Are Miami Beach and South Beach different?
One of the most common questions I receive as a tour guide is “what is the difference between Miami Beach and South Beach?”. That is a great question! It can be quite confusing because they both seem the same, and to an extent, they are. Miami Beach is the city and the city is divided into three sub-divisions; South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach. They all have unique qualities and bring a different vibe to them, so I am going to try my best to explain those different vibes to you. There are also some great beaches on an island near Miami Beach called Virginia Key. This area is more unknown to tourists but is actually my favorite place in the whole world! (This is where I skate most often, see these pics!) I love Virginia Key for many different reasons and all-in-all Miami’s beaches all have something different to love.
Location: Miami Beach 1st Street till 24th Street
Ahh South Beach, a tourist mecca. Filled with retirees, the workers of South Beach, bike rental shops, and way too many souvenir shops (seriously, how do you all stay in business???). South Beach has the vibrant, crazy, and rambunctious vibe that we all expect. Neon lights decorate the avenues and large overpriced drinks keep the party going. If you are looking to see weird stuff (and weirder people), play some volleyball with friends, workout, rollerblade, or bike on the boardwalk then South Beach is the beach for you. The mornings (before 11 am) are the quietest time and if you want to experience South Beach without the craziness then go see the sunrise, have breakfast at the News Café, and leave before the crowd starts pouring in. However, if you’re looking to party then from 5th street till 15th street is your go-to spot. Being that this is where famous Ocean Drive is located, you can drink, grab some takeout, and take a short walk to the beach. Beyond Ocean Drive, the beach is a little more tranquil but still bustling due to the hotels that strew the coastline. In my personal opinion, South Beach is not the place for me, but I understand the hype.
I give South Beach a 6 out of 10.
Location: Miami Beach 24th Street till 63rd Street
If you’re looking for something more lowkey and private, then mid-beach could be the beaches for you! Mid-beach is where a majority of Miami Beach hotels are located so the only beachgoers there are usually just hotel guests. Parking is available in several parking lots, street parking, but there is also a free trolley that rolls through Collins Avenue from Lincoln Road till 88th St.
I give Mid-Beach beaches an 8 out of 10.
Location: Miami Beach 63rd Street till 87th Street
For a truly great mix of beautiful pristine beaches with fine white sand and peace and tranquility, North Beach beaches are the place to go. I personally love going to these Northern beaches because there is not nearly as much of a crowd like South Beach, parking is not a hassle since it’s emptier, and it has a sort of suburban feel to it since this turns more residential. On 69th Street there is a Publix so you can shop for last-minute beach snacks and liquor and a variety of restaurants nearby.
I give North Beaches a 10 out of 10!
Hobie Island Beach Park North
Location: Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149
This is the beach right before the William M. Powell bridge and it is one of the only dog-friendly beaches in Miami (if not the only one). In Hobie Island Beach Park North there is the opportunity to rent Hobie cats, Stand-Up Paddleboard, and kayaks. There is one restroom facility that is kept fairly clean (I’ve never run into issues and it does not stink… it’s actually kept pretty clean). This beach does not have a lot of sand so you’ll only have groups of people next to you but not behind you (sounds good to me). Certainly, my favorite part about this beach is the convenience. You park your car and in less than 10 steps you are on the beach. During the weekdays you shouldn’t have any issues but in the weekends, it can get pretty packed so you’ll want to ensure to get there early. This beach is also my favorite beach to watch the sunset since it is a southern-facing beach unlike the beaches in Miami Beach which are eastern-facing. You get a beautiful view of Viscaya, Coconut Grove, and Key Biscayne here and it is pretty common to see wildlife such as dolphins and manatees. This beach is within the basin of the Biscayne Bay so it is not the clear water/fine sand beach type but still beautiful and swimmable.
I love this beach and I give it an 8 out of 10.
Hobie Island Beach Park
Location: Old, Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149
After you’ve crossed the bridge you will find a beach to your right, very much like Hobie Island Park North…because they are basically the same. They contain the same if not identical features but Hobie Island Beach Park does have more sand cover so you will likely have groups of people all around you. There is more parking available here and if you like to fish, there is also a pier! Another perk of this beach is the prominence of Street Food Vendors that sell arepas (YUM), Garcia sausages, frozen lemonade, a variety of chips, and soda. Sometimes, there is also an ice cream truck that passes by. This beach also has one restroom facility with a water fountain and the city keeps them very nice and clean. Further east into the beach you have the capability of renting kayaks, paddleboats, and more stand-up paddleboards. Another perk of this beach that is slightly different than Beach Park North is the sand is finer here.
As a frequent visitor of this beach I rate it an 8.5 out of 10.
Location: 4020 Virginia Beach Dr, Miami, FL 33149
This beach is incredibly hidden, even for the locals! I have been the one to introduce this beach to more than one friend and they have all exclaimed how much of a hidden treasure this beach is. There are definitely pro’s and con’s and some of the cons could explain why it is not frequented so often but it deserves much credit. If you are looking to relax and enjoy some tranquility, possibly just to read a book by the water, then this is certainly the beach for you. Virginia Key is an island revered for its abundance of natural native flora and fauna and the beaches are no different. Which may be an issue for someone looking for something more clean-cut. The nature is not chiseled to match anyone’s desired perceptions, but to me, this makes it even more beautiful. The beach contains a variety of red & black Mangroves, Sea Grape trees, Beach Peanut plants, Beach Jacquemontia, Biscayne Prickly Ash, and dazzling Coastal Hammocks. The not-so-pristine aspect of this beach is the frequent sargassum that washes ashore, the rocky areas of sand (not all the sand is rocky however), and the spots of seaweed that can be found in the water. Like I said, this beach is not something tailor-made so adaptability will have to be one of your strong suits if you desire to be a visitor of Virginia Key Beach. This beach is also rich in history, which you can learn on my episode of Historic Virginia Key Beach!
Overall, I give this beach an 8 out of 10.
As you can see, Hobie Island Beach Park North, Hobie Island Beach Park, and Historic Virginia Key Beach Park are all also in close quarters to each other. They are all in line with the Rickenbacker Causeway.