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South Florida for the Beach Lover

There is no shortage of offer locales that offer sand, water and the carefree lifestyle

Photo: Getty Images

Although the stunning white-sand beaches of South Florida are, by state law, accessible to the public, there are still some unspoiled spots that offer more than a modicum of exclusivity for those who have the means to pay for pricey privacy.

Of the Sunshine State’s hundreds of miles of beaches, those in Miami, Miami Beach and Palm Beach are prime destinations for an array of celebrities and millionaires who desire a carefree, toes-in-the-sand luxury lifestyle.

“Our beaches are all about waterfront living, coastal living,” said Brett Harris, director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman. “It’s eating and drinking and going to restaurants by boat all year round.”


Photo: Getty Images

In Miami Beach, which is an island connected to the Miami mainland by a trio of bridges, there are a number of luxe beachfront hotels that offer beach-club memberships.

At Soho Beach House, a private club from the London-based Soho House & Co., the beach, complete with lounge beds and waiter service, is reserved for members and guests, who also have access to the club’s oceanfront rooms, drawing room, library, gym, spa, swimming pools, bars and restaurants.

The Beach Club at Miami Beach Edition, a private club for locals, offers complimentary chaises, umbrellas and towel service at the Edition’s private 70,000-square-foot-beach. The annual memberships—$4,000 per person, $7,000 per couple and $750 (plus enrollment fees) for children 3 to 16—include access to the Edition’s two swimming pools in landscaped gardens, the 24-hour gym, the spa, the restaurant, the gourmet market and even the basement ice-skating rink and bowling alley and allows each member to bring one guest.

“You can take your food and your family to the beach, or you can go the hotel route,” Mr. Harris said. “Annual memberships allow you to bring your friends and families and use the hotel amenities, such as the restaurants, beach chairs and cabanas.”

He said that Miami Beach will “always be special and unique because it has world-class restaurants and hotels and culture, notably Art Basel,” a premier annual show at the end of the year, that in 2018 attracted 83,000 attendees. “You wake up, work out, boat to dinner and can be home by 9 p.m.”

Key Biscayne, a barrier island across Miami’s Rickenbacker Causeway, is a popular spot for beach activities.“The water is calmer than that around Miami Beach, so people go here to surf, kitesurf and kayak and paddleboard,” Mr. Harris said.

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami, the only luxury hotel on the bay, offers guests a variety of beachfront activities and amenities. Its shops, whose products range from yoga pants and linens to jewelry, offer all the finer necessities required and expected of a five-star resort experience.

Five miles from Miami, in Coral Gables, the 630-acre Matheson Hammock Park is another prime destination for beachgoers. Its man-made, eco-friendly atoll pool is a big attraction. The park also has a marina, picnic areas, nature trails and a fishing-tackle shop.

Mr. Harris added that because there are so many beaches in the Miami area, there “is no one that is more desirable or popular than the others. The only difference is that because of erosion, some are narrower than others.”

Golden Beach, a barrier island town that’s about 20 miles north of Miami, is another exclusive option. Over a mile long, the gated community, home to a cache of celebrities including Tommy Hilfiger and Bill Gates, has 360 single-family homes.

Samantha Joelle Elenson, Global Luxury Real Estate Advisor for ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, said there are about 69 private beachfront properties in addition to waterfront estates inside the gated community.

She said sales prices in 2019 ranged from $1.5 million to $19 million, and that the 10 sales during the year totaled $72.508 million, for an average price of $7.25 million.

The most expensive sale, $22.5 million, was recorded in 2014, she said.

“It’s the only community in Miami-Dade County where you can walk out your door and step onto the sand of a private beach,” Ms. Elenson said. “Only the portion of the beach that is closest to the Atlantic Ocean is public, and people are only allowed to walk along that section, and the only public access points are through the Hallandale Beach community on the north and the Sunny Island Beach community on the south.”

The community has a beach pavilion exclusively for Golden Beach residents that hosts events and provides chairs as well as a storage area for kayaks and other beach equipment.

This Golden Beach property, which is on the market for $7.1 million, offers panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Set on a private beach, the 3,337-square-foot house has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The property also has a detached, air-conditioned two-car garage. See Full Listing Photo by James Irwin

Set on one waterfront acre, this 12,000-square-foot Miami Beach home, which has six bedrooms, nine full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms, is on the market for $32.5 million. It is sited so that every room has a view of the neighborhood’s stunning sunsets. See Full Listing Photo by Lux Hunters

At 50,000 square feet, this is the largest lot in the Miami Beach neighborhood of Star Island. The property, which is on the market for $16.4 million, features 205 feet of water frontage. See Full Listing Photo by Lux Hunters

Fisher Island

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Fisher Island, which is about seven minutes from the Miami mainland, offers one of the most exclusive beach experiences in the state.

