South Beach (SoBe): The district. The beach. The sea. The entertainment district. The brand stores. The restaurants. The nightclubs. The Art Deco buildings. The hotels.
And most importantly – the people of this part of Miami Beach.
South Beach (SoBe), the abbreviation that becomes what you want
South Beach (SoBe) is the abbreviation that becomes what you as a visitor make of it.
Relax on the famous beach, be part of the party life, people watching, beautiful architecture – or do something completely different. This district, and its surroundings, have endless of opportunities for exciting activities.
When planning your trip, save money on booking your hotel in South Beach well in advance. By the way, this applies to the whole of Miami Beach if you want the most for your money and stay in the right location.
Even during a holiday here, you will benefit from a rental car because otherwise you will have a hard time experiencing anything of the rest of southeast Florida.
Still, South Beach is one of the few places in Florida where you can have a holiday without a rental car.
South Beach (SoBe) – the district:
The southernmost part of the beach, and the surrounding area, quite simply. From the harbor entrance in the south to Lincoln Road, the pedestrian shopping street.
This means 18 streets that turn east to west and about ten streets (including the avenues) that stretch in a north-south direction on the narrow island.
Dade blvd is counted as the districts border in the north.
South Beach (SoBe) – the beach:
The beach in Miami Beach city is competing with Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana, and other of the world’s top beaches, for the title of “World’s Most Famous Beach”.
We do not intend to judge. Just note that the beach is very special. You go here to be seen. This applies to both the supermodels (even though the model era in Miami has seen its best days) as well as the young hip-hop generation, often with a megastar from Detroit as the group’s alpha male.
This also applies to Miami’s youth. Including muscle builders and others with an exhibitionist disposition.
Right here the beach is unusually wide. This is an essential part of Miami Beach’s transformation, a fascinating story of how the beach became twice as wide as planned. We let the beach expert Stephen Leatherman, a k a “Dr Beach”, tell us:
“When Miami Beach was at its worst, not least South Beach, it was not just a refurbishment of hotels and other properties. The city decided that the beach would be wider. The erosion was then so extensive that the waves of the Atlantic were dangerously close to buildings. The experts were called in. So with all available means, new sand was pumped in to restore the beach.
This is how many Florida beaches have been saved since the mistakes were made in erecting buildings and adjoining concrete walls far too close to the sea. What nobody expected was that Dade county at the same time expanded the northern pier at the harbor entrance. Pier arms like this have a tendency to affect the beach environment in a positive way, nature takes care of the rest itself.
Then all of a sudden the beach became twice as wide as planned! ”
So anyone who is amazed at the extremely wide South Beach – there you have the explanation.
Is it a good beach? Yes, but far from the top of Florida’s beaches. The best beaches are on the west coast and in the north.
Atlantic beaches are generally tougher. The waves are brutal and there is sometimes a risk of underwater currents. The staff in the lifeguard towers are always on their guard.
The beach at South Beach is where you can see “the beautiful people”, with the latest swimwear. Hardly a location for skinnydipping despite a liberatel atmosphere, but topless is accepted here.
South Beach (SoBe) – the ocean:
Apart from the Florida Keys/Key West, there is no other beach in Florida that has higher water temperatures during the winter months.
The climate in the southeast in winter is better than on the west side and the Gulf Stream runs unusually close to the beach right here.
It is quite fascinating, and breathtaking, to sit on the harbor pier and look out over the Atlantic and fantasize about the infinity of the sea.
What is directly to the east?
Difficult to answer if you are not really accustomed with the globe/map.
The answer is Western Sahara.
The harbor entrance is busy. Not least of the huge cruise ships that mainly take their passengers to the Caribbean archipelago and Mexico.
South Beach (SoBe) – the people:
Far from only tourists. Keep in mind that South Beach (SoBe) is a densely populated neighborhood. Over 40,000 inhabitants live here. It is the mix of them and millions of visitors annually, including locals from the rest of Miami Beach and the Miami area, that gives SoBe its special touch.
It is SoBe you visit to show who you are.
Yourself or your latest garment, the tattoo, the piercing, the car or the motorcycle.
The more challenging the better. Like you see on above image.
What we often call the “look factor” is high even with regard to the tourist flow. Personally, I usually enjoy trying to distinguish the typical American tourist from European visitors. Pretty easy, actually.
What South Beach (SoBe) definitely not is nowadays is a retirement neighborhood. That was once the case. The homes were then very dilapidated. Inhabitants lived in a single room, where there was usually only a bed, a chair, a small table and a naked light bulb in the ceiling. Hardly any amenities at all.
South Beach (SoBe) – the brand stores:
Here is just about everything. And do not expect outlet prices.
