The sun is shining, the skies are bright blue and the temperature is scorching: perfect conditions for a trip to the beach. North Beach, Mid Beach, Miami Beach, South Beach, Key Biscayne, Surfside, Sunny Isles: so much Atlantic, so little time. To keep this beach guide shorter than a SoBe mini-skirt, we picked South Beach -- known more for its sexiness (thanks to topless sunbathers) than its sand (thanks to litter bugs) - to provide you with some tips on when, where and how to soak up the rays on a weekend afternoon.
Location, Location, Location
The best place on South Beach to park your rear on a towel and relax for a few hours (or all day) is on 3rd Street and Ocean Drive. This area of the beach is populated mostly by locals, so there's no sign of rowdy revelers, trendy tourists or groups of college students on an expedition. Just peace and quiet for you and whomever you bring (or meet).
Finding a parking spot is always a struggle when visiting the beach. One suggestion is the parking garage off of Fifth Street as you head into South Beach. Another idea is to park at the garage on 5th and Alton, 17th and Lincoln Road or 12th and Washington and then take a cab ride to 3rd and Ocean. Better yet, if you have a friend who lives on South Beach, have them purchase a guest parking pass for $1.50 which is good for 24 hours on the streets.
Make sure to pack a small cooler with at least two (big) bottles of water. The key to surviving the beach is to stay hydrated. So even if you want to bring a few cans of Corona or a squeeze bottle of your most recent drink mix, you always need some water around. One idea is to put those bottles of water in the freezer the night before. As the ice melts, your water stays cold out in the sun.
Lunch on the beach is fun, so make sure to pack some snacks as well. Buy a bunch of grapes and put them in the freezer the night before you go. The frozen grapes will bring instant refreshment. If you want a sandwich, we like to go to the South Beach Cafe (121 5th St.; 305-604-8585) on the corner of 5th and Ocean Drive, between T.G.I. Fridays and the Walgreens store. Greeted by the friendly Turkish staff, you can get a fresh deli sandwich (we like the prosciutto and mozarella), any kind of chips or soda and water, all for under a ten-spot and just a few blocks from your final destination.
Fun and Games
At the beach on 3rd and Ocean there'll be plenty of room to be active. Aside from some swim time in the ocean, make sure to bring a paddleball set or a frisbee for some active entertainment. A football or soccer ball is always a good bet, too.
Don't Be Trashy
Help keep our beaches clean by picking up your trash once you leave. This includes cigarette butts, if you smoke, and any small paper products. Bring a small plastic bag to collect everything and toss it into the garbage cans as you head back to your car.
Crowds gather to enjoy the weather near 5th street on Miami Beach. Photo: Patrick Farrell.