Beaches & Parks
As one might suspect, the southeast Florida coast offers some of the most amazing beaches, certainly in the lower 48 states and, I would suggest, even the world. There are beaches that are very active and where those that can, flaunt their nothing short of flawless "beach-bodies" as well as for those who simply stroll along the breakwater and admire the scenery. For those that want to be a more remote beach, there are those beaches that are the better kept local secrets, never overrun by tourists and where even on weekends you can enjoy a quiet day at the beach. For those of you who may be a bit more European and like to bathe at least partially au-natural, so to speak, there are even beaches that will accommodate your desires as well.
The reality is that while almost anywhere on the east side of Miami Beach, you are never more than a stones throw from the beach and one is as spectacular as the next. Below you will find a fairly diverse list of beaches, including at least one or two to accommodate whatever your desire may be.
South Beach (South Pointe Park to Collins Park)
This area includes Lummus Park and Public Beach from 5th Street to 15th Street and all the way up to Collins Park. This beach area will mostly attract a mix of locals and those who are the guests of the many boutique hotels, B&B's, and hotels that may or may not be directly on Ocean Drive. It is an absolutely beautiful beach within walking distance of a multitude of shops, restaurants, shops, etc. With the exception of the 12th street area, it's fairly family friendly although this IS South Beach and you may encounter some topless bathers and minimal bathing attire. There are plenty of cabanas for rent, a really wide beach area, a 1.6 mile path for rollerblading, biking, walking, etc. Come early if you're driving, in that parking, especially in season, is somewhat challenging.
12th Street Beach, Gay and Lesbian (At Ocean Drive and 12th Street)
This is a predominantly gay and lesbian beach. Although it's not a very large area, it is usually pretty well attended. It is a well marked beach and to get there, at the end of 12th Street, simply follow the rainbow flags.
Haulover Beach, Clothing Optional (Haulover Inlet to Sunny Isle)
Actually, Haulover Beach is an absolutely stunning 2 mile stretch of beach and only about a ½ mile stretch is marked off as "clothing optional" and this area is well marked so as to prevent any accidental surprises. The dress code, however, on the rest of the beach may be somewhat relaxed as well so be forewarned. This beach offers a more park like setting and the absence of commercial structures becomes obvious. Ample parking is available. To get to this beach, simply head north through al of Miami Beach until you cross Haulover inlet and then look to your right and this is where the beach starts.
Crandon Park (Key Biscayne North)
If you're willing to venture away from South Beach just a bit, heading over to Key Biscayne is well worth the effort. A local favorite, it is only about 4 miles as the crow flies from South Pointe Park, it's about a 14 mile ride by car. In that this is a State Park, there will be a $5 admission / parking fee for a vehicle, but again, it's well worth the money and the time. You will find ample parking, an idyllic setting, clear water, plenty of palm trees and lots of space to spread out. If you like snorkeling, I suggest the north end of the beach and while there are numerous sand bars and you can walk out for what seems like a mile, snorkeling right along the beach can be amazing. Bring food and drink in that concessions are there but may be a long walk.
Bill Baggs Park, Cape Florida (Key Biscayne South)
Another local favorite beach is at the south end of Key Biscayne and this park is home to the well recognized Cape Florida Lighthouse. One would ask why travel the extra couple of miles to get to the park at the far end of Key Biscayne, but just driving through Key Biscayne makes us local remember why we live in Florida and it will ensure visitors that they picked the right vacation destination. It's simply beautiful. While these two parks were almost entirely whipped out by a hurricane, the vegetation has grown back in all of its splendor, and the drive is spectacular. You will pass through the residential / commercial section of Key Biscayne which is a sight to behold in it's own right. On Key Biscayne, nothing has been left to chance and you will quickly realize why this quaint area is home to some of the rich and some of the famous. The park at the end is also another wonderfully kept Florida State Park and the beach, once again, is worth the trip. Plenty of space, lots of Palms, rarely crowded and always beautiful water. The best part of this strip of paradise with the widest beach area is at the south end of the park. Plenty of parking and easy beach access. Again, bring some food and drink in that concessions may be a bit of a walk, depending on where you spread your blanket. Snorkeling right along the beach is terrific, and usually 2-3 feet of water will be sufficient to open up a whole new world? BUT, do keep an eye on which way the current runs along the beach, which may be strong at times, and take all of the safety precautions necessary.
Keeping the Beaches Beautiful!
Nothing makes Floridians happier than to have our visitors enjoy our many spectacular beaches, but it takes only a few careless individuals to take away from their beauty. It takes a collective effort to keep these beaches as pristine as possible and we ask that everyone simply dispose of their trash properly, leave nothing behind, and if you are so inclined, when you see a piece of trash that isn't yours, do us all a small favor and throw it in the trash also. WE DO APPRECIATE IT AND WE'LL LOVE YOU FOR IT!