Monday, 25 September 2017 / London, UK

The Ultimate Travel Guide To Miami: Where To Go, What To Do, Where To Shop

Hello hello and welcome to the first instalment of my series of Florida posts. On the 1st September, me and my 3 best friends headed off to Miami for what was meant to be a 2 week mini road-trip around Florida. The plan was to have 6 days in Miami, before driving down to the Everglades, then on to Key West, up to Orlando for 3 days and then back down to Miami for a few nights before flying home from there, but lets just say that Hurricane Irma had other ideas...

We managed to salvage as much of the trip as possible and although we had to cancel our plans for the Everglades and Key West, and leave Miami earlier than we'd hoped, most importantly, we got home safely and only slightly traumatised from driving overnight through 4 states in apocalyptic storms (but let's not talk about that), before Hurricane Irma made it's bolshy arrival in Florida. So although I landed at Heathrow 3 days earlier than planned, I still somehow managed to come home with thousands of photos and a notebook full of notes for travel guides, so nice try Irma, but you ain't ruining this girls blog posts, no thank-you.

Miami had so much more to offer than I ever imagined. I envisioned a more beachy, less clubby Vegas, but my god did Miami surprise me. Ocean Drive is usually the first place you think of when the word Miami is mentioned (that and Will Smith's voice echoing "welcome to Miami"), but there were so many more vibrant neighbourhoods and so much more culture, art and wealth than I ever anticipated. I felt like I didn't put my camera down when I was in Miami, as everything was just so god dam photogenic. Every building, every palm tree, every shop was just so Instagramable and I had to restrain myself from uploading 2328492394 images to this blog post, so my apologies in advance, because this is one rather hefty blog post, so you might wanna grab a cuppa and settle down to read my ultimate guide to Miami!

- OCEAN DRIVE -
There's no better way to know you've arrived in Miami, than by taking a stroll down Ocean Drive. The iconic street runs parallel to Miami beach, making it a beautiful juxtaposition of blue sea and white sand on one side and colourful art deco buildings on the other. It's rather bizarre to have such a vibrant and lively street just a stones throw away from such a peaceful and relaxing beach, but that you'll soon learn, is the beauty of Miami. If architecture is your thing, then the entirety of Ocean Drive really will blow you away. Ocean Drive starts on 1st street and stretches all the way along to 15th street and is lined with pastel-hued Art Deco buildings and hotels, restaurants and bars serving quite possibly the largest cocktails you ever will see. 

Ocean Drive is the perfect place to people watch and you'll soon learn that nothing will surprise you in Miami. A 70 year-old man cycling on the pavement with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck? yep, no biggie. People walking along with pet parrots on their shoulders? Yep, also no biggie. Miami is a mix of eclectic people and a buzzing, vibrant culture that will impress you from the offset. Something which will also impress you is the sheer amount of wealth radiating throughout South Beach. Coming from London where seeing a Bentley is just about as common as seeing a KA, even I was gobsmacked by the cars in Miami. Ocean Drive is the perfect through road to demonstrate said wealth, so it consists of people (quite rightfully so) cruising on through showing off their G-Class's, Bentley's, Rolls Royce's, Mustang's and Maserati's. 

Ocean Drive certainly comes alive at night, so the perfect time to head there is late afternoon when it's starting to liven up, but do be expected to be ripped off. Refusing to eat along Ocean Drive as we knew we'd get bumped, we had a Diet Coke pip stop instead and walked away $9 poorer thanks to service, tax and city tax. So please take the prices on the menus with a pinch of salt, because the tax and service will pretty much double your bill. Take to the side streets instead for better service and quality for a fraction of the price. 

FIND IT: OCEAN DRIVE, MIAMI BEACH, FL 33139, USA 

- MIAMI BEACH -
No visit to Miami is complete without a trip to Miami Beach now is it? And I've got to tell you, Miami beach was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. Used to the crowded and cramped beaches of Europe, where you're lucky if you so much as get enough space to stretch your towel out on the sand and then spend the rest of your day attempting to avoid the annoying brat opposite you catapulting sand over your towel on his quest to build the world's largest sandcastle, Miami beach was like a breath of fresh air. It's spacious and vast, with crystal clear water and white sand and goes on for miles and miles, with the buildings of Ocean Drive peeking through the hotels as you stroll along the boardwalk.

Miami Beach truly is a perfect mix of city and beach. You could quite easily use your time in Miami as an opportunity to do nothing but sunbathe and sip mojitos all day long, or you can treat it as a city break and a chance to shop, eat and dance your way around this iconic city...the world truly is your oyster in Miami and that's why I fell in love with the place so quickly. We opted for a perfect balance of the two and the first half of our days were spent with early rises and hours of exploring Miami by foot, whilst the second half of our days were spent winding down on the beach and resting our blistered feet on the sand and watching the sun set over the Atlantic. 

Top tip if you're beaching: don't expect to grab yourself a lounger for a tenner like you can in Europe. Miami Beach is lined with colourful and comfortable AF loungers all belonging to the different (5*) hotels, which means they certainly don't come cheap! So forget waving goodbye to $50 dollars a pop and slum it on your towel in the sand instead because it really ain't worth it. It's also worth noting that there's no promenade as such with cafes or shops along it (only hotels and overpriced restaurants on Ocean Drive), so if you're having a beach day, then make sure you've stocked up on water and snacks from a supermarket beforehand, because if you're gasping for water on the beach, then you'll struggle to find water for less than $10 without walking miles away from the beach. So make sure you go well stocked! Also worth noting that parking is rather expensive along South/Mid Beach, so it's perhaps better to Uber it for the day and leave the rental car back at the apartment. 

