Fun Places To Walk In Miami Beach
Enjoying Miami by Foot
Think of South Beach and some of the first things that come to mind are tropical colors, Art Deco, and a vibrant nightlife. But did you know that it is also a walker’s paradise? In fact, in 2011, walkscore.com, the web’s leading resource for determining a community’s degree of pedestrian-friendliness, rated Miami Beach as the country’s 8th most walkable city! South Beach’s compact, villagey layout is just the right size for getting just about everywhere on foot. Unfortunately, its compactness can also be a detriment: tens of thousands of people from all over the world descend upon this billion dollar sandbar every day, and, at times, the traffic and density can get a little overwhelming for the casual stroll. Fortunately, we’ve scoped out some of the choice walking spaces—places where you can experience the appeal of the city—and still enjoy a little tranquility!
Lincoln Road and Española Way
South Beach is home to not just one but two pedestrian streets! The largest and most popular is Lincoln Road, where you’ll find an interesting melange of sidewalk cafes, bars, galleries, and upscale retail. The outdoor pedestrian mall, which runs between Washington and Alton along Lincoln Road, is completely car free. Since the east-west streets on the island are practically all numbered, Lincoln Road, were it to have a numerical assignation, would be 16 ½ Street. It’s always lively along this thoroughfare, 24-hours a day. During peak hours, it can be so crowded with the dance of waiters, dog walkers, rollerbladers, street performers, and window shoppers that it’s sometimes a wonder that they don’t all get tangled up in one big, convoluted ball.
At moments such as those, head south a couple of blocks to Española Way, Lincoln Road’s less bustling baby sister, but closed to traffic only on Saturday mornings during its weekly street fair. Starting your journey at the corner of Washington and Española Way and heading west, you’ll feel like you’re in some faraway, Mediterranean village, with this street’s abundant assortment of quaint galleries, bistros, and shops. Stop off for a coffee or rum drink at an outside table while you enjoy a little people watching. There is always a stream of young, international backpackers coming and going from the nearby Clay Hotel, as well as an endless array of savory smells of exotic origin. You can enjoy Italian on one side at the Hosteria Romana (429 Española Way), or French on the other at A La Folie (412 Española Way).
If you’re a hardcore walker, you can actually strut your stuff all the way to 46th Street along the beachfront promenade and boardwalk. On one side, there’s a steady collection of high-rise hotels and condo-plexes; to the other, the protected dunes and sea beyond. Many of your fellow walkers will be Orthodox Jews, dressed in their traditional garb. Throw in a few stray cats and sea gulls, and you have the prime ingredients of a Miami Beach boardwalk excursion.
Lummus Park and Ocean Drive
This is South Beach at its South Beachiest. The deco buildings of Ocean Drive rise in pastel hues like birthday cakes beyond the coconut groves of Lummus Park as you find yourself in the heart of the most photographed—and the most iconic—part of the island. Here you’ll see a cacophony of humanity on parade: bodybuilders, models, rollerbladers, homeless people and international tourists all converging to celebrate the pleasure of doing nothing.
South Pointe Park
After passing the steakhouse, the next stop on your journey is South Pointe Park, a 17-acre space that was renovated to the sum of $22.5 million in 2009. Its open meadows and gentle rolling hills make it a perfect place to stop and take in the fresh sea air. Take a spot under a palm tree or stretch out on the open grass while you savor the waft of warm tropical breezes and the peaceful vibe.
Continuing along your walk, you’ll find yourself square on the beach, the glowing, bubble gum green Atlantic just beyond. Continue north to the next stop on your stroll…
Flamingo Park is a restful green oasis amid a buzzing periphery. You’ll find basketball, tennis and handball courts, a baseball field, a public pool, a dog park, and grassy, wide-open spaces— perfect for walking Rover, practicing your tai chi, playing an impromptu soccer game—or just enjoying a little leisurely contemplation. Toward the west end of the park is an outdoor football stadium, encompassing a jogging track that’s open to the public. If you want to keep a steady pace, it may be your best option. However, for some reason, city workers frequently use the track as a shortcut from the street to their field house, located on the far side of the stadium, so you often have to negotiate your way around their trucks, as they come and go. Still, it’s a great place to shed the pounds without having to join a gym!
