What is the Difference Between Miami Beach and South Beach?

Films and television shows based in South Florida have showcased South Beach and Miami Beach for decades. However, sometimes visitors are confused about the difference between these two areas. Many have come to associate the images they see on screen of Miami, Miami Beach, and South Beach as the same location. So lets clear up any questions you may have about Miami vs Miami Beach vs South Beach.

Miami Beach is a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean & Biscayne Bay. The island is 3 miles offshore just East of downtown Miami. It is about a mile wide and 9 miles long. South Beach is the southernmost 2.5 miles of Miami Beach and contains the Art Deco buildings many associate with Miami Beach.

Miami Beach is about 20-30 minutes away from Miami International Airport, depending on the time of day, and about 12 minutes from downtown Miami. Driving the entire length of Miami Beach takes about 45 minutes, again depending on the time.

Knowing the location of  South Beach is just the start of understanding Miami Beach. Not all Miami Beach has to offer is in South Beach. North Beach & Mid Beach may have more of what you are looking for in a beach. Depending on where on the island you are going, there are several ways to get to Miami Beach from Miami.

Lets break down South Beach & Miami Beach, getting there, and moving around the island. The photo below shows the location of Miami Beach and its relation to downtown Miami & the airport. You can also see the locations of the 4 sections of Miami Beach: North Beach, Mid Beach, South Beach, and South Pointe.

 

Miami -- Miami Beach - South Beach -Downtown - MIA
Miami -- Miami Beach - South Beach -Downtown - MIA

How are Miami and Miami Beach Connected?

Causeway Name

Also Known As

Intersects I-95

Intersect - US1

Connect To Miami Beach At . . .

John F. Kennedy CausewayNE 79th StreetYesYesNorth Beach (at 71st Street)
Julia Tuttle CausewayInterstate Highway 195 / Florida State Road 112YesYesMid Beach (at Arthur Godfrey Rd/ W 41 St)
Venetian CausewayNE 15 StreetNoYesMid Beach (at Dade Blvd)
MacArthur CausewayInterstate Highway 395 / Florida State Road A1AYesYes (East to MB only)South Beach (at 5th Street)


The MacArthur Causeway also passes by residential islands including Star, Hibiscus, and Palm Islands. These islands are made up of luxury homes. Star Island is home to some of Miami's most well known residents including: Emilio & Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez & Alex Rodriguez, and David Frankel among others. The MacArthur also parallels the Port of Miami with amazing views of the cruise ships when they are in port. 

A view of MacArthur Causeway linking Miami to Miami Beach and paralleling the Port of Miami. The downtown Miami skyline is visible in the distance. -- Photo courtesy of the GMCVB
A view of MacArthur Causeway linking Miami to Miami Beach and paralleling the Port of Miami. The downtown Miami skyline is visible in the distance. -- Photo courtesy of the GMCVB
Cruise Ship Sails Past South Point Park & Pier
Cruise Ship Sails Past South Point Park & Pier -- Courtesy of Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Southernmost Miami Beach - South Beach - South Point Park & Pier
South Pointe Beach - South Pointe Park & Pier on the Left (Government Cut and Fisher Island are on the Far Left) -- Courtesy of the Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Art Deco Hotels on Ocean Drive in South Beach
South Beach - Art Deco Hotels On Ocean Drive Looking Back From the Beach (North of Fifth Street) -- Courtesy of Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau

South Beach (5th Street up to 24th Street)

South Beach's Art Deco buildings along Ocean Drive from 5th Street to 14th Street are often the first images many associate with Miami Beach. These iconic hotels have been the backdrop to endless fashion magazine shoots and also are recognized from the opening shots of the Miami Vice series or in the film The Birdcage.

Most are 3 - 5 stories with ground floors lined with shops and restaurants. Every lobby is a journey to an Art Deco paradise of terrazzo floors, Deco color palettes, geometric patterns, and sleek streamlined furniture. Roof top pools and bars are not uncommon.

