Forget South Beach. Haulover Beach Is Where You Want to Go.
When visiting Miami, tourists always flock to South Beach. Understandably so. You can't come to the city and not stop by to see people rollerblading and working out.
But most Miami natives skip the crowds and enjoy the water elsewhere. How do I know? I grew up here.
Trust me, if you want the best beach in Miami, head to Haulover Beach.
The Peace and Quiet You Won't Find in South Beach
Haulo-who? Unless you're from the area, you've probably never heard of Haulover Beach. That's the first sign that this is the peaceful beach you didn't think existed in Miami.
Haulover is located on a northern barrier island just north of Miami Beach (the city). What makes it so special is that it's part of a public park, so it's been protected from the overdevelopment that plagues the city.
Because most tourists don't know about it, the crowds here are noticeably smaller. Locals come here on weekends, and the summer is fairly busy. But I once went with a friend on a Wednesday afternoon in late June, and we were the only people at the beach.
Who would've imagined that to be possible in Miami?
The First Nudist Beach in Florida
While Haulover is quiet, it does have one big claim to fame: It is the oldest nude beach in Florida.
Don't let this deter you from visiting. Contrary to misguided popular belief, the entire beach doesn't invite people to bare it all out. The clothing-optional section is only 0.4 miles long, and there is a physical entry point to this section, so you won't stumble into it by accident.
That said, if you do want to get an even tan line or enjoy skinny dipping in the sea, all you have to do is walk into this section and throw caution (and your clothes) to the wind.
Nudity and family-friendliness usually don't go together. But that's the magic of Haulover. It has something for everyone.
If you're coming with kids, simply avoid the northern section of the beach (where the nudist part is). The rest of the expansive park is very child friendly. The sea is fairly shallow, and there are plenty of public restrooms. For families with older kids, rental shops for watersport equipment can be found within the park. Jet skiing, kiteboarding and fishing are all popular activities.
On windy days when you don't want your kids to go too deeply into the water, you can take them to the kite shop and have them run around instead. Or pack some snacks and head over to the picnic area.
Furry Friends Welcome
When I said Haulover Beach has something for everyone, I wasn't exaggerating. Dogs also have their own designated area, where they can freely run around, roll in the sand, and splash in the water.
Leashes aren't necessary here, and your dog will find plenty of other four-legged friends to play with. As a bonus, you won't have to deal with haters giving you the side-eye just for trying to bring some joy to the best member of the family.
The Sandbar Brings All the People to the Yard
Party people aren't left behind either. While the ocean side of the park is quiet and peaceful, Haulover also has access to the canal that separates the barrier island from mainland Miami. This is where the boaters come for a good time.
Rent a boat or bring your own and head to the Haulover Sandbar. This popular spot brings in the crowds on weekends, as it's the perfect place to lounge in the water while tanning.
Alcohol is technically illegal at the beach, but boats are a different story. There's just something incredibly appealing about laying on a sandbar with a drink in your hand.
Obviously, whatever you bring, take with you. People who litter are never welcome here.
A Beach With a Skate Park? Only in Miami
Yes, even skaters have their own place at Haulover. I'm telling you — there's no place like this.
The skate park is right next to the dog park and is appropriate for even younger children. While fairly small, there is plenty of space to practice tricks. Skateboards, bikes, skates and scooters are welcome.
And the best part about this skate park is that once the heat gets too intense, you can just walk to the beach and cool down in the water.
Food Truck Heaven
This is Miami. The fun doesn't stop once the sun goes down. Every Tuesday from 5 to 10 p.m., Haulover holds a food truck festival.
Bring your fold-out seats and set up shop as you make your way through some seriously delicious dishes. Latin American food always makes an appearance, but you'll find plenty of variety with trucks that specialize in Asian, American and fusion cuisine.
Because of its unbeatable location and the fact that it happens throughout the year, this is considered one of the best food truck festivals in the U.S.
Where Parking is a Breeze
By now, I hope I've convinced you to check out Haulover Beach. But if you're still on the fence, let me tell you the best thing about it: You'll always find parking.
Anyone who's been to South Beach knows it's a headache to find a place to park. I've often spent over half an hour just trying to find a parking spot. Luckily, this isn't the case in Haulover.
Because it's a public space, parking is readily available across the road. All you have to do is find a spot and then cross a tunnel that leads you right into the beach. And if you're coming to skate, there's a specific parking spot for the skate park.
I suppose it's possible that the large parking lots could fill up, but in over 20 years of living in Miami, that's never happened to me.
Best Things to Do Around Haulover Beach
While you can't stay in Haulover Beach per se, you can certainly book a hotel in Sunny Isles Beach. This area of Miami is known for its large Russian population, so it's a great place to try some delicious Russian food.
But besides the beach, my favorite place in the area is Oletta River State Park. Just a couple of minutes away from Haulover, this park has places for BBQing, camping and riding bikes. Most people come here to kayak, paddleboard or canoe around the mangroves protected by the park.
You can stay in the mangroves or make your way out into the canal, where you'll cross paths with party boats. You can row your way to several small islets and enjoy the beach there.