Bridges to the beach: Here’s a brief history of Miami’s coastal causeways

Whether you live in Miami Beach or one of the 305’s barrier-island communities or not, there’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time (or sat in traffic) on one of the many causeways that connect the mainland to the beach. 

So we decided to take a look at the history of these bridges, how long they’ve been around, and how they got their namesakes.

Rickenbacker Causeway

When it opened: 1947

Its namesake: Eddie Rickenbacker was a star fighter pilot in World War I and later served as the president of Miami-based Eastern Airlines. 

About this causeway: It connects Miami to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, and it’s a mix of a little more than a mile of bridges, and nearly three miles of roadway. Runners and cyclists love it for providing an awesome view of downtown Miami. 

It’s also been the focus of a lot of advocacy from cycling and pedestrian safety activists who want protected bike lanes along the road, because of the high number of cyclist deaths on the causeway.

MacArthur Causeway

When it opened: 1920

Its namesake: It was initially named the County Causeway and in 1942 was renamed after World War II General Douglas MacArthur.

About this causeway: It was built to provide a second option for connecting Miami Beach and the mainland, because the only other option was the wooden Collins Bridge (more on that in a second). And in the 1990s, the causeway was extended to connect with I-395.

And while many of the causeways in the 305 provide breathtaking views, this one’s probably the best look you can get at downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay in all its glory. 

Venetian Causeway

When it opened: 1926

Its namesake: It was originally the Collins Bridge and was named after John Collins, a developer and farmer who built it with a financial boost from Carl Fisher — another wealthy businessman in Miami’s early days. 

It got its current name when the new bridge opened in 1925, replacing the older, wooden Collins Bridge. 

About this causeway: Like the Rickenbacker, this causeway is another popular one for runners and cyclists and it’s a less hectic alternative to the Tuttle and MacArthur for folks looking to get to South Beach.

Julia Tuttle Causeway

When it opened: 1961

Its namesake: Julia Tuttle has long been considered to be the founder of Miami because of the land she owned and her role in the city’s incorporation in the late 19th century.

About this causeway: While the MacArthur has a slightly closer view of the downtown skyline, this causeway is where you’ll find the iconic “Welcome to Miami Beach” sign that’s been featured everywhere from music videos to TV shows, and plenty of Instagram posts. 

John F. Kennedy Causeway

When it opened: 1929

Its namesake: One of the more straightforward ones on this list. This one is named after our 35th president, JFK. But before it got that moniker it was called the North Bay Causeway.

About this causeway: This causeway leads into North Bay Village from the Upper East Side and features a bust of JFK on one of the medians along the road. From North Bay Village the road goes into North Beach.

Broad Causeway

When it opened: 1951

Its namesake: Shepard Broad was the founder and longtime mayor of Bay Harbor Islands, and was the financial driver behind the causeway. 

About this causeway: The road connects North Miami to Bay Harbor Islands and over to Surfside. The causeway cost Broad about $2 million to build in the late 1940s and construction on it started just a few years after Broad and his business partner Benjamin Kane started developing the town. 

Sunny Isles Causeway

When it opened: 1989

Its namesake: This one is the most straightforward since this causeway is named for its eventual eastbound exit point, and westbound entryway: the city of Sunny Isles Beach

About this causeway: The bridge connects from North Miami Beach over to Sunny Isles Beach. A roadway has connected the communities for decades but the renovated bridge was completed by the late 1980s.

William Lehman Causeway

When it opened: 1983

Its namesake: William Lehman was a former Miami-Dade school board member and a longtime U.S. congressman. He also played a major role in the creation of the Metrorail in the 1980s.

About this causeway: It connects Aventura to Sunny Isles Beach and is both the newest and northernmost of the Biscayne Bay causeways in Miami-Dade.