Within the Miami area you have two key cities bearing the same name: Miami and Miami Beach. The most famous neighborhood in the City of Miami Beach is called South Beach. South Beach is fairly large, and it has its own unique neighborhoods and shopping areas such as Ocean Drive, Washington Ave, Lincoln Road, Espanola Way, Flamingo Park, and Flamingo West, not to mention the beach itself. Each area has a very distinct character and you can walk from one block to the next and feel like you have changed continents.
Ocean Drive is the center of trendy. Here are many of the biggest clubs, most expensive restaurants, and oddest collection of people around.
Washington Ave is a little more traditional American city, with neighborhood bars, cool little restaurants, and lots of locals.
Espanola Way is a historic district that resembles parts of Spain. It attracts a lot of tourists to its restaurants and small shops.
Lincoln Road is a big outdoor shopping mall, and it attracts all types from northern tourists to well-dressed locals.
South beach was first developed as farm land for coconuts. The first houses on the beach were constructed in 1886 by the Lum family. In 1913 the first bridge to Miami connected this sleepy little community to the mainland, and the town of Miami Beach was incorporated in 1915. Development of the area exploded in the 1920s, when much of the art deco style was established. The area suffered decline in the 1970s and 80s, but has recovered to become one of the wealthiest and trendiest areas of the US.
On our trip to Miami we spent most of our time in South Beach. This is the section of Miami Beach below about 21st Street and is the prime area for tourists and 'beautiful people'.
The best part of South beach is Ocean Drive, which runs between 1st & 15th Streets. This palm tree lined street is home to some fabulous Art Deco hotels, lots of outdoor bars, cafes and restaurants and the white sandy beach!
Make sure you take the time to have a drink and/or a meal on Ocean Drive and take in the scene.
Collins Avenue runs parallel to Ocean Drive, but stretches far into the north of the city. The South Beach section of Collins Avenue is home to numerous Deco hotels, getting grander and grander the further north you travel.
There is also plenty of shopping along Collins Avenue, with some good clothing shops near 8th Street, and others interspersed between hotels and restaurants.
The other main street is Washington Avenue, which is a main thoroughfare rather than a place to stroll. However, worth a look is the Miami Beach Post Office, at 1300 Washington Avenue. It was built in 1937 and this Deco delight was one of the first to be renovated in the 1970's.