Miami is totally tropical in its climate and its vibrant culture. Temperatures throughout the year range from 75-90°F (23-32°C) during the day with heavy afternoon showers from July to November, along with the occasional threat of a hurricane. The warm sunny winters attract many snowbirds and wealthy families to enjoy their winter homes in the city to escape northern winters.
Once known for its gangland violence and total disregard for prohibition in the 1920s, it is now a chic playground for the rich and famous. The city of Miami is an eclectic mix of ultra-modern high-rise condos, modern shopping malls, upmarket beach resorts and poorer neighborhoods.
Miami Beach is on the outlying barrier island to the east of the city of Miami. It is linked to the mainland by several causeways including the MacArthur Causeway, the Venetian causeway and just a little further north by the Julia Tuttle Causeway. The waterway between the city of Miami and Miami Beach is known as Biscayne Bay, part of the Intracoastal waterway that runs all the way up the eastern seaboard to New York.
Within Biscayne Bay there are several manmade islands which are private, occupied by some of Miami's most desirable multi-million dollar properties with luxury yachts moored alongside. Hibiscus Island, Palm Island and Star Island are just some of the manmade islands – easily defined from above by their very geometric shapes!
Miami is a major center for finance, commerce, entertainment, media, sport and the arts. It is known as the "Gateway to the Americas" and has a large Hispanic population from Cuba, Colombia and South America. In fact over half the population of Miami speaks Spanish as their first language! The plus side is that you can get great international cuisine in the city, from authentic Cuban sandwiches to great Brazilian churrascarias or steakhouses.
The city of Miami has around 400,000 residents although the metro area actually has over 5.5 million residents. Miami is divided into a number of districts. Brickell is the most affluent area with modern high-rise architecture that is home to international bank headquarters, lawyers' offices and some of Miami's most exclusive luxury hotels and condos.
To the south of the city is Coral Gables, known for its huge old fig trees and mansions. The historic Biltmore Hotel with its golf course is in this area and has been accommodating presidents, celebrities and royalty since it opened in 1926. Some of Miami's best shopping can be found along Bird Road and in the Merrick Park Mall in Coral Gables.
West of Downtown Miami is the airport surrounded by districts that tell their own story – Little Havana, Hialeah, Upper East Side, Opa-Locka and Miami Shores. Further north lies Miami Gardens, Golden Glades and North Miami Beach, not to be confused with Miami Beach across the causeway.
Miami Beach is known for its gorgeous white sands and azure blue waters. The boardwalk is the place for beautiful people to see and be seen. Miami Beach also has its own famous neighborhoods including the Art Deco hotels and restaurants along Ocean Drive in South Beach, or SoBe as it likes to be known.
South Pointe is at the very tip of South Beach and overlooks the entrance to one of the busiest cruise ports in the world. Huge cruise ships glide in and out regularly heading for the Caribbean or the Bahamas. Further north is Miami Beach itself with the Lincoln Road Mall, Jackie Gleason Theater and Convention Center. North Beach leads on to Surfside and snobbish Bal Harbour, with its exclusive designer shopping mall.
Further west from Miami the road quickly hits the Everglades National Park, one of the natural wonders of the world, but that's a story for another day!
I found this map was a godsend when I lived in Miami - there are so many different districts and convoluted one way streets! This map covers the whole area and, being laminated, you can fold it whichever way you like without it ripping along the folds. It also folds up small to store in the car door pocket. Click below to order it now from Amazon.
This informative book offers details of 20 best beaches and coastal cities in Florida
It is also available to download as an ebook:
20 Best Florida Beaches and Coastal Cities