I do not know them all. But expect the range to be enough (for window shopping) – from A to Z. Which means Armani to Zara. Yes, the Spanish fashion chain is of course here. So is HM.
These stores are primarily located on and around Collins Avenue.
The shopping street that usually interests a European visitor the most is Lincoln Road. An incredibly long pedestrian shopping street. More shops here than around Collins.
In addition, antique and collectibles auction on Lincoln Road every Sunday.
South Beach (SoBe) – the restaurants:
A range from the highest possible luxury eateries, and prices thereafter, to simpler places. Big plus that News Café is in the middle of it all. (We describe the restaurant world in a little more detail elsewhere.)
The nightlife is constantly changing, even more so than the restaurant world. It takes almost local knowledge, and that you are out and about regularly, to keep track of which places are the most trende for the moment.
- To keep track of the above use the excellent local guide Miami New Times for uppdated information.
South Beach (SoBe) – the Art Deco district:
Actually, we can almost equate SoBe. Because this is where most art deco buildings are located. But if we are to be really accurate we must subtract the southernmost part plus a few blocks to the north.
So what is art deco?
Answer: A design style, including architecture, that had its heyday in the 20’s and 30’s.
The origin came from France. The Chrysler Building in Manhattan is a good example. Even in other big cities, both in Europe and the USA, art deco became the highest fashion.
Nowhere else in the world so many art deco buildings are in the same place as in SoBe. The Old Miami Beach Historic District, founded in 1979, is unique.
But it hung on a hair that all this, which we enjoy today, would have been torn down.
A group of activists’ dedicated struggle to preserve the environment was the rescue. However, the authorities managed to destroy a lot, such as the New Yorker Hotel. Then the bulldozers were stopped. approximately ten different architects have signed the design of these buildings.
The campaign was thus a success and today 960 houses are counted in the historic district – enjoy!
South Beach (SoBe) – the hotels:
SoBe as a hotel area is world famous.
In part, it is “Scarface” that put the hotels on the map. We remember the introductory scene (the chainsaw sequence) well.
It was recorded on 728 Ocean Drive at the then Sun Ray Apartments.
It’s in the same house as the lovely hamburger and breakfast place Johnny Rockets, next door to the Beacon Hotel.
The facades of Ocean Drive are mostly hotels. Typical art deco buildings.
If you want to stay in a genuine SoBe environment, its is among these you should choose. But remember that the hotels are old, and rarely as spacious as the environment you are offered in more modern American hotels. During my visits to Miami Beach, I think the result is 40/60 with the majority of overnight stays in other parts of the elongated beach area.
Tricky addresses and names can make you confused in South Beach
It feels important to point out that the same phenomenon applies here as in some other popular places in Florida – hotels take advantage of South Beach and the famous Ocean Drive to trick you with location information. In fact, the hotels could be several blocks away. Example: Using “Ocean Drive” as search word results in many more hits existing hotels on the street or even nearby streets.
I would also take the opportunity to mention that Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood Beach and some small beach towns within Dade county are close for those who prefer South Beach as a daytrip.
When in doubt – email us and you will get help finding the right place to stay!
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THINGS YOU (PROBABLY) DID NOT KNOW ABOUT SOUTH BEACH:
- South Beach was initially agricultural land. It was used to grow coconut trees and the first house on the island was built 1886. The businessman John Collins appeared in the late 19th century, found drinking water and bought an area that today corresponds to 67th street.
- The crime that came to characterize the era of “cocaine cowboys” in reality was much more brutal than it is depicted in “Miami Vice” and “Scarface”.
- The upturn during the 60’s is attributed to comedian Jackie Gleason who moved his TV show here.
- The area was considered one of Florida’s poorest, with many retirees living extremely poorly. Nowadays, on the contrary, is one of the richest districts along the coast.
- At least 55 percent of the residents have Spanish as their first language/mother tongue.
- SoBe is one of very few areas in the US where topless is accepted on the beach. The typical American explanation for this is “impact from Europe”.
- Andrew Gunnahan, the man who murdered Gianni Versace on Ocean Drive in 1997, was a serial killer with at least five murders behind him before he committed suicide on a houseboat in Miami.
- The famous bodyguard towers, in imaginative colors, were designed by a Miami architect who wanted to contribute to the beach’s renovation after hurricane “Andrew” 1992.
- The southern part is called SoFi, which stands for South of Fifth.
- Miami’s “mom” Julia Tuttle tried in vain for a long time to get Henry Flagler to build his railroad longer than to West Palm Beach. Only after a freezing winter Flagler was convinced and soon the railway construction continued all the way to Key West.
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