After our scenic drive up to Miami Beach from Key West, we dropped off our hire car at Miami airport and caught a taxi to our new home for the remainder of our trip – the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside. This hotel is located in the town of Surfside, about 8 miles north from the famous South Beach, Miami Beach.
Before our trip I spent quite a lot of time searching for the perfect hotel on Miami Beach. I was torn between a large luxurious hotel and a small boutique style hotel. After booking a smaller hotel in Key West I opted for a large luxurious hotel, even though that meant being further away from South Beach. I noticed that the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside had only recently opened. and I quite liked the look of it. After perusing their website for a while, the option of being able to book a jacuzzi suite sold it to me.
We arrived late in the afternoon and were greeted by a huge modern, glass-fronted building, surrounded by palm trees. It was like arriving at a tropical oasis! We walked through the front door to a clean-cut, modern, but stylish lobby. You could tell the hotel was new, as everything was so clean and fresh. We checked in and although it was well after the published check-in time, we were told that our room was not yet ready due to the previous guests’ late departure. However, we were provisionally checked in and offered some free drinks at the bar while we waited.
When I entered the room the first thing that struck me was the size of the TV in the living room. I don’t think I have ever seen a TV as big in my life, and to add to the wow-factor it was suspended from the ceiling! Then I took a moment to look around the rest of the room, and realised that everything was stunning! It was as good as the images I’d seen online, if not better. The jacuzzi suite comprised of a lounge area, bedroom, two full shower rooms, and a balcony that was almost twice the size of the entire suite. Oh, and not forgetting the huge jacuzzi on the balcony. I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in there over the next few days.
Once we had settled in we went for a walk to explore the local area. As well as a few shops and restaurants, we found a premium shopping mall and a supermarket, and so we picked up a few provisions for the room – water, fruit, snacks, and some wine. After a short walk to get our bearings we decided to return to the hotel and order some room service for dinner. We sat on the huge balcony to eat and watched the last of the sun slowly disappear behind the beautiful Miami skyline. I had ordered lobster bisque, followed by an Asian chicken salad and then a Key Lime pie. I foolishly forgot to have a Key Lime pie while in the Keys, so I took this opportunity to try one. After dinner we sat in the jacuzzi, drinking wine and relaxing before turning in for the night.
South Beach, Miami Beach
The next morning we went to South Beach. The concierge informed us that a taxi would cost about $30, or for $2 each we could get the bus. Feeling a bit adventurous, we decided to catch the bus. We caught the bus from just outside the supermarket, which is a two minute walk from the hotel. Many bus routes operate along Collins Avenue (this is the road that runs along the length of Miami Beach). To get from the hotel to South Beach you need route ‘S’. This service runs every 15 minutes, and takes about 40 minutes to reach South Beach. The bus takes 15 minutes more than the taxi, but the slower pace allowed us to absorb our surroundings, and helped us get our bearings.
As we approached South Beach we got off the bus and made our way down to Ocean Drive. We walked along Ocean Drive taking in all the picturesque Art Deco buildings, and I let my photo-happy phone snap as many pictures as it could. We stopped for a drink and something to eat in Café Milano. I chose the coconut shrimp followed by a South Beach burger, along with the biggest Long Island ice tea I have ever had in a glass that was as big as a football. After lunch we grabbed a bottle of Pinot Noir and headed back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the day, lounging on the balcony, and in the jacuzzi. After all, I was on holiday.
That evening we headed back to South Beach for dinner at the Carlyle Cafe. To start I selected the seafood platter from their specials board, which included crab claws, mussels, shrimp, and oysters. Followed by The surf and turf special. The fillet of beef was beautifully tender and served with a grilled half lobster. All the food was delicious, and it was washed down with an absolutely stunning New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
The next morning the heavens had decided to open, and it wasn’t a small tropical shower, but a full on rainstorm, with thunder and lightning too! We decided we would spend the day getting our shopping done – I can’t visit the States without making a trip or two to Abercrombie and Fitch, and Hollister. We waited for a break in the rain, and when it came we headed out to the bus stop, right in the front of the hotel, to catch the bus to Aventura Mall. This is the same bus that we had caught to South Beach, but going in the opposite direction.
After I was all shopped out, we caught a cab back to the hotel, stopping off at the local Subway en-route to grab a mid-afternoon snack. The rain still hadn’t eased off so we decided to hit the hotel gym for a while. This didn’t last long I can assure you, as there was a glass of wine and a jacuzzi waiting for me back at the room. Luckily the Jacuzzi was mainly sheltered from the rain by the overhead balcony.
We spent the rest of the day chilling out in our suite. We wanted to order in a Chinese takeaway for dinner, in the little cardboard boxes, just like you see in the movies. So we found a local place online, and we ordered far more food than we could possibly eat, so we could try a bit of everything. We sat and watched films all evening in the room and picked at all of the food until we felt stuffed.
The weather the next day was so much better. With the sun high in the sky and the temperature back up to a baking 29 degrees, we caught the bus to downtown Miami to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. We had looked online and found that it was in the Marina near the Bayside Marketplace. I had the obligatory fajitas and Long Island ice tea, with a quick stop at the shop on our way out.
After lunch we had a look around the marina and we caught a water taxi back to Miami Beach, so we could take in the scenery around the harbour. Once we arrived at South Beach we got a cab straight back to the hotel and spent a lazy afternoon by the pool making the most of the beautiful sunshine.
That evening, tired of catching cabs and buses everywhere, we planned to find somewhere local for dinner. One block from the hotel, near the supermarket, there was a street full of shops and restaurants, and we came across a lovely looking Italian place called Café Ragazzi. I went for the antipasti platter followed by the seafood risotto. We also enjoyed a few glasses of Chianti before heading back to the hotel.
I find that having a late evening flight home always leaves you with a conundrum of what to do during the day. Well, the first thing on my to-do list in this eventuality is to ask for a late checkout. Although the hotel was very busy, they were able to extend our room until 1pm. So we picked up a coffee from the café in reception and went for a peaceful early morning stroll along Miami beach to feel the cool, soothing waters lapping our feet for one last time. After our walk we sat outside on the hotel’s terrace and had breakfast. The restaurant operated an all you could eat buffet for a set price of $32, so we went for this option.
After breakfast we headed up to the room for one last chill out in the jacuzzi before checking out. We left our bags with the concierge for the rest of the day and headed down to South Beach for a few cocktails and lunch. We enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the Penguin Cafe, followed by another few drinks at the Clevelander before catching a cab back to the hotel. We had about an hour before leaving for the airport, so we sat in the hotel’s roof-top bar drinking mojitos and watched the sun drop down behind the Miami skyline one final time.
We caught a cab to the airport, back where we had started this amazing trip 15 days ago. It seemed like only yesterday – how time flies when you are having a good time! Luckily we were travelling back in First, so we had use of the One World Premium Lounge, this meant I could have a shower and freshen up before boarding the 8-hour flight to London. The flat beds in British Airways‘ new First cabin are extremely comfortable, and I managed to get a full 6 hours of undisturbed sleep before touching down at Heathrow. Jet-lag free I might add.
I had an amazing time on this trip, and I want to return to Florida to see more of what the Sunshine State has to offer.