Hotels are within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. This is the most touristy part of Miami Beach. The beach here is more densely packed and has an energetic vibe. The crowd consists of younger adults and people watching is the sport of choice. The first few blocks in from Ocean Drive are more of the same: hotels, celeb-chef restaurants, shops, and dance clubs.  

South Beach - Ocean Drive Art Deco Hotels and Lummus Park
Art Deco Hotels On Ocean Drive - Lummus Park - South Beach -- Courtesy of Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau

The hotels here open unto Lummus Park. The green space serves to transition between Ocean Drive and the beach. The park includes benches, a playground, a long wide paved paths for walking, jogging, and biking all under endless coconut palms. An outdoor fitness park is on 9th Street and Ocean Drive. Sometimes called the South Beach Muscle Beach, there is never a shortage of super fit bodies working out. Lummus Park is the setting for annual events such as the Model Beach Volleyball Tournament, Art Basel related Fairs, Beach Polo, and The South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  

Further north on South Beach, between 16th & 17th Street, is Lincoln Road Mall. This 10 block, open-air, pedestrian-friendly mall is a major destination for food, shopping, and entertainment. It is a perfect combination of restaurants, art galleries, shops, cafes, and bars. There is often music in the air here and the tantalizing smells of a huge variety of international cuisine is everywhere. 

Continuing on Ocean Drive you turn onto Collins Avenue and begin to drive past the larger hotels of South Beach such as the Loews Hotel, the Sagamore, the Raleigh, and the Delano Hotel. After South Beach, Collins heads north to Mid Beach. The look and feel of the hotels and surrounding neighborhood change again. Now you are entering the old and new hotel and condo towers of Mid Beach. 

 

Mid Beach (24th Street up to 63th Street)

Mid-Beach Hotels
Mid Beach Hotels - The Fontainebleau -- Courtesy of Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Mid Beach - Faena Hotel
Faena Hotel -- Courtesy of Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Map of Mid Beach - Miami Beach
Map of Mid Beach - Miami Beach

As you move north through Mid Beach there is a split in the neighborhood. Along the eastern Atlantic side are the mega-hotels on a one to two block strip of land.

Indian Creek waterway divides the island from the hotels side and a mostly residential neighborhood to the west. Collins Avenue & Indian Creek Drive are the main avenues heading north/south on the hotels side and Alton Road & Pine Tree Drive on the residential side. 

The eastern hotel side is the home of the Golden Age hotels like the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc. You can imagine seeing Sinatra and the Rat Park walking through the lobbies or spending time poolside. More recently, even the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel paraded through the Fontainebleau as the production filmed at the hotel.

Mid Beach is less pedestrian friendly due to the size of the hotels and the distances between them. Newer modern and very chic hotels have risen along side these epic hotels and are well on there way to legendary status of their own. Hotels such as Faena, 1 Hotel, Hotel Edition, Hotel Rui, and the Setai.

These hotels prioritize beach access to their guests but there is public access and parking at 36 Street Park and also on 46 Street at Indian Beach Park. The beaches in Mid Beach are much calmer and less busy than South Beach. 

North Beach (63th to 87th Street)

North Beach Hotels
Courtesy of Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau

Finally, we make are way to North Beach between 64th and 87th Street. This is the more low-key of the beaches in Miami Beach. Under this more residential area of condo towers and homes you will find a quiet locals oriented beach. There is the North Beach Bandshell for outdoor small scale concerts and the North Shore Open Space Park. The water front park includes a dog park, bar-b-que grills, a bike path, and a playground. 

Courtesy of the Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Courtesy of the Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Courtesy of the Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau
Courtesy of the Greater Miami Conventions & Visitors Bureau

Freebee is another free services available in Mid Beach and South Beach. Use the app to request a pickup and enjoy the ride. They use eco-friendly electric carts. The free app is available at: Freebee. If you are going jogging or out for a walk, then the boardwalk that spans South Beach or Mid Beach (behind the hotels), provides a great view of the beaches.

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