Accessible only via ferry, helicopter or private yacht, its private-membership, golf-cart community, the Fisher Island Club, covers 216 acres and has some 800 residences, most of them luxury condos.

In 2019, there were 18 sales on Fisher Island, and prices ranged from $550,000 to $14.5 million, Ms. Elenson said. She said that the average sales price was $5.773 million. The most expensive property, which brought $31.261 million, was sold in 2017, she added.

“It attracts an international crowd,” she said, adding that Oprah Winfrey, Mel Brooks and Julia Roberts are among the celebrities who have or have had homes there. “It’s not a beach for activity—it’s for lounging, dining and relaxing.”

The community, which is consistently ranked as one of the wealthiest ZIP Codes in the U.S., has a Beach Club with a private beach, a 15-room luxury hotel; a nine-hole, award-winning championship golf course; 17 tennis courts; four pickleball courts; two deep-water marinas; several restaurants; a spa, salon and fitness center; a theater; an aviary; and an observatory.

Club memberships are steep but in keeping with the stratospheric property prices: Residents pay a one-time $250,000 equity fee, plus $22,781 in annual dues and $3,100 in annual capital reserve fees; non-residents are charged a $40,000 initiation fee, plus $28,650 per year.

This five-bed, six-bath lower penthouse in Palazzo Del Mare on Fisher Island was custom renovated by renowned designer Lorraine Letendre. See Full Listing Photo by One Sotheby’s International Realty

Palm Beach

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The island town of Palm Beach, which is separated from the mainland by Lake Worth Lagoon, is another spot for those who prefer more secluded settings.

“The beaches are more private than those in Miami and Miami Beach,” said Gary Pohrer, executive director of luxury sales for Douglas Elliman. “You won’t find a lot of traffic on the beaches because there’s not a ton of public-access points. And there’s not much parking for cars and bicycles because of the geography.”

The small population—he estimated that of the 5,000 homes and apartments, only a couple hundred houses are on the waterfront—also keeps down the beach population.

“You can pretty much exist on the island,” he said. “Many residents never leave because it’s a self-contained community with restaurants and grocery stores.”

He said that unlike many other South Florida communities, Palm Beach is walkable, which means it is easy to get to the beaches.

There are several beach clubs. The Beach Club, whose origins date to 1941, offers beachcombers a pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean as well as a host of other activities, including tennis, croquet and even bridge games.

The Palm Beach Bath & Tennis Club, housed in a Mediterranean Revival-style structure designed by Joseph Urban, was completed in 1925. Sited on 500 feet of oceanfront property, it has a ballroom, a waterside cafeteria, beach cabanas, tennis courts and a saltwater pool.

“You join a club so you can dine on the beach and meet people,” Mr. Pohrer said, adding that beachgoers are not required to do so.

Membership requirements vary. “Some of them do background checks, and in some you need sponsors,” he said.

The beach club at The Breakers, for instance, has five oceanfront pools, 25 luxury poolside bungalows for daytime rental that have concierge service, nine restaurants, 11 shopping boutiques, two fitness centers, an indoor/outdoor spa and two 18-hole golf courses.

Of course, not all beaches are packed with people. The North End and Estate Section of Palm Beach, which are populated with locals, attract fewer beachgoers than the middle, where The Breakers and the tourists are.

“People do drive to the North End just to go to the beach,” Mr. Pohrer said. “The beaches there are bigger and more pet friendly.”

Another favorite North End attraction is the Lake Trail, a five-and-a-half-mile-long path whose end is just north of the Sailfish Club, a 1914 institution that offers swimming, sailing, fishing and boating.

“You can walk in front of the houses on the ocean,” Mr. Pohrer said. “No cars are allowed. It has great sunsets.”

This Palm Beach property, sited on 250 feet of waterfront, has two residences that total 12,578 square feet. Set on 1.5 acres, it’s on the market for $45 million. See Full Listing Photo by Giles Bradford

On a secluded beach in the North Palm Beach neighborhood of Seminole Landing, Bel Viaggio, which is on the market for $42 million, is a 37,378-square-foot custom residence with nine bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms and five half-bathrooms. It is sited on 2.9 acres. See Full Listing Photo by Giles Bradford