The ultimate guide to Miami

A woman cycling past people playing beach volleyball in Miami

Zoe MacFarlane

Posted May 10, 2023

Miami: a destination known for its sun-drenched beaches, Art Deco buildings, Cuban influence, and flair for the flashy. Here's what to see and do in Miami.

A trip to magic Miami done well explores the city’s decadent past, multicultural present, lively restaurant and bar scene, and, of course, its stunning shoreline.

If you’re planning to drive while you’re overseas, you may need an International Driving Permit. You can apply online but check the country you’re visiting requires one before you travel and allow time for processing. 

Where to stay in Miami

Miami is home to over four million people, divided into vibrant neighbourhoods. Many visitors only experience the showy South Beach neighbourhood, missing Miami’s overall eclectic charm. That said, South Beach does make for a fascinating base for exploration, especially when staying in fabulous Art Deco accommodation. South Beach is home to some of the city’s best beaches, cafés, restaurants, boutiques, day clubs, and bars.

If quieter, more relaxed beach areas suit your travel style better, consider using Sunny Isles as your base. A stay close to Miami’s northernmost beach is great for families and travellers who enjoy a more local vibe.

For a more sophisticated scene, head to the Bal Harbour stretch of beach. Here, designer stores, high-end eateries, and exemplary service await.

If you’d prefer to be away from the beaches altogether, trendy Brickell, Miami’s financial district, has world-class hotels, dining, and entertainment to entice. Wynwood is an up-and-coming destination for visitors, thanks to its reputation as the city’s creative hub.


An Art Deco boulevard in South Beach, Miami

The famous South Beach district makes for a great base of operations but there's plenty to explore in other Miami neighbourhoods, too. Image: Shutterstock.

Explore Miami’s decadent history

Home to the world’s largest concentration of Art Deco architecture, Miami’s well-preserved buildings - now hotels, restaurants, and boutique shops - are a major drawcard. Wander South Beach’s Collins Avenue to witness the buildings’ iconic geometry, unique colour schemes, and distinct embellishments. For deeper insights, however, take a walking tour with the Miami Design Preservation League.

Discover more about the city’s decadent past at the HistoryMiami Museum. Across four galleries, the historical relics, fascinating exhibits, and community stories reveal what makes Miami tick. While you’re Downtown, stop by the 40th floor of the landmark 47-storey Miami Tower for impressive city views.

For a more mellow attraction, head to the Vizvaya Museum and Gardens at Coconut Grove. A National Historic Landmark, the lush grounds and opulent palace reveal what early 20th-century tycoons created to show off their wealth.

Take in cultural Miami

Along with its Sunshine City nickname, Miami is also called the Capital of Latin America. This is not only due to the city’s proximity to the continent but for the large number of Latinos (the highest in the US) who call Miami home.

While representation from all Latino countries is present, it's Cubans who leave the biggest mark in Miami. Explore Little Havana neighbourhood for a deep dive into everything Cubana, including restaurants, art galleries, shops, and live music.

Because of the city’s blend of heritages, it’s worth checking what festivals will be on during your visit. Carnavale on the Mile, Calle Ocho Music Festival, and Art Basel Miami Beach are recommended events if your dates align.

An important aspect of life for many Miamians is the love for the Miami Heat. As one of the United States' most successful NBA teams, catching the Miami Heat play a home basketball match at the FTX Arena is a great way to connect with passionate locals. 


Busy outdoor dining on a clear night in Miami

Miami isn't a city for early birds, with much of the city coming to life after dark. Image: Brand USA.

Miami’s must-do eats

Consider yourself almost local once you’ve sampled a famous Cuban sandwich. Typically with pork, ham, cheese, pickles, and mustard, this grilled sandwich is a Miami lunchtime staple. Sanguich or Enriquetta’s are top places to get yours. Wash it down with a strong, deep-roast Cuban coffee.

Every Miamian has their favourite taco spot, too. The food, service and ‘pinkness’ of Pink Taco are quality. For the best lobster tacos, stop by Naked Taco on Collins Avenue.

Don’t miss the chance to finish a meal with a slice of key lime pie. While it may have its origins in Key West, Miami has its share of places to taste this memorable dessert. Top of the list is Joe’s Stone Crab, Yardbird Southern Table, and Rosetta Bakery if you’re looking for key lime pie to-go.

Side note: expect to stay out after dark while visiting: Miami is most vibrant then. Much of the best of the city is seen after the sunsets, whether it’s outdoor dining on South Beach, sipping a Miami Vice cocktail at a rooftop bar or dancing at a famed nightclub.

Water experiences in Miami

Biscayne National Park is a popular place for both scuba divers and snorkellers. It’s home to a 40-kilometre-long coral reef, barrier islands, and a surprising number of well-preserved shipwrecks.

If adventure water sports excite, there are opportunities to swim, fish, boat, windsurf, kayak, and paddleboard on the Miami River. For a riverside stroll, take the 2-kilometre Miami Riverwalk path.

For a more leisurely time on the water, a dolphin-watching or sunset cruise is not to be missed.


Professional water skiers creating a pyramid on the waters outside of Miami

Water experiences in Miami can be as adventurous as waterskiing or as relaxed as dolphin cruises. Image: Brand USA.

Very Miami ways to splurge

Is a trip to Miami complete without a splurge or two? If there is one city in America to treat yourself, it’s here. Rental companies offer a range of luxury cars to hire, and it’s easy to book a yacht to explore the stunning waters. In short, access to modern luxuries is accessible in Miami and more affordable than you’d imagine.

Designer stores – from luxury global brands to high-end boutiques - also help you tap into your inner abundance. The Miami Designer District is a prime port of call, along with the Bal Harbour Shops and the colossal Aventura Mall. If you love designer brands at everyday prices, head to the 240 outlet stores at Dolphin Mall.

For a fun tour to see how the other half lives, consider a Millionaires Row cruise. Against a backdrop of the Miami skyline and Biscayne Bay, witness the city’s wealthiest waterfront mansions and lavish celebrity homes.


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