The neighborhood along Ocean Drive—known for its sugar sand beaches and turquoise water—has seen its share of transformation. From a luxury beach destination in the 1930s to the gritty backdrop of “Miami Vice” in the 1980s, South Beach today is an uber-cool destination for athletes, celebrities and other members of the glitterati. With world-class restaurants and hotels, plus a historic Art Deco architectural scene, South Beach is a top-notch weekend getaway.
WHAT TO DO
The best way to take in South Beach’s vibe is with a walking tour. Art Deco Tours (956 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305.814.4058; artdecotours.com) offers a boutique experience for small groups with visits to some of South Beach’s most iconic Art Deco buildings. For a more air conditioning-friendly option, try the cocktail tour from the same outfit. Full of local history and flavor, the tour includes access to some of South Beach’s most exclusive lobbies and rooftop terraces.
And don’t forget the beach itself. Rent a cabana or spread a towel—either way, it’s the perfect place to people watch.
WHERE TO NOSH
South Beach has some of the best dining in Miami. For a fresh take on Mexican and Latin cuisine, check out Serena (915 Collins Court, Miami Beach; 305.306.0776; serenamiami.com) atop the Moxy Hotel. Inspired by the outdoor restaurants of Oaxaca and Mexico City, Serena features vibrant colors and a sophisticated menu. Try the uni and crab tostadas, made with chile de arbol, avocado and micro cilantro, or the squash blossom quesadillas with blue corn masa, Oaxaca quesillo and roasted poblano chiles.
For dramatically elegant fine dining, book a table at Estiatorio Milos (730 First St., Miami Beach; 305.604.6800; estiatoriomilos.com). Specializing in Mediterranean seafood, this is white-tablecloth dining at its swankiest. Try one of the Greek options, such as the lightly fried zucchini and eggplant with kefalograviera cheese and tzatziki. Or opt instead for classic filet mignon, lamb chops or lobster. Tables book weeks in advance, so be sure to secure a spot ahead of time.
WHERE TO SLEEP
There are few hotels as historic—or as storied—as Villa Casa Casuarina (1116 Ocean Drive, Maimi Beach; 786.485.2200; vmmiamibeach.com). Originally built in 1930, the villa was home to Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace in the 1990s. Guests can stay in one of 10 luxury suites, and the villa’s Onyx Bar is a superb place to sip evening cocktails. Don’t miss the Thousand Mosaic Pool, a stunning triumph of Mediterranean Revival design.
On the quiet end of Ocean Drive, The Betsy (1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach; 305.531.6100; thebetsyhotel.com) offers a luxury boutique hotel experience with refined design and amenities. Need a break from the bustle of South Beach? Try the hotel’s library for a thoughtfully curated selection of books. With two gourmet restaurants within the hotel’s sophisticated setting, there’s little reason to leave.