Ocean Drive, the Ultimate Guide

the-sparkling-ocean-drive-miami-during-the-night
The sparkling Ocean Drive!

Introduction

When you are in Miami, it is a party all night long, going on from club to club as time passes by you don’t even realize it’s almost breaking dawn. Most, will not notice, unless you are fortunate enough to be at the momentous Art Deco District during sunrise, you will see a grand sight where you feel like all seems fresh again. People may go on about how beautiful the sunset is in Key West, but Ocean Drive Miami Beach takes the win for the most beautiful sunset sight in the book as you would be able to see the pale-colored hotels illuminated in the sun.

The view during the sunrise is so stunning, you definitely won’t want to miss it. Tourists who know about this would usually book their hotel rooms on a high floor, overlooking the east. Having breakfast while gazing at the sunrise would be something you need to experience when you are at Ocean Drive. Don’t fret if you did not get to book rooms facing the east, as some hotels at Ocean Drive have rooftop floors, some with pools with a wondrous bird’s eye view especially for you to watch the sunrise from above.

The History of Ocean Drive

The Pelican lights in Ocean Drive!
The Pelican lights in Ocean Drive!

Back then, Ocean Drive Miami was a street that had a dire reputation for minor street crimes, as well as an underdeveloped area for low-rent housing. The upbringing of the area was abandoned during the 1970s till the early 80s when it slowly came back to life when a few valiant restaurant proprietors saw the potential and started up cafes. Soon enough Ocean Drive started to get attention and the entire area was uplifted again.

The News Cafe was opened up by one of the early entrepreneurs, Mark Soyka in 1988 at the 8th and Ocean was predicted to be doomed by everyone. It was just not logical for an expensive dinner to make it at a place that was not crowded, but the News Cafe proved them wrong as soon after, they were the source of life and buzz at Ocean Drive.

The News Cafe offers daily international newspapers to accompany guests with comfort food. The celebrity era began at Ocean Drive when the Cardozo Hotel at 13th and Ocean Drive gained a very popular Gloria Estefan. Having someone so widely known in the scene brought more attention, and soon everybody wanted in. Ocean Drive which once was filled with low-cost structures with exhausted stores was replaced by boutique hotels, shopping districts, and bars.

Nestled in the heart of Ocean Drive, the Colony Hotel stands as a vibrant testament to the Art Deco era. Dreamed up by Henry Hohauser and brought to life in 1935, this iconic structure has become a defining feature of South Beach. Just picture its neon sign against the night – it’s like a beacon of nostalgia, drawing eyes from all around.

The Colony’s seen a lot of faces, you know? Back in its heyday, it was the go-to spot for legends like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Can you imagine the tales those walls could spill? The glitz, the glam, the rhythm of Miami’s golden age – it’s all there.

But hey, the Colony’s more than just memories. It’s alive, kicking, and keeping up with the times. Their eco-friendly moves, blending green practices with old-school charm, show they’re not just living in the past. It’s a blend of yesterday and today, a real walk through time.

Culinary Delights

Ocean Drive: the pulsating heart of Miami Beach, alive and buzzing 24/7. From sun-soaked beach days to scenic strolls, shopping sprees, and the melodies echoing from every corner, this street offers an all-encompassing experience. Yet, amidst its allure, Ocean Drive is known for its touristy vibe, which often means dining here doesn’t always equate to value for money in terms of quality and experience. Fear not, for we’ve curated a top-ten list of exceptional dining gems if you’re truly after the crème de la crème. Note, not all the restaurants we’ve spotlighted are nestled within South Beach’s embrace. To savor some of these culinary treasures, you might need to venture a bit further, by car or cab, but trust us, the journey is part of the adventure. Dining on Ocean Drive can still be a spectacle of great joy, especially for those who revel in being part of the scene and people-watching. Just keep our insights in mind for a truly memorable evening

Embark on a gastronomic journey along Ocean Drive, where every meal is an adventure and every dish tells a story. This legendary strip is a mosaic of culinary experiences, from laid-back sidewalk cafés where the world strolls by to intimate eateries under the stars that promise an evening of elegance and flavor.

For an unforgettable date night, venture into the heart of Ocean Drive’s dining scene. At A Fish Called Avalon, the ocean’s bounty meets impeccable service, creating a symphony of seafood that dances on the palate. Gianni’s at The Villa Casuarina transports you to a Mediterranean dream, an opulent setting where cuisine and history blend seamlessly.

