Known locally as “SoBe”, South Beach on Orchid Island, an integral part of metropolitan Miami, comprises the area between 1st and 25th streets that covers 23 blocks, and yet it is a city unto itself, with unique charm. Situated at the southern end of the Miami Beach metropolitan area, South Beach shares some of Miami’s attractions, but its architecture sets it apart visually.
Originally a coconut plantation, South Beach began development around 1910 when Collins Bridge established a link between mainland Miami and the beaches areas; on September 18, 1926, the eye of the “Great Miami Hurricane” passed over the area, leaving not one building without damage or being completely destroyed. The late 1920s and early 1930s saw South Beach’s first architectural renaissance, with a renewal in the aftermath of the destruction.
In 1964, a rarity occurred. Jackie Gleason, the famous comedian, brought his television variety show to South Beach to be taped; most programs at that time were shot in Hollywood, a few in New York City. And so was established the Jackie Gleason Theater. But South Beach fell to ruin in the early 1980s when an influx of elderly people on fixed incomes sought the warmth of the climate. They inhabited the old hotels and apartment buildings, but were unable to maintain them. But within a decade, and by purpose, the area became gentrified and underwent the renaissance that remains intact today and gives South Beach its Art Deco look and singular personality.
These days, South Beach is home to the rich and famous, and is the winter home of thousands more. The LGBT community has added substantially to the revitalization of South Beach, tending dutifully to buildings and businesses, upholding the beauty of the area.
South Beach is the base of dozens of attractions and festivals. It is the home of the quirky Erotic Art Museum, the Jewish Museum of Florida and the Miami Holocaust Museum. Annual events include the Miami Marathon in January, the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival in February, and the bi-annual Miami Fashion Week in March and July.
The beach itself is an extension of popular Miami Beach (please visit our page on Miami Beach for more details about the greater Miami area, including South Beach), with designated topless areas. Here is where fashion icon Gianni Versace built his mansion and where shops and restaurants galore cater to all tastes and styles. South Beach may be part of Miami, but its one-of-a-kind character shines through.