Florida

Delray Beach Guide: Florida's Popular, Family-Friendly Beach

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As one of South Florida's most popular and family-friendly beach destinations, charming Delray Beach's 2-mile stretch of sand and typically calm, sapphire waters promise a relaxing getaway. The town's relatively small size -- its main drag, Atlantic Avenue, is only a few blocks long -- means it's easy to traverse on foot, which is the best way to enjoy Delray's galleries, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Whether you plan to while away your vacation frolicking on the beach, or hope to explore some of the nearby nature trails, Delray lies in close proximity to a range of fun activities. Once evening descends, enjoy sunset cocktails at a beachfront tiki bar, or an upscale dinner with ocean views. As you explore and unwind, discover first-hand why Delray Beach is so loved by travelers.

Where to Eat
Boston's on the Beach
You get 3 unique restaurant experiences all wrapped into 1 tidy location at Boston's on the Beach, one of Delray's most popular hangouts, located across the street from Delray's beach. Downstairs, the main eatery is casual Boston's, which has been serving locals and tourists good New England-style eats like Maine lobster roll sandwiches, Ipswich steamers and fried clams, for more than 30 years. This popular hangout features live music most nights, and offers a reggae night on Mondays, blues on Tuesdays and a Grateful Dead cover band on Sundays.

Upstairs from Boston's, you'll find 50 Ocean, where a quartz bar, slightly more refined menu featuring local seafood and spectacular ocean views attract a well-heeled crowd. Finally, adjacent to Boston's is Sandbar, a beach bum's ideal outdoor tiki bar, set under a palm frond roof, where revelers can sip frozen cocktails and ice-cold beers after working up a thirst on Delray's sandy shores.

Caffe Luna Rosa
The ever-popular and always busy Caffe Luna Rosa dishes up some of Delray's tastiest Italian dishes, in a prime location across the street from the beach. Whether you're trying to grab lunch or dinner, sidewalk tables here are nearly always crammed -- we recommend making a reservation, particularly during popular spring break season. The restaurant originally opened as a gelateria, and still serves its popular Italian-style gelato, though theofferings have expanded to include a full menu.

While you'll be tempted by tasty appetizers such as veal-and-beef meatballs topped with a San Marzano tomato sauce and a dollop of ricotta cheese, or the caramelized Italian sausage with sauteed broccoli rabe and sliced garlic, be sure to save room for the sizeable mains. From jumbo shrimp, littleneck clams, mussels, calamari and the catch of the day served over linguini (yup, that's all in 1 dish), to the fresh yellowtail snapper topped with jumbo lump crabmeat or the center cut veal chop, diners will walk away fully sated. The restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch and brunch on weekends.

Deck 84 Food
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Deck 84
Any night's a good night for a sunset cocktail overlooking Delray's pretty Intracoastal Waterway, followed by a hearty meal and a televised sports game or two, in our humble opinion. That's exactly what you'll enjoy at the local hot spot Deck 84, located adjacent to the Atlantic Avenue Bridge, and the first waterfront restaurant along the avenue -- basically, Delray's main drag of shops and dining. You can choose to dine in the restaurant's interior, but on warm days and nights all the action takes place on Deck 84's outdoor patio, just beside the Intracoastal.

Sit under the covered deck for proximity to the big screen TVs and to listen to live bands on weekends, or at one of the picnic tables set alongside the patio. Arrive for happy hour and enjoy half-priced draft beer, house wine, plus mixed and frozen drinks. Hungry? The restaurant serves weekend brunch, lunch and dinner. The varied menu includes favorites like house-smoked fish dip with saltines, pickled red onion, radish, shaved jalapeno; a poached pear, brie, miso-bacon brittle and arugula flatbread, and an over-the-top bacon-wrapped meatloaf and key lime mahi-mahi.


Where to Stay
Delray Beach Marriott
Boasting one of Delray's premier locations, the Delray Beach Marriott is set directly across the street from the town's sandy shores. While the hotel’s close proximity to the beach is a huge bonus, particularly for families juggling children, it's also at the corner of Atlantic Avenue, within easy walking distance to the heart of Delray's shopping and dining district. The hotel's 268 rooms include 84 suites and 4 luxury suites, as well as 8 villas that can sleep up to 8 people.

The property offers guests fine dining at the Seacrest Grill, as well as more casual fare at O'Grady's Lounge and Cascades Poolside Grill, where you can chow on sandwiches, salads, burgers and of course, a frozen cocktail or ice-cold beer. Relax at the family-friendly or adults-only pools, or treat yourself to an afternoon's pampering at the onsite N Spa, which offers treatments like body scrubs, wraps, facials and manicures.