Just a stone’s throw from the Ocean Drive spectacle, Joe’s Stone Crab and Smith & Wollensky stand as culinary landmarks, their tables a testament to timeless tastes. For those seeking the quintessence of Miami’s steakhouse scene, Prime 112 is the epitome of indulgence, offering dry-aged wonders, decadent truffle lobster mac and cheese, and Kobe beef sliders, all under the watchful eyes of the city’s glitterati.

Ocean Drive: A Day-to-Night Guide for the Solo Voyager

A classic night at The Clevelander, Ocean Drive Miami: Where every evening is legendary
A classic night at The Clevelander, Ocean Drive Miami – Photo © Gustavo Caballero

As the heartbeat of Miami Beach, Ocean Drive promises an experience that’s vibrant at any hour, a place where solitude feels like a foreign concept, and the air buzzes with an infectious energy. From dawn till dusk, the vibes and emotions here are as colorful as the Art Deco facades lining the streets.

Start your day with a nod to history at News Café, a spot where Gianni Versace himself found solace and inspiration over American breakfasts. It’s more than just a meal; it’s a moment to soak in the ambiance of a bygone era. Then, make the simple cross to the beach, a vast stretch of sand welcoming you to relax and unwind, though it’s wise to remember that not all of Miami Beach embraces the European approach to sunbathing. For enthusiasts of topless sunbathing, we’ve penned a guide to help you find your perfect spot under the sun.

As you surrender to the rhythm of the waves, remember to stay vigilant about your safety. The ocean’s allure is matched by its might, so keep close to lifeguard stations and heed local advice about swimming distances. And, in this sun-drenched paradise, sunscreen isn’t just recommended; it’s essential.

Lunchtime on Ocean Drive is a bustling affair. Prepare to join the queue at popular spots, but patience is rewarded with vibrant flavors and lively scenes. Spend your afternoon exploring chic boutiques, engaging in a friendly game of beach volleyball, or testing your strength at the open-air gyms dotting the shoreline. For solo female travelers, a sense of caution adds to the enjoyment. While Ocean Drive is generally safe, maintaining awareness and avoiding risks, like accepting drinks from strangers, ensures your adventure remains joyful.

As the sun begins to dip, Ocean Drive transforms. It’s a catwalk for the latest trends, a prelude to the night’s festivities. Embrace the freedom of the locale on a bike or roller, cruising into the sunset with the wind as your companion. Hydration is key, as the Florida sun is as relentless as it is glorious.

Evening on Ocean Drive is a symphony of sights and sounds. Each establishment has its unique beat, from the sultry rhythms of Mango’s Tropical Café to the energetic pulse of the Clevelander Hotel’s street-side dance floor. In the midst of it all stands a beacon for the curious traveler: the News Café. More than a coffee place, it’s a cultural institution, offering a glimpse into local life through newspapers and magazines, alongside invaluable guides and discounts to enhance your South Beach experience.

Ocean Drive is not just a destination; it’s a journey. It’s where you can be unabashedly yourself, in a place that celebrates freedom, fashion, and the endless dance of day into night.

Ocean Drive’s Playgrounds

As you stroll down Ocean Drive, you’re walking through pages of history, with each Art Deco building telling a tale of glamor and architectural innovation. The Art Deco Welcome Center is your gateway to this past, offering insights into the designs that have made Miami Beach a visual feast.

The vibrant LGBTQ+ community finds its home on the sands at 11th/12th Street, directly opposite the Palace Bar & Restaurant, famed for its dazzling drag brunches. As the sun sets, the energy shifts towards Nikki Beach, where the sand meets the dance floor in an electrifying fusion of club and beach vibes. For a taste of local culture, Mango’s Tropical Cafe offers salsa dancing into the night, encapsulating the soul of Miami in every step.

ocean-drive-during-the-night
Nightfall on Ocean Drive: Lights, shadows, and endless stories. ✨Photo by EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI

Planning Your Stay at Ocean Drive

If you are a tourist and you have Miami in mind, most probably chances are you don’t know where to start or where to go. If you are blank on where to go, Ocean Drive would be a good place to start your hotel search. Keep in mind though that Miami and Miami Beach are two different places, and Ocean Drive is located in Miami Beach, which would be much more convenient and a better holiday spot for you. From the MIA airport, Ocean Drive has a $32 flat fee for taxi rides.

