By David Grainger
It’s my first trip to South Beach, Miami. I was in New York and needed a sunny beach break as an add-on to a frenetic city visit. So, here’s my introduction to a great holiday destination.
The growth of South Beach coincided with the start of commercial airline travel. By the 1930s you could fly from New York to Miami in only ten hours (now three) and arrive in a holiday paradise with a beautiful sandy beach and a sub-tropical climate.
This led to a building boom in hotels which fortuitously coincided with the Art Deco movement. Today, South Beach boasts the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world.
The Art Deco Welcome Centre situation in the heart of the Art Deco district offers daily tours of some of the main Art Deco district for twenty dollars. The story of the survival of the Art Deco district is on-going and not all buildings have yet received the loving care they deserve.
They also offer gay and lesbian walking tours that I missed, so I cannot say whether South Beach also offers the highest concentration of gay people in the world. It is however very gay friendly and even has a branch of the popular London restaurant, Balans.
To set the scene: standing on a promontory of land apart from the city of Miami, South Beach itself extends as far north as 24th Street with the greatest cluster of Art Deco hotels between about 5th and 15th Street. This area is an obvious choice to stay as there are so many beguiling hotels. However, be warned as these hotels are separated from the sea by Lummus Park and Ocean Drive, famous for cruising cars, busy restaurants and as below, the making of movies, so your ocean view room risks being a little noisy.
North of 15th Street the hotels back directly onto the beach so your ocean view room is likely to be spectacular. However, these hotels are large. And some are very large indeed.
We opted for a smaller apart-hotel a couple of blocks from the beach but with chairs on the beach included in the price of the hotel. The hotel also has a nice pool where breakfast is served.
South Beach offers quite a few places of interest including a Jewish museum, the Bass Museum of Art, a design museum (the Wolfsonian) and a Holocaust memorial.
Most destinations within South Beach are walkable, although there are also plenty of buses. Best value is the local SoBe bus which charges 25 cents a ride. Buses to downtown Miami cost around two dollars a trip from where you can catch a ride on the ultra sleek Metromover which is absolutely free! A Metromover train can be seen on the left below.
If you are travelling outside of Downtown Miami the Metrorail service also costs about 2 dollars.
Five dollars will buy you an Easy card pass which can be used on all buses and Metrorail trains within Miami. These can be bought from a couple of shops in the South Beach area.
We used our Easy cards to visit Vizcaya – a beautiful house with gardens – rated as Miami’s number one attraction on tripadviser. Highly recommended is the restaurant within Vizcaya which serves reasonably priced lunches in elegant surroundings.
And, finally, my favourite restaurant in South Beach - Grillfish.
with wonderfully fresh sea food.
All in all, then, a beach to revisit and a living art deco town where the eye candy isn’t only the buildings.
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