Lay of the Land
“It seems that half the point of being in Miami Beach - particularly the northern end of South Beach - is to be observed by people-watchers like me, and the display along Ocean Drive during my visit was, as always, sublime.”~Susan Orlean
Framed by the Florida Everglades to the west and Biscayne Bay to the east, Miami comprises several districts—like Downtown Miami, the business center that has undergone multiple renovations—suburbs and barrier islands, including the seven-square-mile Miami Beach. Three causeways (the MacArthur, Venetian and Julia Tuttle) connect mainland Miami to Miami Beach.
The part of Miami Beach stretching from First Street north to 23rd Street is commonly referred to as South Beach and anything north of 23rd Street is considered Miami Beach proper. Brickell Avenue, Miami Beach’s main thoroughfare, lies just south of downtown Miami and while it offers beautiful waterfront locations, it fronts Biscayne Bay, not the Atlantic, so don’t expect to walk outside your hotel room and hit the sand (unless you’re staying at Mandarin Oriental, which has built its own manmade beach). The city of Bal Harbour, where some of the best shopping is found, lies north of South Beach (about a twenty-five-minute drive), and Coral Gables, where the University of Miami is located, is about a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Miami.
When to Go
Miami’s high season is from early December (starting with Miami Basel) through late spring. The summer, beginning in mid-May, sees very hot and humid weather and hurricane season tends to roll through from August through early October.