There are a lot of hotels along Ocean Drive Miami, and you may choose your form of accommodation from simple and convenient to lavish. It depends on the nature of your visit, whether you are on a budget, or you are on a backpacking adventure, or even visiting for business, The hotels along the strip would fulfill any kind of budget or taste.

If you don’t want to go to hotels, there are also some good choices for the condo that could be reserved.

If it is a family holiday, opt for an improved suite with good space for your family members that comes with a kitchen. Party people should get a room overlooking the Clevelander Pool Bar as they operate till 5 in the morning, and lovebirds should consider a room with a king-size bed that comes with an enjoyable hot tub to enhance your romance experience.

Keep in mind that from the 12th to the 15th streets, along with the SoFi District (South of Fifth) are less lively after-hours and more inclined to quiet and silent nights. The upper reaches of Ocean Drive are known to be quieter at night, and hotels in this zone have a great, direct view of the beach as they are not blocked by anything else since the 5th to 14th Streets don’t have hotels or high-rise buildings.

Chic Boutique Hotels in Ocean Drive Miami

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The Betsy, a Boutique Hotel on Ocean Drive

If you want to go for a different approach to the usual hotel accommodation, you should choose to book one of the glamorous boutique hotels on Ocean Drive for your vacation. Some of these low-rise building keeps to the original, classic floor plan, but have been renovated with modern amenities for you to experience a comfortable stay with that classic feel. The rooms might be smaller compared to the big hotels, but it would be a good choice if you are looking for something intimate, and different from the general hotel feel. You are in the middle of the most sparkling street in the city! If you prefer to rent an apartment click here.

One of the most popular boutique hotels is the Hotel Victor, which opened under the flagship of the familiar and big Hyatt Corporation. The Hyatt brand itself is already trusted, which could easily pull in visitors, but don’t be fooled by that because it’s not just the name, but the experience itself is commendable. The staff is very dutiful and amiable, the rooms are well-cared for the spa is efficient and well-arranged and the atmosphere is very hip but homely.

The in-house restaurant, called the Vix Restaurant offers wonderful food choices that would get you salivating, and the experience of dining there definitely gives Hotel Victor added stars to be one of the favorites. And you do not want to miss the enormous jellyfish tank set up directly in the middle of the restaurant.

For guests in the hunt for some peace and harmony with an instilment of an Art Deco atmosphere, the romantic Betsy Hotel in Ocean Drive would be the answer. Not only will you get the convenience of being in the middle of everything that’s anything, but they offer amazing rooms facing the ocean.

The swimming pool might be undersized, but it is out of the scorching sun, plus, the hotel grants complimentary towels and beach chairs for those who want to tan. You need to experience the beautiful sea and city view during the day and the remarkable star-gazing scene at night at The Betsy floor sun deck.

Another favorite spot nearby The Betsy is the recently operating restaurant Quinn’s, which offers good seafood. Two blocks south lie 918 Ocean Drive, another well-known boutique accommodation that was converted into an all-suite condominium, where you could only book online or by getting hold of private owners.

You might also want to consider the Bentley Hotel as they offer a perfect and amazing sunset view on their rooftop pool deck. Not just the comfortable rooms – not incredible decor – you are going to get, but guests are also treated with a free pass to the Bentley Beach Club which offers a complete gym, a huge pool, spa tubs that come in cold or hot, and one of the most popular, sexy club, Nikki Beach.

Luxurious Suite on Ocean Drive, Miami

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The Casa Casuarina suite, where Versace’s legacy lives on

If you want to go all out with your vacation experience in South Beach, perhaps the luxurious suite hotels are the best choice for you. The Z Ocean Hotel (located at one block in Collins Avenue) is an 80-suite luxury condo-hotel that offers guests extra huge balconies, roof gardens that are accessible through private penthouses, the unique glass-bottom pool and the heavenly top-notch in-room spa services to pamper yourself. The hotel also is complete with its valet that has an advanced security system, so you don’t have to worry about your ride when you reside at the Z Ocean.

