If you’re heading stateside, Florida’s sun and sand aren’t the only reasons to head south to Miami for a weekend.
Miami Beach offers up a veritable feast for the senses with garden-to-glass cocktails, white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, top-notch eats, Art Deco buildings or street art on almost every corner—all served up with a side of Latin flair.
Here are my tips on how to spend a weekend soaking up the sunshine in Miami:
Check into Nautilus South Beach, a SIXTY Hotel, on Collins Ave. With an oceanfront location, Nautilus features an 1,890 square foot salt water pool and expansive backyard offering nests for ultimate relaxation. Rooms are casual and elegant, inspired by a residential European beach house, and feature stand alone showers, Bluetooth docking stations, Nespresso machines and gourmet snacks.
Head down to South Pointe to have dinner at Joe’s Stone Crabs. Founded in 1913, Joe’s has been part of the Miami Beach scene since before the area was formally incorporated and it’s been a favourite of royalty, gangsters and even former head of the FBI, J.Edgar Hoover. For the full experience, order ‘Joe’s Classic’, a full serving of crab claws with their signature mustard sauce, hash brown, creamed spinach, coleslaw and a slice of their famous key lime pie.
In a restored art deco building, the trendy Freehand Miami is unlike any hostel you’ve probably seen before. Head through the restaurant and out past the pool, follow the fairy lights and you’ll find The Broken Shaker, a backyard oasis that was named Best American Hotel Bar by Tales of Cocktail. Vintage style Acapulco chairs and lanterns give it a romantic and whimsical vibe while the skilled team of mixologists use elixirs, syrups and infusions made from garden herbs and spices, and fresh-pressed produce and exotic ingredients from around the world to shake up delicious drinks.
Head down to South Pointe Beach to kick off your day with an omelette from Big Pink, a retro-styled hangout is known for its comfort-food menu which boasts more than 200 items including ‘TV dinner’ specials served on a silver TV tray. From the breakfast crowd to late night South Beach socialites rolling in after a night at the clubs, Big Pink is an all hours see-and-be scene for locals and tourists alike.
Head back up to Ocean Avenue for a spot of people watching, street art spotting and Art Deco admiration. If you don’t mind a bit of celebrity house hunting, swing past 1116 Ocean Dr, the area’s most infamous residence. The large 1930 Spanish-style mansion is Casa Casaurina, once the home of fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was shot to death on the home’s steps in 1997. The home is now a private, members-only party mansion.
Miami’s Art Deco Historic District boasts more than 800 perfectly preserved—and often pastel—examples of the style that has become part of South Beach’s iconic style. There’s plenty of walking tours to choose from, with or without cocktails, but the best is the Miami Design Preservation League‘s daily walking tour (twice on Thursdays) which starts at 10.30am at the Art Deco Welcome Centre on Ocean Drive.
With the temperature rising, cool down with a frozen pina colada at the Clevelander on Ocean and 10th before heading across the road to soak up the sunshine and swim in the turquoise water off South Beach. Hire sun lounges and an umbrella from Boucher Brothers (but be prepared to pay $$$ for the pleasure) or wander along the shoreline to admire the lifeguard huts, each one unique in style and colour.
Fashionistas and shopaholics will want to visit Lincoln Road Mall, a mile long, pedestrian-only promenade which is home to brands including high-end label stockist Alchemist as well as Debbie Katz, Anthropolgie, J.Crew, and vintage shop, Fly Boutique. While you’re there, stop at Freddo, an organic Argentinean Ice Cream chain, to sample a grilled ice cream sandwich.
Swing past Espanola Way to taste the flavours of the world with options from patatas bravas to mussels, chilaquiles to croquettas. Head to Havana 1957 for your fix of Cuban food; order a Cuban sandwich and don’t forget to follow it up with a Cuban coffee.
