Miami Beach dazzles in the sunlight as the palm trees sway slightly in the whisper of the breeze. It’s a lovely scene especially by the gorgeous South Beach, affectionately known as SoBe.
The area makes for a gorgeous ramble along two miles of pristine beaches, passing appealing pastel-hued Art Deco architecture that sparkle in the sunshine mingled with wave after wave of the seafront and loud, neon-lit nightclubs that light up after sundown.
It emerged onto the party scene as recently as the mid-90’s when several Art Deco was restored and remodeled. In came Madonna, Demi Moore, and Ricki Martin who fell in love with Miami. And of course, everyone else followed. And stayed. Was this city really created out of a swamp a mere century ago?
Art Deco and Ocean Drive on South Beach
Ocean Drive has amazing restaurants and cafes with music blasting out of every outlet. Many have live music like Katrina and Oceans Ten. As you pass it’s a bit like having the radio change channel with every step. This is a long stretch and from Thursday to Sunday, it seems everyone is out enjoying the evening air and nightlife.
But probably its most interesting quality is its architecture. There are plenty of Art Deco examples, but there is also the Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture that appeared on the streets.
To explore, start at 728 Ocean Drive where now stands the 1950s inspired Johnnie Rockets hamburger. Originally it was the location for Irene Marie Models, a model agency – the first in Florida. They were pivotal in bringing beautiful people to South Beach.
What’s more, this spot between two art deco hotels – the Beacon and the Colony – also has a claim to fame as the location of the Sun Ray Apartments where Al Pacino’s chainsaw scene Scarface took place.
If you make it to 1250 Ocean Drive you will see the retro-futuristic facade of the Carlyle, where The Birdcage was filmed. On the way, you will pass Gianni Versace’s former villa, Casa Casuarina, and its stylish and unmissable black and gold-tipped gates. The eminent fashion designer was shot in front of it at point-blank range while returning from buying a newspaper at the 24/7.
The property has since been turned into a luxury 10-bedroom boutique hotel and restaurant called The Villa by Barton G. Inside and glamorous mosaic-tiled swimming pool designed by Versace with much Italian flare.
But be warned: You may find that when walking the length of Ocean Drive the buzzy is too much of a distraction to keep walking.
SoFi – South of Fifth
For a change of scene and for a much quieter ambiance head for 5th Street. You will find a lovely triangular enclave called SoFi (South of Fifth) – it starts at Fifth to the end of the island at the 17-acre beautifully landscaped South Pointe Park.
You may find a photoshoot happening or at least glamourous people milling around. If you want more of that you could go to Nikki Beach restaurant for brunch. There is no doubting the sumptuous and appetizing food served, yet it’s hard to eat when toned, tanned bodies pass you on their way to nearby sunbeds.
If you are with the kids try breakfast at The Big Pink, a very retro, very pink, family-style restaurant with hefty portions that are easy on the pocket.
Wynwood and the Miami Design District
Once a rundown area the walls of Wynwood are very much the haunt of hipsters thanks to property developer Tony Goldman who had a vision of a “museum of the streets”. More than 50 artists have transformed 80,000 square feet of walls into artworks and words like “edgy” and “artsy” are often thrown at it. There are plenty of art galleries too (70 at the last count) but don’t miss the contemporary art of the Rubell Family collection with works by Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.