FIND IT: 2520 NW 2nd AVENUE, MIAMI, FLORIDA 33127, USA 


- WYNWOOD -
Wynwood was like unexpectedly finding another M&M buried deep in the corner of a packet you were about to chuck in the bin...unexpected and oh so satisfying. Although I'd been advised by many people to visit Wynwood, I was just expecting a few graffitied walls and not a lot else to be honest with you, but Wynwood is far, far more than that. It's a small neighbourhood just 15 minutes North of downtown Miami and is one of the most vibrant places I've ever had the privilege of visiting. It's quite literally bursting with culture, art, colour and talent. Formerly a working-class, industrial district, Tony Goldman is to thank for transforming and totally revitalising this neighbourhood and commissioning artists to turn it into the colourful arts district it is today. There was something very 'LA' about the place and it's quirky galleries, coffee shops and unique stores undeniably make it the Shoreditch of Miami. It's often overlooked as people flock to Ocean Drive and Miami Beach itself, but I promise you, it's oh so worth taking a few hours out of your day to spend some time in Wynwood. It certainly will not disappoint! 

FIND IT: 2520 NW 2nd AVENUE, MIAMI, FLORIDA 33127, USA 

- LITTLE HAVANA -

Now, after wanting to visit Cuba for many years, Little Havana has got to be one of the most exciting places I've visited in a long time. There's no denying why they call it 'Little Cuba', as there quite literally is no other way to describe the neighbourhood. From the minute you turn onto Calle Ocho (the main street), it's honestly like somebody clicks their fingers and you are transported to Cuba. Cuban music spills out onto the streets from every cafe, cigar shop and bar and the atmosphere and vibe feels entirely different to Miami Beach; and in a bloody good way! 

We visited Little Havana on a Sunday, but that by no means meant it was quiet! Our time in Little Havana was spent sampling traditional Cuban food at El Pub and wandering the vibrant streets, before spending the rest of the afternoon drinking (rather over-priced) mojitos and dancing away to Pitbull in Little Havana's most popular live music bar...Ball & Chain. Any place that plays Pitbull and has carnival fire-breathing dancers dancing on the bar on a Sunday afternoon is my kind of place tbh, so it's fair to say that I was in my absolute element. 

Situated West of Downtown Miami, Little Havana is a short 15 minute drive from Miami Beach centre and can easily be explored in an afternoon as it's a rather small neighbourhood indeed, so I highly recommend popping it onto your itinerary if you have some spare time in Miami. It's also just a short 10/15 minute drive away from the Wynwood neighbourhood, so we combined the two in one day. I recommend heading to Wynwood first and build up an appetite wandering around the Wynwood Walls, before then heading to Little Havana to stuff your faces with empanadas and croquetas. 

FIND IT: SW 8th STREET, MIAMI, FLORIDA 33135, USA 


- BRUNCHIN' -

Although we were exploring Florida on more of a 'traveller' than 'holidayer' budget, that didn't stop us from treating ourselves to a spot of brunch at Bird & Bone @ The Confidante. As we weren't staying in one of the many 5* hotels that Miami had to offer, it was only right we went for a bit of a nosey in one, so the Confidante it was, as I'd been eyeing up the interiors on Instagram for months and was keen to see the hotel in person. I opted for the sweet potato pancakes with candied walnut and fruit, and oh sweet lord, they were divine. They were worth ever single one of those calories and at $17 dollars, they didn't completely break the bank as I expected. I highly recommend paying Bird & Bone a visit if you are looking for a more exciting breakfast than the local diners of Miami. The staff were so attentive and friendly and the atmosphere was far from pretentious, with more of  a chilled poolside vibe, with Bird & Bone being close to The Confidante hotel. 

FIND IT: THE CONFIDANTE HOTEL, 4041 COLLINS AVENUE, MIAMI BEACH, FL 33140, USA 



- SHOPPING -

The shopping situation in Miami is a bloody good one, I can tell you that. Although Florida's best outlets are situated in Orlando, Miami is certainly not short of shops too. Collins Avenue, which runs parallel to Ocean Drive, is awash with all your standard American stores like Vans, Ralph Lauren and Sephora, but is also home to none other than the Dash store, which if you're a Kardashian fan like myself, will get you all kinds of excited. Collins Avenue is the perfect street to wander down to break up your day of beaching/exploring Ocean Drive, but if you're after a more bank-breaking shopping experience (like myself), then you're best off heading to one of Miami's malls, where you'll find a larger variety of shops. 

Miami's most popular malls are Dolphin Mall, Bal Harbour and Lincoln Road Mall. All three are home to every American shop you'll ever need and are all just a short walk or drive away from the centre of Miami Beach.

FIND IT: SW 8th STREET, MIAMI, FLORIDA 33135, USA 


So there we have it, there's my rather photo-heavy guide to Miami. My time spent in Miami was short but oh so sweet. It was the perfect combination of beaching, exploring, photographing and eating my way around the city and I'm just absolutely gutted I didn't have longer to take advantage of the beautiful beaches Miami has to offer. Miami is not the place for you if you're just after a plain and simple beach holiday....(hear me out)...if however, you're after a beach holiday oozing with vibrant culture, food, design, Art Deco, street art and people watching the quirkiest people America has to offer, all whilst sipping on a gigantic Mojito, then yes, Miami certainly is the place for you. 

Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for my second instalment of my Florida Travel Guide, where you'll be seeing my favourite images from my trip, from a rather magical place beginning with D...

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