Ocean Drive hosts one of the most alluring hotels, the Villa Casa Casuarina, a former Versace mansion, the property opens up like a scene from One Thousand and One Nights. The layout is reminiscent of a Moroccan riad: 10 suites set around an interior courtyard with a fountain, carved wood doors, and intricate tiling. Mesmerizing!

If you have a pet you would carry along on your vacations, you could look to the Casa Grande Suite Hotel. Not only are the rooms spacious, but you will also gain access to a kitchen equipped with full-sized steel appliances, tropical Indonesian decorations, and a majestic granite countertop which allows you to prepare your lavish meal any time of the day. This hotel is not incredible, but we suggest it if you need it or love to cook.

Not only that this suite hotel serve comfort, but it is also convenient as it is placed right in the heart of the local nightlife where your South Beach vacation experience would be complete with the sexy dancing Latin girls to drinking up mojitos to a happening environment at the Mango’s Tropical Cafe nearby.

Other dining options include the Pelican Cafe – which is also a design Hotel, the News Cafe has still going strong ever since the life of Ocean Drive Started, and the Cuban Cuisine and themed outlet at Lario’s. Need something to help with the heat, get yourself the popular ice-blended drinks from Fat Tuesdays or Wet Willies.

If you are looking for fun with friends, book the Crescent Resort in Ocean Drive which features the popular Jacuzzi suites, which is also conveniently located in a central position to easily access great shopping malls and pedestrian malls, such as the Lincoln Road.  Front Porch Cafe is the place to head to if you would like to have quality alfresco brunch with the likes of tasty banana pancakes and other wholesome food at an affordable and valuable price no matter the time and day. Even in South Beach you could enjoy the lively environment of an Irish Bar at Finnegan’s Way where you will be entertained by live music, with a cool sports-styled bar, and get drinks two for one around 4 to 7 pm.

One of the most interesting suite hotels located on the lively 10th Street is The Congress Hotel  (former the Strand), and it is so lively to the point that some guests find it very hard to catch forty winks, that they would buy earplugs just to be able to catch a few hours of sleep. Congress offers you the convenience of being on the liveliest street of Ocean Drive, but with soundproof rooms to help you catch that sleep you truly need after a long day of fun. The rooftop pool deck is the place to be if you want to have a great view overlooking Ocean Drive, or even watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.

If you like to party, there’s a place where the party never stops, and that is the Clevelander Pool Bar which offers suites at the Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach. This well-known attraction offers a huge 5 poolside bars, flat-panel Television sets almost everywhere, live musical entertainment, happy hours and two-for-ones, and the ever-popular Saturday bikini contests.

It’s always a party at the Clevelander Hotel!

Family-Friendly Hotels in Ocean Drive, Miami

hilton-bentley-ocean-driveThe Hilton Bentley

marriott-stanton-ocean-drive-miamiThe Marriott Stanton

Footvolley in Ocean Drive

If you plan to visit Ocean Drive for leisure vacationing with family, both Hilton Bentley and Marriott Stanton hotels are two good options for you. On the quiet end of the “SoFi District”, lies the wonderful South Beach. One of the features that make Marriott the perfect hotel is the fact that there is a Starbucks outlet in the lower lobby. The hotel itself has a lot of features made fun for you, and even your family. They have a notable huge bedroom fit for 8 family members which comes along with 32-inch flat-panel television with free access to high-speed internet.

The beach located south of the hotel is usually flocked by fans of surfing, “footvolley” (a modern Brazilian sport that fuses soccer with volleyball), and volleyball. If the beach is too crowded, you could settle for the hotel’s astonishing pool area. Just as cool as the name is, The Hilton Grand Vacations Club offers fun and a good time for both you and your family.

The rooftop Jacuzzi is something you have to experience, especially during sunrise and sunset when the view is astonishing. Hilton Bentley offers one and two-bedroom suites which are roomy and comfortable. It should be enough for 2 to 4 members, or you could push it to 6 or more, as long as some of you don’t mind crashing on the pull-out couch.

For a serious dining experience, head over to Fifty which offers plenty of mouth-watering lunch and dinner options under the Nuevo-Latino cuisine. Just as a heads up, be sure to leave some space for dessert if you dine at Fifty as they offer one of the delicious sugary sweet desserts in town.

Ready to dive into the vibrant heart of Ocean Drive, Miami, for your next getaway? Below you can unlock the best hotel deals and start your adventure!



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