The vintage cars parked along Ocean Drive complement the beautiful art deco architecture of the area, and were you anywhere but South Beach, the effect would be a bit of historical charm. However, although it is beautiful, Ocean Drive is anything but charming.
The crush of tourists and celebrity-spotters that descend on the area during the day are replaced at night by stylish clubgoers and action-seekers, resulting in South Beach’s most dynamic and crowded area. The actual beach at South Beach is at Lummus Park Beach, and despite its size it is often incredibly crowded, but it is great for people-watching.
Miami Design Preservation League
Still, if you start your journey at the Miami Design Preservation League’s Art Deco Gift Shop (1200 Ocean Dr., 305/531-3484, www.mpdl.org, 9:30 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), you stand a much better chance of getting a better understanding of the area. The Miami Design Preservation League offers a variety of different tours from the shop—guided and nonguided, as well as bike tours and even cell phone tours—that point out and contextualized the numerous examples of art deco architecture on and around Ocean Drive.
If you decide just to stroll around the area, you’ll doubtlessly want to catch a peek at Casa Casuarina (1116 Ocean Dr., 305/672-6604), an 80-year-old mansion best known as the “Versace Mansion.” Gianni Versace bought the then-decrepit home in 1992 and restored it to its former glory; he lived there until he was shot by serial killer Andrew Cunanan on the mansion’s front steps in 1997. The Versace family continued to live in the house until 2000, when they sold it to telecommunications tycoon Peter Loftin, who converted it into a members-only hotel. Tours are available daily of the mansion, but at $65 per person, it’s not exactly for the faint of wallet.
Irene Marie Model Management
Although a Johnny Rocket’s hamburger restaurant and a modeling agency may not seem all that interesting, buffs of Miami Beach history and movies will definitely want to take a moment to notice Irene Marie Model Management (728 Ocean Dr.). The agency is notable for being the first full-service modeling agency to relocate to the then-recovering South Beach area, effectively jump-starting SoBe’s reputation as a preferred destination for the glamorous and elite. And the building itself—with the agency upstairs and Johnny Rocket’s downstairs—is also interesting, as it was formerly the Sun Ray Apartments featured in the infamous chainsaw scene in Scarface.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition