One Night Stay: Sense Beach House
September 20, 2016
When the words “South Beach” come into play, scenes of bikini-clad ladies and Tiesto dropping bass may pop into your head. Well, we’re here to erase that overly generalized look at one of Miami’s most influential regions and replace it for what it really is: a hotbed of culture preserved in time. Embraced by the Miami Beach Architectural District, the first 20th century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, South Beach is literally built on cultural foundations, and that’s where the image should start. As a way to prove just how essential the neighborhood is towards providing locals and tourists a creative community with a satisfying proximity to the water, we stayed at Sense Beach House for a night, and were transported to another era altogether.
The 18-room boutique hotel created by eclectic Italian owner Ciro Campagnoli, sits quietly just off of Ocean and 4th, making no move for loudness or attention–poised for local favoritism. In just 4 years, Sense Beach House has made a name for itself by creating a home for natives and travelers both, looking to escape from everything you’d expect to find on the beach. Oh, and also the every day brunch thing hasn’t hurt them. Their restaurant is called The Local House, and for good reason. They invite Miami-bred makers to teach workshops over breakfast, host pop-ups in their lobby, and even have full moon parties and yoga classes led by resident Miami yogi, Gabi Torres a.k.a GabiWellness.
By sticking to the things that make the city so lovable, they’ve managed to provide the beachside local vibe that South Beach has been steered away from and is now finally making its way back to. But what makes Sense Beach House ooze in charm is its love for artful moments of magic that should be the norm at any stay. Guests have felt so comfortable that a book-sharing program was developed after travelers started switching their finished books for some they found more intriguing in the rooms. Now, the volumes found during your stay once belonged to a like-mind wanderer in hopes of being passed on. If that’s not charming, we don’t know what is.
Checked in at the living room-like lobby and headed up to our room, we weren’t done exploring just yet. Back out into the blue sky, we made our way over to DIRT, just a block over for a fresh start to the night’s festivities. The proud supporter of local-sourcing and small businesses has been open for less than a year yet a visit to the unconventional fast-casual outpost has become a regular daily stop for locals both on and off the mainland. Seasonal produce and a health-conscious approach to cooking makes for fresher dishes and bolder flavors. Head there now and be some of the first mouths to try their fall menu (check out our preview here). But if you’re looking for something quick, we suggest heading there for a lavender latte and some of the best baked goods in the city.
Pro Tip: The peanut butter cookie. You’ll never guess it’s gluten-free. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
Just a few blocks over from that are some of Miami’s most celebrated destinations for art and culture. Places like Miami Beach Cinematique are a metropolis of obscure independent and foreign films, and the Hotel Astor‘s speakeasy houses curated tunes and karaoke nights every Thursday. But if it’s history you’re seeking, there’s no way you can miss the Wolsonian-FIU museum. The historical landmark is the second largest university art collection in the U.S., housing nearly 180,000 archival pieces paying homage to the designs of the 1850s – 1950s. Things like world’s fair souvenirs, the first consumer television, and over 70,000 books and paper pieces in its library (by appointment only, we were saddened to find out) provide a look into early examples of what would become the versions of technology that we use today. Bridging the past with the present, the Wolfsonian is a hidden gem filled with priceless jewels you have to see to understand.
Pro Tip: Head there for free tours on Fridays or just swing by their museum shop where you can grab a happy hour drink and find some of the best curated gifts anywhere in the city.
After hitting up the warm and welcoming Under the Mango Tree for an acai bowl, we made our way back to Sense for some liquid energy before heading back out for the night. We slipped effortlessly into our bar stools and took our pick of some sunset & moonlight signature cocktails. The spirit blends and muddled fruits are served to you by a knowledgeable pair of hands, suggesting drinks both on and off the menu. With the last light of a vibrant sunset curling up for the night behind us, we enjoyed our Down the Rabbit Hole, Blood Orange Margarita, I Will Be There, and several glasses of prosecco up at the rooftop pool to thank the day.
Because of Miami’s vastness and tendency for being so spread out, it’s surprising to find so many great spots in such close proximity from one another. Case in point: The Fillmore. It just so happened that on the eve of our One Night Stay, Leon Bridges, the Texan who holds parts of our hearts and libidos, was performing at the historical music venue…so naturally, we went. Lianne La Havas and her adorable British twang serenaded us to start the night, all wide-eyed at the fact that Miami could be so welcoming to such vast talent. Her cover of “I Say a Little Prayer” was a perfect segue into the 1960s television special that was the headlining set–velvet draping, lapels and all. Say what you will, but Leon Bridges was built to breed nostalgia, his soulful demeanor and dance moves bringing the sounds of the past back to life in the present. A surprising twist of events came when his encore began with a rendition of Ginuwine’s “Pony”, all sax and sass, and everything we’d hoped for from one of our favorite acts in recent years.
Late night munchies courtesy of La Sandwicherie (love you, Uber Eats), we snuggled into bed and had one of the best sleeps I’ve had in a while. Hello, memory foam. And guess what? We woke up on a Wednesday morning and had brunch. Which, in our experience, is one of the best ways to start the day…especially if that day falls mid-week and with a slight hangover. The Local House’s selection of Eggs Benedict are easily on the top 5 best in Miami. While you’re at it, so is their Avocado Toast–all perfectly seasoned and topped with two poached eggs. Throw in their pancakes and house potatoes and you’ve got yourself a party. What really put us over the edge was their fresh watermelon juice, bursting with flavor and pink hues.
Sense Beach House is the kind of place you’d want to escape to, from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. It’s a light and breezy haven for the clean and comfortable, not asking for much, only providing the kind of small pleasures that make building memories all the more worthwhile. Next time you’re looking for a small getaway or to impress a friend, you really can’t go wrong with something boutique and oh-so local.
Photos by Natalia Pascual.