The best Miami beaches are where locals and visitors go to socialize, sunbathe, surf, swim, see and be seen—or avoid all of that, and just relax. Our favorite bits of South Florida coastline extend as far north as Delray Beach, technically not Miami but still only a short drive away, to the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne. They’re as diverse as they are sprawling, so no matter which way you head you’ll find a spot to fit what you’re looking for—a fun thing to do with the kids, something free to do in Miami, a reason to head to South Beach for more than partying.
Lummus Park Beach
Volleyball, thatched huts and people-watching. There’s also a gay beach at 12th Street and plenty of topless tourists and friendly bird feeders, which provide a good source of entertainment. Keep an eye out for the funky lifeguard stands: the one at 14th Street, which sports a circular roof crowned with AstroTurf, is our fave.
These dozen miles of white sand, ocean surf, landscaped dunes and shaded picnic areas rank as one of the area’s most scenic stretches of beachfront. Worth the drive or bus journey (take the S from Lincoln Road), the beach is fringed with dense vegetation that blocks out the visual pollution of nearby high-rises. There’s a nude beach (between the two northernmost parking lots) and a gay nude beach (north of the lifeguard tower). Tuesday nights bring a small food truck festival, with local vendors, live music and programming for the whole family.
South Pointe Park
This verdant spot on the very tip of Miami Beach is part of a 17-acre park with picnic areas, a playground, a fishing pier and great views of cruise ships. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Government Cut channel, it makes for a wonderful respite from the urban madness. During stone crab season, you’ll find plenty of locals hoisting bags of claws and other goodies from nearby Joe’s Takeaway for a beachside picnic at the park.
A sleepy residential enclave less than a mile square, Surfside exudes a small beach town vibe. Everyone knows each other and there’s a true neighborhood feeling to the town. Every first Friday of the month there’s a communal beach picnic that happens on the sand near the lifeguard station on 93rd. It’s mostly residents who gather to listen to music, drink wine (No glass!) and participate in kid-friendly activities.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area
Occupying the southern tip of Key Biscayne, this park’s wide beaches regularly make the national top-10 lists. But this is more than just a place to catch some rays: there’s history, wildlife and plenty of activities too. You can tour the Cape Florida Lighthouse, the oldest building in south Florida; explore native wildlife planted in the aftermath of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew; and try your hand at shoreline fishing, windsurfing, cycling and in-line skating. Covered pavilions are available for picnics, and the Lighthouse Café offers good food.
Palm trees line Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, and shallow waters, barbecues and picnic tables make it a favorite destination for families. A winding boardwalk and convenient parking complete the picture.