15 Best Things to Do in Surfside (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Just one mile across, Surfside is a small but enthralling beach community between Miami Beach in the south and Bal Harbour to the north. 

The town’s affluence shines through in the luxury resorts along the shore, and a stylish, happening downtown. This two-block section of Harding Avenue brims with diverse eateries and shops you won’t find anywhere else.

On the shore is one mile of perfect Atlantic beach, traced by a paved path that runs past the dunes and into neighboring towns. 

For me, the location is second to none, with high-end shopping, world-famous beaches, the wonders of Biscayne Bay, and a diversity of communities at your fingertips in Surfside.

1. Surfside Beach

Of all of Surfside’s many assets, I have to begin with the sandy Atlantic shoreline, with soft sand and rolling waves. Be sure to get up at dawn at least once to see the sun come up here. 

Running down the entirety of Surfside’s coast, the beach can be accessed at ten different points, with a lifeguard by the community center at 93rd Street. 

If you’re driving, there’s more parking to be found towards the north end of the town. Still, I love how you can make your way along the length of the shore via a paved trail. This is part of the Atlantic Way trail, which I’ll describe in more detail later.

The beach is within easy reach of downtown Surfside’s restaurants and stores, and is edged by several high end resort hotels. The standout of these is the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club.

2. Downtown Surfside

Along the southbound Harding Avenue (A1A), Surfside has an exciting downtown area. Set along two condensed blocks, this walkable commercial district is just moments from the beach.

I’m not overstating when I say that there isn’t a single empty storefront downtown. No question, it’s a flourishing community hub with more than two-dozen places to dine. 

Whether you’re in the mood for sushi, BBQ, Mediterranean, deli food, Italian, or sandwiches, there’s an option for you. Reflecting Surfisde’s diverse makeup, many of these eateries are kosher.  

Also in Downtown Surfside is an assortment of local stores, for gifts, toys, fashion, jewelry, and snorkeling/diving equipment.

3. Bal Harbour Shops

Right on Surfside’s northern boundary is an outdoor mall that has defined Miami’s luxury shopping scene for 60+ years. 

First off, Bal Harbour Shops is nothing short of beautiful, with koi ponds and palms woven into the three-story layout. 

As for stores, it would be easier for me to say which luxury fashion brands aren’t here. By way of summary you’ve got Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, Emporio Armani, Tiffany & Co and Versace.

Anchors are Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and there’s a selection of suitably upscale eateries to match. Among them, Carpaccio has been a chic reference point for decades.

4. Atlantic Way

Something that has subtly transformed the shoreline from the Haulover Inlet right down to South Pointe Park is a continuous paved trail. Linking up with existing promenades, the Atlantic Way has gradually taken shape over several years.

When I was in town it was finally possible to walk or ride by the shore along the entire length of the barrier island. 

If you don’t have your own set of wheels there are four Citi Bike bikeshare stations in Surfside alone. 

One advantage of the Atlantic Way is that you can get to the more remote stretches of beach in Bal Harbour, which has only one public access point.

5. Haulover Park

The fabulous beaches keep coming on my list. But what sets this nearby beach is the dress code, or lack of one.

Just across the inlet from Surfside, Haulover Park has a worldwide reputation for its clothing optional beach. This is on the northernmost third of the park’s shorefront, and is the largest in the entire country.

Haulover Park has a few other strings in its bow. There are lots of picnic areas, especially around the south end, and a large space catching the breeze from the bay, and perfect for flying kites.

You’ve also got a marina with charters and boat rentals on the bayside, and a beloved food truck rally every Tuesday.

6. Surfside Farmers’ Market

Farmer’s MarketSource: Arina P Habich / shutterstock
Farmers’ Market

When I was in Surfside, the weekly farmers’ market had just found a new location at the 96th St beach access. 

The Surfside Farmers’ Market takes place from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM on Sundays. What you’ll find is a big choice of fresh fruits and vegetables in a welcoming, community-oriented setting. 

As well as produce, there’s always a slew of vendors selling everything from jams to baked goods, salsas, hummus and wellness and craft products. I loved the wood-fired pizza, and the organic coffee vendor. 

The market often coincides with community activities, like a weekly yoga class on the beach.

7. Water Activities on the Bay

The northern half of Biscayne Bay is waiting to be discovered from Surfside. On these calm waters you can paddle to little islands, wreathed with mangroves, and with beaches where you can go ashore for picnics. 

North of Surfside meanwhile is the famed Haulover Sandbar, only reachable from the water. So the only issue is getting there. 

There’s a variety of businesses in the area, offering kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as motorized vessels, from pontoon boats to waverunners. 

Good departure points are Pelican Harbor Marina and Haulover Park, just a few minutes from Surfside, and the base for many rental companies.

