Miami Beach Vs Fort Lauderdale

Florida’s Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are neighboring coastal cities with distinctive histories, geographies, vibes, and attractions. While Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale have many things in common, the cities are unique.

Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are iconic beach resort cities less than 12 miles apart on South Florida’s Atlantic coast. Fort Lauderdale is a relaxed city with waterways and luxury yachting marinas. Miami Beach is a youthful city with a world-famous skyline and original Art Deco buildings.

If you thought Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach were indistinguishable, think again. Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale may share the same climate and landscape, but these cities look and feel different! Let’s explore the similarities and differences between Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

How Does Miami Beach Compare With Fort Lauderdale?

Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are neighboring cities that form part of the broader Miami Metropolitan Area, near the southern tip of Florida’s Atlantic coast.

These cities attract millions of local and international visitors who come to experience the cultural charms, tropical climate, and sandy, palm-lined beaches that make the region of the state famous.

Despite these shared characteristics, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are by no means interchangeable.

When you’re in either city, you’ll notice a tangible difference in the vibe, the pace of life, and the relative cost of living.

Before we examine the similarities and differences between Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, here is a brief description of these renowned Florida beach resort cities.

Miami Beach: Florida’s Magic City

Miami Beach is on a series of barrier islands separating the Atlantic Ocean from Biscayne Bay (and Miami City on the mainland). The city is within the boundaries of Miami-Dade County and has a population of 83 000.

Miami Beach covers an area of roughly 18 square miles (including 11 square miles of water). The city is defined by endless white sandy beaches backed by a skyline of sleek highrise hotels.

Also known as Magic City, Miami Beach is among the most popular and well-known US beach cities. Miami Beach welcomes approximately 13 million visitors each year.

This Floridian beach resort city is internationally-recognized as a familiar backdrop in countless television shows and films, including the classic Miami Vice.

Miami Beach is also famous for the variety and concentration of its Art Deco architecture. The city has the most extensive array of Art Deco buildings in the world.

Many of Miami Beach’s visitors are college students who come to the city during Spring Break to enjoy the city’s vibrant beach culture and exciting nightlife.

Fort Lauderdale: The Venice Of America

Fort Lauderdale is in Broward County, just over 10 miles north of its more famous neighbor Miami Beach. The city is larger than Miami Beach, encompassing an area of 38 square miles, with 7 miles of stunning beaches, and a population of about 182 000 people.

Like Miami Beach, life in Fort Lauderdale revolves around the ocean and sandy shoreline that line the city’s eastern fringe. The city’s beaches and boardwalk are beautiful, relaxing, and ideal for families looking to experience the hot Florida sun and the cool Atlantic Ocean breeze.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America because of the city’s renowned system of inland waterways. The waterways travel 165 miles through the city, offering a unique and tranquil way to see the city.

Another distinguishing feature of Fort Lauderdale is that the city is a Mecca for yachting enthusiasts. With 100 marinas and approximately 50 000 yachts, Fort Lauderdale is often called the Yachting Capital of the World.

The vibe and pace of life in Fort Lauderdale are relatively mellow, making the city ideally suited for families and people looking to relax and enjoy the sun, ocean, and beaches.

Beaches In Miami Beach And Fort Lauderdale

Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are equally excellent destinations for anyone wanting to experience South Florida’s welcoming sun, beach life, and cultural diversity.

Both cities offer ample opportunities to enjoy beach-based activities. Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale also provide visitors with a chance to taste authentic Latin American cuisines and be enriched by the array of galleries, museums, and historic buildings. 

The Exciting Beach Scene In Magic City

Miami Beach is a paradise for beachgoers.

The beaches around Magic City are user-friendly, with warm water and gentle waves, making them ideal places  for relaxing, swimming, and wave-riding. There are also dozens of restaurants and shops a few steps from the sand to cater to visitors’ culinary and retail needs.

South Point Beach is one of the most popular beach zones in Magic City. The beach is a magnet for celebrities and other glamorous people In addition to an attractive and spacious sandy shoreline, South Point Beach also has a scenic pier, park, and picnic area for families to enjoy.

We can’t mention the sandy shoreline of Magic City without highlighting Lummus Park. Located along South Point Beach has featured in countless television shows and Hollywood films and embodies the image of Miami we all know and love.

Lummus Park is the home of the infamous Muscle Beach (as lovingly parodied in Sponge Bob Square Pants). The beach is also a haven for revelers. Young folks flock to Lummus Park to party during Spring Break.

The Miami Beach Boardwalk also deserves attention. This legendary boardwalk runs along Miami Beach’s palm-fringed shoreline and allows visitors to absorb the sights and sounds of the city’s premier beachside attractions. The 7-mile-long boardwalk starts at South Pointe Park (at South Beach) and ends to the north at Surfside Beach.

The Relaxing Beach Scene In Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale is a tropical beach paradise oriented towards families and older folks. The beaches of Fort Lauderdale are ideally suited for beach lovers desiring a more relaxed atmosphere than the high-energy excitement of the Miami Beach shoreline.

Having said this, anyone who appreciates the enlivening combination of sand, sea, and sun will love the beach scene in Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale’s beaches are great places for swimming, wave-riding, or simply relaxing on the sand and soaking up the sun.

Fort Lauderdale has 7 miles of white sandy beaches. One of the premier beach attractions in the city is Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. The beach park is lined with palm trees, a vibrant promenade, boutique eateries, and impressive beachfront homes, with an abundance of sports, picnicking, and boating amenities.

Loggerhead Park Beach is the antithesis of the beaches in Magic City. This tranquil and easily overlooked beach is north of Fort Lauderdale Beach and the lush, open spaces of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Locals mostly frequent loggerhead Park, which is always the most compelling endorsement for any beach!

