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Beach Scene

This is what most visitors have come to see and experience. If you are fortunate enough to be accommodated in a beachfront hotel you can probably just walk past the swimming pool and out onto the beach. If this is not the case, fear not, as most other hotels on Miami Beach are walking distance to the sand.

Nevertheless it would be a shame to just lie on the beach near your hotel. Each beach has its own character, and with handy bus service up and down the strand, it is not at all difficult to visit the other beaches. If you have rented a car, it will be even easier.

In this section I will describe the beaches, as well as advise you how to get to the beach, and if applicable, where to park. I have taken photos, and though they may not be glossy professional vistas, they will show you what you will actually see.

Miami Beach was originally a mangrove swamp and is in fact a barrier island connected to the mainland by five causeways and bridges. The swamp is only a memory replaced by 15 miles of sparkling white sand beach from upscale Golden Beach right down to upbeat South Beach. Several large beachfront parks are accessible to the public, though the rest of the beach is hemmed in by hotels and condos.

Beach Erosion
Beach Renourishment
Comparison of beach erosion and renourishment at Miami Beach.
32nd. Street Beach

Not surprisingly the beaches all along the shore are very different from those seen by the first settlers. The effect of hurricanes and poor building decisions have caused substantial erosion, and had the beaches not been renourished, Miami Beach may well have long ago disappeared into the ocean. Up to now sand has been sucked from the ocean floor facing the beach, but supplies are running out, and it is said we may have to import sand from the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos Islands.

One of the negative features is the occurrence of rip tides. As you can see by the left-hand photos above, in the bad old days the beach came right up to the hotels. On the right-hand photo you can now see vegetation between the sand and the buildings. Apart from beautifying the beach, the native species hold the sand in place helping to avoid erosion during storms and hurricanes. Here's a technical link to show you things to come.

Beach Access
Beach Access by bus stop


In theory all beaches in the United States are federal property up to the high water mark, and hence available to the general public. When your hotel states it has a private beach, they lie. There is no such thing as a private beach in this country. Having said that, access to these beaches is another matter. If there is no parking and no right of way between buildings, then after all is said and done, it may as well be private. There are miles and miles of such beaches in Palm Beach Country, hemmed in by billionaire seaside mansions that frustratingly seem to be used only for a short three month stay during the winter season. There is even a minimum speed limit, so you don't dawdle as you drive by these spectacular residences.


Tow Away Zone

Can cost up to
US$ 200.00

Parking along the beach is often quite restricted. On each beach description we will advise where parking is available. This is mostly a commercial area, and many shops, businesses and supermarkets have their own private parking for customers. It may at times be tempting to park there and just nip across the road to the beach, but beware, tow trucks are always on the prowl, and it can cost up to US$ 200.00, plus a real time-wasting hassle to get your vehicle back.

There is quite good public transportation all the way up Collins Avenue (A1A). Try to get hold of a bus timetable. You will need some cover-up for riding the bus. You might also bring a towel; a light parasol; perhaps a folding chair; sunblock and, of course, exact change (US$ 2.25 each way). Buses are generally uncrowded.

Beach Hazards Life Guard Post rip tides
Beach Hazards
Lifeguard Post
Rip Tides

Most of the beaches from Sunny Isles south will be supervised by lifeguards. Please check the lifeguard posts for swimming conditions. There is a system of coloured flags flown as shown here:

Green Flag: Calm surf conditions.

Yellow Flag: Moderate surf conditions, exercise caution.

Yellow Flag with black jellyfish: Portuguese man-of-war warning. (No, not machete wielding Portuguese illegal aliens, just pesky jellyfish)

Purple Flag: Dangerous marine life. (Jaws [sharks], etc. Fortunately a rarity here)

Red Flag: Strong surf, strong currents. Read more about rip tides.

Red Flag with line crossing out swimmer: Water closed to public.

Miami Beach Rules
Beach Rules

Beach Rules
Quite simple: No glass containers; no dogs; no camping; no guns (!); no cooking. Beach patrols usually turn a blind eye to fishing, as long as you are not annoying your fellow beachgoers. Nudity is prohibited except at the north section of Haulover Beach. Toplessness is officially illegal, but rarely enforced as long as you are discrete. That is to say, I do not suggest you start up a volleyball tournament in front of a family picnic.

Changing on the beach
This is a very European custom which you will barely see here. So if you do not want to seem a rarity, or get arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior, I recommend you come and go to the beach in your swim things. Many of the beaches have fresh water showers, so you can wash the sand and salt off before you get back in your car or the bus. It is far better to wet your seat that to be embarrassed with a towel down around your ankles (unless you are on our naturist beach, in which case this would be quite natural).

Florida's eclectic Atlantic Coast highway commences as Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, and stretches in fits and starts all the way up the coastal barrier islands to the Georgia state line. It has been designated as A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Highway, a National Scenic Byway. In many places, the highway directly fronts the Atlantic Ocean, and in other places, runs 1-5 blocks inland from the beachfront.

Intracoastal Waterway

Intracoastal Waterway
Intracoastal Waterway
This whole stretch of beach is located on the eastern side of barrier islands. The waterway to the west is the Intracoastal Waterway. This 1,200 mile inland canal stretches from Key West in the south to Norfolk, Virginia in the north, and was completed in 1936. Much of the canal is natural waterway, and is kept dredged to a depth of 12 feet.

As we are in the Northern Hemisphere, we will start our beach revue from North to South. Many would say keeping the best for last.

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