When it comes to cool bars, Living Room, the indoor/outdoor lounge at W South Beach, is the place to go. Locally sourced ingredients are part of the bar’s dedication to sustainable practices. If you’d prefer a cold beer, Miami Beach’s only brew pub—The Abbey Brewing Company, just off of Lincoln Road—serves its own award-winning menu of ales plus a dozen other international beers as well as a full bar, and it’s open until 5am.
The holy grail of Miami nightclubs, if you get into the two-story architectural wonder that is LIV at Fontainebleau, you’re cooler than cool. Catch your breath and enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the celebrities, VIP tables and the most beautiful crowd of all Miami Beach nightclubs.
Put your finger on the pulse of Little Havana as you mingle with Cuban locals and get your caffeine fix at “La Ventanita” (coffee window) at Versailles Restaurant. With the restaurant dating back to 1971, don’t be surprised if you find national TV news crews or Presidential candidates chatting with locals over a Cuban espresso. If you’re feeling peckish, grab a guava and cheese pastry to go with your coffee.
Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street, is the unofficial capital of Miami’s Cuban community. With its Cuban coffee windows (or ventanitas), cigar shops, music and cultural activities, Calle Ocho is the main artery of Little Havana. Take a walk along the street and be sure to stop at Maximo Gomez Domino Park, a local park that’s always full of older Cubans sipping coffee, playing Dominoes and chatting with their friends.
Tucked away in Little Havana, Azucar Ice Cream Company makes artisanal gourmet ice creams and sorbets in Cuban and tropical flavours such as Sugarcane and Pineapple, Orange Blossom-Almond, Pumpkin, Egg Nog, Spiced Sugar Plum, Rose Petal and Margarita Sorbet.
Uber across to Bayside and jump on the catamaran Caribbean Spirit for an afternoon of swimming and snorkelling off South Beach. If the weather is right, the captain will drop anchor at Jose Cuervo Reef where tequila brand Jose Cuervo dropped a tiki bar back in 2000 to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (or in this case, Sinko de Mayo). Don’t forget your GoPro as the bar is now home to plenty of colourful tropical fish.
Get #instahappy at Wynwood Walls. Conceived by the late Tony Goldman–the man responsible for revitalizing NYC’s Soho precinct–Wynwood Walls is a must visit for budding fashion bloggers, art aficiados or anyone with an appreciation for cool street art. Sit back and watch the ‘likes’ clock up over these #instaworthy artworks.
Refuel with tacos and hand-smashed guacamole at Coyo Taco, a Wynwood taqueria at 23 and 2nd Ave. Once you’ve got your order, make your way through the ‘secret’ unmarked door at the back of the restaurant and you’ll find yourself in an outdoor bar with DJs spinning until late and an impressive number of tequilas and mezcals, craft beers and ‘paletaritas’: delicious popsicle-based margarita cocktails.
Toast your epic Miami weekend with a cocktail as you take in the panoramic view overlooking the downtown Miami skyline and surrounding waterways from Sugar, a rooftop bar on the 40th floor of East in Brickell.
What to pack:
The Rocks Push Balmoral Boardshorts (for him) | Camilla Spirit of Ruh embellished printed swimsuit | Le Specs No Smirking sunglasses | Mecca Cosmetica In A Good Light Tinted Moisturiser | Kate Spade New York Palm Tree Coin Purse | Soludos Classic Stripe Sandal | Ace of Something Trigg Summer Fedora | One Teaspoon Phoenix Lovers denim shorts | Kenneth Jay Lane Bead and Tassel Earrings
Leave your selfie stick at home and book a session with Shoot My Travel. They’ll put you in touch with a local photographer who’ll not only snap a series of fun shots, they’ll also give you a local’s view on where to go and what to do. (Valerie took my photos and they are AMAZING … blog post to come.)
Use Uber or Uber Pool (ride sharing) to get around. It’s cheaper than taxis and quicker than public transport. Or hire a scooter or rent a Citi Bike.
A lot of places in Miami will include the tip (service charge) in your bill so always check so as not to pay twice!