Ocean Drive is Miami’s most iconic street, likely because of all the movies it's been featured in and it's also usually the first place people think of when they hear Miami Beach. The pastel-hued, art deco buildings, colorful night lights, fancy cars and of course, rows and rows of palm trees are exactly what make Ocean Drive quintessential Miami. Stretching from 1st street all the way up till 15th street, Ocean Drive is filled with colorful shops, all types of dinning and, of course, the best people-watching around.
You don’t want to miss this emblematic locale.
History of Ocean Drive
In the 1910s, Miami pioneers Carl Fisher, John Collins and the banking Lummus brothers, bought a failing piece of cropland and mangroves from the father and son duo Henry and Charles Lum. The group of ambitious men had the pockets to invest in the swamp-land and by 1913 Fisher completed the first luxury hotel in the area. Soon after that, the Lincoln Road shopping district was built and by 1920, a South Beach land boom had started. Suddenly, hotels, mansions, and luxury buildings were popping up everywhere.
The architectural style most popular at the time was Art Deco, which is why so much of the area is built with the iconic look. As more and more hotels were popping up, Ocean Drive started to become a real hot spot, mainly for its views and proximity to the water.
By 1980, the Ocean Drive area was beginning to look run-down and haggard.
It was losing its special appeal, and many of the historic buildings weren't kept up. But this degradation prompted a city-wide renaissance of sorts, and the community mobilized to restore many of the priceless Art Deco buildings that are alive and well today.
About the Architecture
The architecture on Ocean Drive is a combination of all types of styles from all different architects.
It is, however, considered to be an Art Deco capital and is home to the largest concentration of 1920s and '30s resort-style architecture.
The Art Deco style that is present on Ocean Drive today was influenced by the 1924 Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which was the Paris design fair that celebrated the decorative arts’ relationship with technology. A lot of Mayan and Egyptian motifs were used along with clean lines and geometric patterns. South Beach took it to the next level by adding nautical and tropical designs from nature as well. This is also what gives the Art Deco architecture of South Beach that special something.
What to Do on and Around Ocean Drive
Ocean Drive is packed with some great activities. Start your day at the Art Deco Welcome Center and join a walking tour of the district. You'll get exciting insight into the history and architecture in the area and get to visit many of the iconic Art Deco buildings—you are sure to recognize a few from some Hollywood hits. After the tour, grab some brunch at the tasty Front Porch Cafe or the Ocean Drive staple, News Cafe, both over 20-year veterans of the area. Fill your afternoon with some shopping on nearby Lincoln Road, or let loose at a South Beach pool party.
Many of the area hotels open their doors mid-day for open bar pool parties with celebrity DJs and lots of bronzed, beautiful people. Try the Clevelander Hotel or HighBar at the nearby Dream Hotel on Collins Ave for a great time and a full crowd.
Of course, there are options for those seeking a less intoxicated day, too. Renting bikes is a popular and fun activity. Ocean Drive is equipped with CitiBike rental stations, or try one of the many rental spots along the street. On a day that's not too hot, this is a great family-friendly activity. There are also plenty of nearby activities in Miami proper that all ages will enjoy.
Where to Eat
Ocean Drive has spot after spot of great food and award-winning restaurants. High-end diners will love all of the delectable indulgences available. History-buffs will love eating at Gianni's at the Villa located in Casa Casuarina, the former home of fashion designer, Gianni Versace.
The menu is a bit pricey, but the ambiance is worth it. Mango's Tropical Cafe is a great place for a lively dinner. The restaurant and bar features nightly live entertainment with a latin flair. Seafood lovers will enjoy the Ocean Drive staple, A Fish Called Avalon. The restaurant is located in remodeled Art Deco building and features fresh seafood cuisine served daily. Dine inside or on their expansive street patio overlooking the ocean.
How to Get There
Ocean Drive starts at South Pointe just south of 1st Street, near the southernmost end of the main barrier island of Miami Beach, about a quarter-mile west of the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean Drive continues north to 15th Street, southeast of Lincoln Road. It's about 1.3 miles long.