8. Haulover Sandbar

There are a few spots along the Intracoastal Waterway with shoals that become islands at low tide. Arguably the best of all is just north of Surfside by the Haulover Inlet.

The Haulover Sandbar is my idea of paradise, with a big swath of clear, glimmering water. It’s perfect for swimming, floating, lazing on the sand, or partying.

In fact, on sunny days the Haulover Sandbar is hopping. You can only get out there by boat, and this creates a kind of flotilla, with pumping music, and even enterprising people selling food and drink. 

If you’re here just to relax, I’d recommend visiting a little earlier in the day before the crowds arrive.

9. Oleta River State Park

At the north end of Biscayne Bay, a few minutes from Surfside, is the largest urban park in the state. Oleta River State Park is more than 1,000 acres of mangroves and coastal hammocks.

There are many ways to experience these sublime environments. For me, the best is to rent a kayak and explore the lagoon and its mangrove tunnels. With some luck you’ll encounter dolphins and even manatees.

The central and western parts have a labyrinth of mountain biking trails winding through the tropical undergrowth, while the bayfront is a delight. Sandy Beach, with its lush vegetation and peaceful, shallow waters, is like nowhere in the Miami area.

10. Surfside’s Music on the Beach

By the Community Center at the 93rd St beach area there’s a free live music series organized by the town. 

Taking place on Sunday afternoons, once a month, Surfside’s Music on the Beach had been expanded when I was here. Running from November to September, these concerts are wholesome community events, open to all ages.

From month to month, the music varies by genre, from jazz to Latin fusion and soul. Extra seating is provided by the town, and there’s also food and drink on hand.

11. Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands

Something that gets me about this area is you can go from downtown Surfside straight to Bal Harbour Shops. But it doesn’t stop, because once 96th Street crosses Indian Creek it becomes Kane Concourse.

Just a minute from downtown Surfside, this is the central commercial district for the town of Bay Harbor Islands.

Welcoming you in the central median is Robert Indiana’s iconic “Love” sculpture. For the next two blocks the way is flanked by palms, neat landscaping, boutiques, and another curated selection of eateries. 

There’s Italian, Peruvian fusion, Modern European, steaks, healthy eating, and a lot of these places are kosher.

12. Surfside Community Center

By the shore at 93rd Street, the town maintains an excellent recreation facility. The Surfside Community Center is mainly for residents of course, but I was pleased to learn it’s open to non-residents on vacation who can prove that they’re staying in the town.

There has been a community center here since 1962, but the original was later demolished and rebuilt as the modern facility that greets you today.

The focal point is an outdoor pool with lanes for lap swimming. Kids can burn off energy at the plunge pool, while there’s also a slide, hot tub and a walk-up cafe. 

The center hosts a wide array of regular programs all year, from pilates to aqua zumba.

13. Turtle Walk

Something special about the shoreline at Surfside is that it’s a vital nesting site for loggerhead sea turtles. 

This season occurs in the summer months between May and November, and you may see the nests taped off.

Testifying to Surfside’s commitment to conservation and sustainability there’s a trail with 13 fiberglass sea turtle sculptures by the community center. Each of these turtles was painted by a different luminary from the South Florida art scene. 

For me, the Turtle Walk is a brief distraction to combine with a stop at the visitor center here.

14. North Beach Oceanside Park

South of Surfside the row of beachfront condo towers gives way to a beautiful undeveloped shoreline. 

North Beach Oceanside Park stretches from 87 to 79 streets, with dunes skirted on the west side by a coastal hammock with plentiful shade. This is my go-to for peace and relaxation by the ocean. 

Once a month there’s even a drum circle here once a month to coincide with the full moon. With so much greenery, the park is a favored place for picnics and barbecues, and you can also bring your dog to the wooded portion.

15. Normandy Shores Golf Course

The nearest public golf course is only ten minutes away on an island in Biscayne Bay. Highly regarded, Normandy Shores Golf Course has a long history, going back to 1941.

The course’s apogee game in the 1950s when it was redesigned by famed architect Mark Manahah. In the years that followed, the likes of Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead were regulars here.

I must admit I got a thrill knowing I was following in their footsteps. The course benefits from sensational views over the bay and abounds with wildlife, from iguanas to wading birds. 

No surprise considering the location, but Normandy Shores is a premium course with premium rates. Underlining that sense of prestige, for the last 10+ years it’s been the venue for the South Beach International Amateur tournament every December.

15 Best Things to Do in Surfside (FL):

  • Surfside Beach
  • Downtown Surfside
  • Bal Harbour Shops
  • Atlantic Way
  • Haulover Park
  • Surfside Farmers' Market
  • Water Activities on the Bay
  • Haulover Sandbar
  • Oleta River State Park
  • Surfside's Music on the Beach
  • Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands
  • Surfside Community Center
  • Turtle Walk
  • North Beach Oceanside Park
  • Normandy Shores Golf Course