Saturday 30 October 2010

Miami Beach, South Beach, Florida Running Route

Length: 11.5 km (7.1 miles), terrain flat

Ocean Drive picture courtesy of the fabulous Matt Ball, street pix from Google StreetView. Thanks!

NOTE: First, the standard Florida warning: in summer, it's HOT! Avoid sun-strokes, and run at sunrise, or in the evenings.

Miami running routes:
South Beach
Coconut Grove

Key Biscayne
For more running routes, see Route List.

I grew up just north of Miami, but moved away before I started running, so I only knew the South Beach as a place to cruise (or in a weirder memory, I was also arrested there once, on Collins Avenue, and spent the night at the Dade County Stockade, but THAT'S another story). But a business trip there a few years ago let me get to know it from the viewpoint of my running shoes, which is a very nice memory indeed.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
Miami Beach is a long, thin sandbar out across Biscayne Bay from mainland Miami. Almost all of Florida is lined with such protective coastal islands. Miami Beach is almost never wider than a mile (1.6 km), and narrows to a point at the south end (appropriately called South Pointe), where there's an inlet to the Port of Miami, where all the cruise ships land.

The beachfront is all on the east side, facing the Atlantic. The west side was originally swampy, and is mostly built up with faceless condos now, and has no continuous walkways: talk about total lack of urban planning. There are a few bridges across the bay to Miami, including the MacArthur Causeway near South Pointe.
Typical Ocean Drive scene in South Beach, photo by Matt Ball
The South Beach Route
In this route, we'll do what I consider the classic tour of the beach: running Lincoln Road, Espanola Way, Ocean Drive, the South Pointe Marina and back again. We'll start at the heart of Miami Beach, the corner of Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road. Collins Avenue is the main north/south road, also known as route A1A, the Florida coast road. But it's got a lot of traffic, so we'll avoid it.

Let's start by running west along Lincoln Road. This is one of America's greatest pedestrian streets. The whole street has been turned into one great hangout, with a park-like atmosphere and one wonderfully-smelling restaurant after the other and their outdoor tables. It's called Lincoln Road Mall, although it has nothing to do with a typical American shopping mall. This is definitely the place to spend an evening.
Lincoln Road street scene
The nice part of Lincoln Road ends at Lennox Avenue, so turn around here and head back up the other side of Lincoln Road. But we won't run all the way back to Collins Avenue again. At Meridian Ave., turn right and run 3 blocks south to Espanola Way where we turn left, heading east again. This is another great street, semi-pedestrian, with Spanish-style architecture, and a flair all its own.
Espanola Way
When you get back to Collins Avenue, you'll pass Jerry's Deli, one of my favorite places to eat in the world. This is a relict of the New York-influenced past. In the 1970s, Miami Beach was a sleepy place for Jewish retirees from New York. It looked like Coney Island with palm trees: delis and Nathan's hot-dogs and old folks pushing aluminum walkers all over the place. But when Miami Vice made the South Beach cool again, the world's entire jet-set poured in and drove the rents up.

Cross Collins and run just a few steps south, and turn left again on 14th Place. After just 100 meters, you have now entered the famous Art Deco neighborhood called South Beach.

Turn right onto Ocean Drive, and you will have the old hotels on your right, and Lummus Park on your left. On the other side of the park is the beach itself. It's hard to decide where to go here: run by the great old hotels, run through the park, or run directly on the sand. But we'll run back on the sand, so we can save that for later. Enjoy the street theater, there are lots of people around here who are experts at making themselves conspicuous. The most interesting, and loudest, hangout is at 8th Street, the biker bar called Wet Willies.
Ocean Drive at Lummus Park, by Google Maps StreetView
At 5th Street, where the park ends, the street gets less interesting, so we'll turn left and run the 100 meters to the beach promenade, just behind the beach hotels, and turn south (right) again. When you come to the gigantic high-rises, you've just about reached South Pointe. This is a great place to look out at the ships and boats constantly cruising through the inlet. Across the water to the south you can see Fisher Island, Virginia Key, then Key Biscayne, with its lighthouse (see the link above for the Key Biscayne route!).

Turn right, heading west, staying along the water now, heading through South Pointe Park along the inlet. Soon you will come to the marina, full of hundreds of boats peacefully bobbing at the docks. We'll just run along the dock all the way to the end (hey, I'm a sailor, what do you expect?). When you hit the end of the marina, just before the MacArthur Causeway bridge, turn around and head back east along the water.

Now run northwards, up the beach all the way back home, staying on the wet, close-packed sand, near the water. It's hard to tell exactly when you get back to Lincoln Road, but look out for the Loewe's and Ritz-Carlton hotels. When you see them, you're just about home. Just turn left and run back the block to Collins Avenue.

And while you're at it, let's not forget that we're at the beach in Florida: the best thing at the end of a run is to kick off your shoes and jump in for a swim. Even in winter, you can enjoy the water. And there are showers along the promenade to wash off the saltwater. Hope you have as much fun as I did...
The author taking his own advice


  1. I ran this route today, first day of 2011. After staying up very late last night, I needed to purge my system. FABULOUS route. The only change I made was running Lincoln all the way to the West Side. Not a bad view. This route really allowed me to see most of the main sights of South Beach in about 1 hour. Not bad.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Abbas! Yeah, and there's no better cure for a hangover than a good run: I did the same thing yesterday, but in snow and ice!

  3. can you run along the macarthur causeway safely?

  4. Yes, you definitely can. There is a sidewalk free across the bay. You can also run the Rickenbacker Causeway out to beautiful Key Biscayne.

  5. I've been fortunate enough to have enjoyed part of the route from south point to 20th on the sand. Then back through the cafes on a1a. very nice, but you will probably have to walk near wet willies.

  6. thanks for the insights ! found this very useful!