In my book, limited time in Miami calls for maximized beach time. Especially when you live farther north and will soon be headed home to a wintery mix of snow, ice, and who-knows-what-else.
So in that spirit… I spent a whirlwind four days getting sunburnt at seven different beaches, to experience as much variety and sunshine as possible.
Here I’ve listed the beaches I visited, in order from favorite to absolute favorite. Read on to self-medicate for winter blues.
1. North Beach
I don’t think North Beach is known for anything too crazy, especially since it sits so close to its South Beach counterpart. It seemed maybe like more of a family beach. Parking was free which was awesome!
It was a smaller beach, with significantly fewer shops and restaurants in the area. Much more peaceful, and could be worth checking out if you want something different from Sobe. It wasn’t my favorite beach on this trip, but it’s still a Miami beach, and it was still lovely!
I came to Mid-Beach to watch the sunrise. It was a hassle to find parking, so I almost missed the moment when the sun peaked over the horizon!
But I didn’t miss it, and the sunrise was beautiful and moving. I chased seagulls and jumped in the waves.
Actually one of the best parts of the morning at Mid-Beach was that my boyfriend Alec was able to get stunning drone footage. His drone is fairly new, so it was exciting to bring to Miami! Stay tuned for links to some of his travel videos.
One other thing I loved about Mid-Beach was the wooden board walk that ran parallel to the shore, and was encased in palm trees and shrubs and green. The thick vegetation lining the path created a jungle-like feel — a refreshing change from storefront boardwalks.
3. Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
So I realize this isn’t technically a Miami beach…but I flew in and out of Fort Lauderdale because it was cheaper, and of course I had to check out the beaches! Fort Lauderdale Beach Park was a pretty big beach, with volleyball and basketball courts, and plenty of palm trees.
So while we were at the beach in Fort Lauderdale, there was a shriek from behind me. And it turns out a woman had touched a Portuguese Man of War! These sea creatures look like jellyfish but actually aren’t. I saw quite a lot of them on Miami beaches… more on that below!
4. Virginia Key Beach Park
This was a super cool little island that I passed driving between Miami and Key Biscayne. So I decided to stop there for a beach day. There was a mountain bike trail I mistook for a walking trail, and almost got run over by cyclists. But there were also plenty of hiking trails that took you off the beaten path. It was truly a place to explore.
I found lots of wildlife in Virginia Key! A sea urchin, lizards, several Portuguese Man of War, some crabs and fish to name a few.
There were actually tons of Portuguese Man of War on some of the beaches in Miami. They were all varying hues of beautiful blues, purples, and pinks. These animals aren’t jellyfish, but colonies of polyps. But they have an extremely painful sting that has on rare occasions been deadly to people. They’re pretty easy to spot as they float along the water’s surface, so I just kept a safe distance.
5. South Beach
South Beach was so fun! The beach was giant, with a cool pier at the end. And it was super fun to pass by and check out all the ultra-fancy resorts. There was a ton to do in the downtown area as well. Especially when it all came alive at night.
6. Bill Baggs State Park
Alec and I woke up for sunrise our first morning in Miami, and tried driving to Bill Baggs State Park to watch it. But it turns out the park didn’t open until 8am. So instead we went to Crandon Park (see below), a happy mistake.
After the sunrise and a cheerful breakfast at Oasis Cafe, we took a long walk along the beach back down to Bill Baggs State Park. (Dodging Portuguese Man of War the whole way! I think the high tides in the mornings bring more of them to shore.) I guess we avoided the park entrance fee by doing this, but the walk did take several hours.
We found some historic sites in the park, including this sweet lighthouse. You can go to the top of the Cape Florida lighthouse for free, and get amazing 360 degree views of Miami.
7. Crandon Park
This was the very first beach we went to. It’s on Key Biscayne, with a smattering of palm trees across the beach. It really felt like a tropical island.
My favorite part about this place though was how shallow the waters were! You could just keep wading out farther and farther and the water wouldn’t go past your waist.
And there were some sandbars, where the water would be back up to your ankles. We figured out the trick to finding the sandbars — you had to look in the distance for where waves seemed to be crashing far from the shore, and that meant that it was shallow.
Overall I was so surprised by how much the beaches of Miami really felt like tropical islands. It was a whirlwind four days, between going to seven different beaches and waking up before 6:00 for sunrise every day. But I wouldn’t change a thing.