A local’s guide to Miami’s beaches

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The beach lagoon at Matheson Hammock Park provides the perfect beach getaway without the need for a long car trip. Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor

The beach lagoon at Matheson Hammock Park provides the perfect beach getaway without the need for a long car trip. Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor

Whether it’s your first day ever or your first day back, one of the first things you’ll want to do now that you’ve made it to UM is check out the seashore. With so many miles of coastline, it can be hard to decide where to settle down, but get to know each beach and you’ll find it easy to tailor your experience to whatever wind fills your sail.

On the weekend, Crandon Beach in Key Biscayne teems with smell and sound. Children’s shrieks of laughter slice through the thudding blend of music from overlapping stereos, and the smell of sunscreen, sweat and barbecued meat flood the salty breeze. You won’t be able to commune with nature, but as long as you weren’t expecting peace and quiet, the abundant good cheer will prove infectious.

For a more personal experience with Crandon Park, swing by on a weekday, and those vast stretches of sand will be all yours.

If you can’t make it to the beach on a weekday but still want to avoid the commotion, visit South Beach before 10 a.m. while the usual crowd sleeps off the events of the previous night. Usually the wind hasn’t picked up by then, and the water is as clear and still as poured resin. South Beach fills up quickly, but unless there’s lightning, don’t lose your nerve if inclement weather suddenly chases everyone away.

It’s even worth making the trip on a rainy day, to see water and sky interlock in a horizonless sheet, and to hear the muffled patter, like tiny footsteps, of raindrops on the sand.

If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, Virginia Key offers a glimpse into Florida’s past, when beaches were untamed swaths of sand and scrub, unshadowed by towering condominiums. Although the current is almost always too strong for swimming, you can fish from rocky outcroppings, or walk along the water and pick up sea glass.

Be aware, though, that Virginia Key’s general isolation does require a beachgoer to be a bit more cautious, and it isn’t advisable to go alone.

Matheson Hammock, on the other hand, is much more accessible. Located on Old Cutler Rd., the beach itself will not floor you with any great degree of beauty, but its proximity to campus makes it a great place to dig your toes in the sand for a while; you can easily make the four-mile jaunt on a bike, or even on foot.

Once you’re there, watch the windsurfers out on the bay in front of a reversed Miami skyline, or take a dip in the little lagoon.

But whichever beach you end up frequenting, make sure to take advantage of what you can do only in this peninsular state: watch the sun rise and set over the ocean in the same day. 

Head to a shoreline that’s open in the early morning, such as South Beach, watch the sun cross the starting line, and then step on the gas. Naples is only about two hours away, so you’ll have plenty of time to check out the city before the sun catches up to you and sinks into the Gulf of Mexico.

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