy, toasted Cuban bread.
From October to May, Miami seafood restaurants come alive with deliveries of stone crabs. The meaty claws are a speciality here, and they mostly come chilled with a mustard dipping sauce.
Key Lime pie
You can’t visit anywhere in south Florida and leave without trying a traditional Key Lime pie. It’s made from the fruit of the Key Lime tree, which gives it its half-sweet, half-tort flavour. And it’s usually finished off with a dollop of whipped cream.
The CoronaRita takes cocktails to another level. With two bottles of beer turned upside down into a giant-sized margarita, you don’t get much more Miami than this.