The Cityscapes Of Miami Beach And Fort Lauderdale

Though Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are part of the same metropolitan area, there are marked differences between their landscapes and many of their buildings.

Miami Beach: Art Deco On An Island

Magic City is on a sliver of constructed and natural barrier islands connected to the Florida mainland by the General Douglas MacArthur Causeway and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Biscayne Bay to the west. This unusual geography, combined with the glittering skyscrapers, makes Miami Beach unique and instantly recognizable.

The cityscape of Miami Beach is also characterized (unexpectedly) by about 800 original Art Deco buildings. Most of these culturally-significant and visually-striking structures are in the Old Miami Beach Architectural District, which spans from 5th Street to 23th Street.

Miami Beach’s Art Deco architecture dates from 1923 to 1943, posing an intriguing historical and aesthetic contrast to the sleek glass and steel high-rises that tower over Magic City.

Fort Lauderdale: Waterways, Mansions, And Marinas

Anybody who has been to Fort Lauderdale knows the city’s sobriquet Venice of America is justified. The 165-mile network of waterways is one of the defining features of Fort Lauderdale’s cityscape. Fort Lauderdales’ waterways provide a constant, shimmering presence in the city.

The best way to travel on the Fort Lauderdale waterway system (and the most satisfying way to see the city) is by riding the Water Taxi.

There are 10 stops on the taxi route, and the tickets are valid for the whole day. The Water Taxi takes passengers on a gentle and panoramic jaunt along deftly-carved canals and the New River (an estuary), past the grand homes that overlook the city’s waterways.

Palatial mansions perched astride the banks of Fort Lauderdale’s waterways are another characteristic aspect of the cityscape, and contribute to its Venice-like ambiance. Enclosed on the landward side behind high walls, these incredible homes (often with yachts moored off private jetties) are best appreciated from a boat on the waterways.

The marinas located throughout the city’s waterway system also shape the cityscape of Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale has 100 marinas that cater to a wide diversity of watercraft. However, most moorings in the city’s marinas are occupied by yachts (many of which are of the large and luxurious variety).

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History, Culture, And Nightlife In Miami Beach And Fort Lauderdale

The unique attractions of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale extend beyond the tropical, turquoise waters and palm-bedecked beaches.  These cities also boast rich histories and cultural scenes.

Museums, Galleries, And Nightclubs To Explore In Miami Beach

The Art Deco buildings in the Old Miami Architectural District (also called the Art Deco District) are a must-see attraction in Miami Beach. You can stroll and absorb the fascinating forms and colors of the Art Deco buildings, take a guided walking tour, or enlighten yourself at the Art Deco Welcome Center.

Miami Beach has numerous art galleries and museums showcasing the creativity of world-class artists.

The Bass Museum of Art (known to locals as The Bass) is a contemporary art museum that every visitor to the Magic City should experience. Established in 1946, The Bass is in a beautiful Art Deco and has expansive exhibition areas. The museum has featured the work of countless internationally-respected artists.

If you’re looking for a quirky cultural experience, you may wish to explore Miami Beach’s Wilzig Erotic Art Museum. The museum in South Beach opened in 2004 and exhibits over 4000 sophisticated pieces of erotic art from the private collection of the late art lover and patron Naomi Wilzig.

When the sun goes down, Miami Beach’s famous nightclubs come alive. The most famous clubs to party the night away in Magic City include LIV, Treehouse Miami,  Twist, and Basement. While the wildest days of Miami Beach clubbing are in the past (due to stricter city regulations), Magic City remains one of the country’s premier party hot spots.

Cultural And Historical Places To Explore In Fort Lauderdale

While its nightclub scene might not match Miami Beach’s nocturnal reveling, Fort Lauderdale’s historical and cultural attractions certainly do. From the NSU Art Museum to the National Geographic Fine Art Galleries, Fort Lauderdale will satisfy the needs of anyone seeking food for the mind and soul.

To get an understanding and feel for the city’s past, take an hour or two to explore Stranahan House. This historic home was owned by Frank and Ivy Stranahan, two of the first traders and pioneers in Fort Lauderdale at the start of the 20th Century.

As traders, the Stranahans amassed a treasure trove of fascinating artifacts. Hundreds of these rare items from Fort Lauderdale’s early era are showcased at Stranahan House, such as old typewriters, cameras, and photographs from the pioneer days.

Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is another historically-significant site that takes visitors back to the early history of Fort Lauderdale. The historic mansion was the home of artists and collectors, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett.

Bonnet House is one of the most aesthetically-original places in Fort Lauderdale. The site features an extensive and exquisite collection of paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Bonnet House also has a stunning garden with ponds and an orchid greenhouse!  

Is Miami Beach More Expensive Than Fort Lauderdale?

Miami Beach is a slightly more expensive place to visit and live in than Fort Lauderdale. Having said this, the costs of essential and non-essential goods and services in the two cities are not drastically different.

The following table shows a rough approximation of the average daily costs for food, accommodation, and transport in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Miami Beach$33$106 – $212$$41
Fort Lauderdale$39$77 – $154$32


Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale are iconic Floridian beach resort cities with dreamy, white sandy shorelines and glamorous cityscapes. Though similar, the cities are unique.

Miami Beach has an exciting party scene, glassy skyscrapers, and hundreds of Art Deco buildings. In contrast, Fort Lauderdale has a more relaxed atmosphere and appeals primarily to families and mature visitors. The waterways and marinas in Fort Lauderdale also distinguish this city from Miami Beach.