After experiencing South Beach’s residential core, you may find yourself wanting to connect with the turquoise waters along the island’s outer edges.. Unfortunately, the beach can sometimes get a little chaotic, between the sun-worshiping crowds and the numerous special events that take place on the sand. Crews are always busy setting up or taking down tents for one spectacle or another. For this reason, the west side of the island makes a much more peaceful alternative.
Most visitors to South Beach tend to stick to the three major streets on the east side of the island—Washington, Collins, and Ocean. As a result, those tend to be the most congested. But locals know that when they need to go north or south, there’s one beautiful street to take that’s slightly off the beaten path: Meridian Avenue. Meridian Avenue is the garden street of South Beach. It’s shaded by a canopy of mature trees, and is lush with exotic flowers and tropical greenery every month of the year. Starting at Fifth Street, head north past the colorful deco apartment buildings. It is here that you can best glean what life is like for the locals. When you get to 11th Street, to your left, you’ll notice a park. That’s the next item on our list!
Starting at Fifth Street at the entrance to the MacArthur Causeway, if you look to the south, you’ll spot a picturesque promenade overlooking the spectacular collection of yachts and sailing vessels that call the South Beach Marina home. Follow this walkway south, and it will take you on a journey around the bottom of the island. After you pass the marina, you can often see the cruise ships in the distance, docked at the Port of Miami. Miami’s city skyline beckons to the west across Biscayne Bay, while to your left is the posh So-Fi (South of Fifth) neighborhood of Miami Beach, its luxury condos rising high into the azure skies. If your taste buds want to take part in the sensory experience, stop off for some inspiration at Monty’s South Beach (300 Alton Rd at Fourth Street), a raw bar where locals in the know come for fresh oysters, shrimp, stone crabs, and a full menu of food and drinks.
Later, as you continue along the walkway, traversing the south side of the island, you’ll spy exclusive Fisher Island in the distance, a private community of the jet set, accessible only by ferry. Also along this stretch you’ll find the Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse (119 Washington Avenue), which, with its views of passing cruise ships and Government Cut, Miami’s shipping channel, boasts perhaps the most scenic and romantic location of any restaurant in South Beach. And, wiith all those extra calories you’re shedding, you may be able to give into temptation here without too many regrets!
Places to Avoid
While there is plenty to see and experience, there are also a few places you will want to avoid on your pedestrian odysseys. There are no ghettos in South Beach, per se, but there are some areas where the street theater can get a little too dramatic. One such area is located on Washington Avenue around 15th Street. For some reason, this block tends to attract a lot of panhandlers and other transients, and it can at times get a little aggressive. Another rough spot is in front of Meridian Market at Meridian and Sixth, another popular panhandling site. Still, with its wide variety of hispanic foods and fine, home-cooked hot meals, it is probably one of the best markets you’ll find on South Beach. While the crowd is by and large harmless, it can get a little dodgy, especially after dark. In fact, after dark, it’s probably best to stick to the well-lit, touristy areas to the east, where the crowds and good lighting will make you less likely to be singled out. Miami Beach is no more dangerous than any large city, though. Save the parks and the residential areas for the day, and you’ll be fine. The beach at night can also be a little risky. While many couples feel safe enough to enjoy some uninhibited moments of passion by the shore while silhouetted against the neon glow of Ocean Drive behind them, it’s also a popular spot for petty thieves, who frequently sneak up on those distracted couples and steal their belongings in the heat of the moment.
Don’t let that hinder you, though! By taking a few common sense precautions, you will discover exactly how much of a walking heaven Miami Beach can be. Suffice it to say, this is one destination where you can plan on leaving the car at home!
Photos by: Scott Alexander
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