The Seagate Hotel and Spa
The Seagate Hotel and Spa
The Seagate Hotel & Spa
Delray's premier luxury hotel, The Seagate Hotel & Spa, is conveniently located just 1 block from the beach and, being in the midst of Atlantic Avenue, serves as the town’s hub for dining, shopping and people-watching. While guests can simply walk the short distance to Delray Beach, they also have the option of visiting The Seagate Beach Club. Located less than a mile from the hotel, the property's exclusive beach club is located directly on the beach and offers watersports equipment rentals, an outdoor swimming pool, casual and fine dining, and free transportation to and from the hotel. The upscale decor is straight out of a Nantucket cottage: Guests will enjoy Egyptian cotton linens, warm, dark-wood furnishings and in-room high-speed wireless internet.

One of Delray's more upscale dining options, the Atlantic Grille, is located on The Seagate Hotel & Spa property. When guests aren't devouring fresh local seafood, they can admire the restaurant's 450-gallon aquarium of tranquil moon jellyfish and 2,500-gallon shark tank. And when they're not unwinding at the beach club or pool, guests can relax at The Seagate Spa, an 8,000 square-foot space offering a range of massage, skincare and body treatments, such as a Swedish or sea stone massage.

Colony Hotel and Cabana Club
Four-legged friends will stay at the Colony in comfort as well. The hotel offers pet blankets, dog-walking areas with biodegradable bags, water stations, and even welcomes dogs at the Cabana Club. After dark, enjoy a cocktail at the Colony Porch Bar, which overlooks bustling Atlantic Avenue, and features live music and dancing on weekends.


What to Do
Delray Beach
Of course the most popular thing to do while in Delray Beach is -- you guessed it -- enjoy the town's 2-mile stretch of public beach. The town's sprawling white sands line the Atlantic Coast, and the turquoise waters here are typically calm, making it a perfect family beach, and thus, popular spring break getaway for families. Beach amenities include picnic areas, a children's playground and lifeguard stations. Visitors can also enjoy the adjacent Atlantic Dunes Park beach and Delray Municipal Beach, guaranteeing plenty of space in the sand for Delray's approximately 1 million annual visitors.

While some of Florida's beaches can accumulate a solid smattering of seaweed and occasional rubbage (they are beaches, after all) Delray contracts with a beach cleaning company each year, helping the sands stay mostly pristine. Parking is plentiful, and located along Ocean Boulevard or in public lots, though if you're staying in a hotel in Delray, it's easiest to reach the beach on foot.

Palm Beach
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Road Trip to Palm Beach
Spend an afternoon catching a glimpse of the good life on an easy 25-minute road trip from scenic Ocean Boulevard to the tony hamlet of Palm Beach. The drive itself is worth the trip -- you'll ogle countless mansions and their accompanying yachts parked along the Intracoastal Waterway. Keep an eye out for the former Kennedy (yes, those Kennedys) estate at 1095 N. Ocean Blvd., and Donald Trump's impressive 20-acre Mar-a-Lago Club at 1100 S. Ocean Blvd.

Upon arriving in Palm Beach, you can pay a visit to its sunny shores, but we recommend taking a spin down Worth Avenue, the playground of the rich and fabulous. This palm-lined street is teeming with the highest of high-end shops, like Hermes, Valentino and St. John. Window-shop the extraordinary baubles gleaming in the store windows at jewelers such as Chopard and David Morris International Jewelers.

After working up an appetite (or a serious case of shopper's envy), head for a bite at the lovely Renato's, located in a charming, flower-draped courtyard just off Worth Avenue. You can enjoy soups, salads and pastas. We recommend the refreshing insalata di aragosta, a salad of Maine lobster, lump crabmeat, mango, toasted sunflower seeds and baby greens topped with a wildflower honey vinaigrette.

Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
One of South Florida's cultural and natural highlights, the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens is not to be missed; it's one of the region's most important cultural centers. This 16-acre haven of Japanese arts and culture honors the Yamato Colony of Japanese farmers who settled in the region early in the 20th century. The museum features more than 7,000 artifacts and works of art, including newspaper clippings from the era, as well as photos of the early Japanese settlers.

Still, the sprawling, Zen-like gardens are perhaps the Morikami's most popular attraction. The 6 garden areas are influenced by various trends in Japanese garden design, showcasing a bamboo grove, wooden bridges, bonsai trees and rock gardens. Take a moment to appreciate the haunting sound of the wind whistling through the bamboo, or sit alongside one of the garden ponds to quietly appreciate your tranquil surroundings. The museum also houses the Cornell Cafe: Nearly as popular as the museum and gardens, the cafe serves Japanese-influenced cuisine, like sushi and bento boxes. We recommend eating before wandering the gardens -- wait times for a cafe table can be up to an hour.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Growing tired of the crowds flocking to Delray's beach? Delray locals head to the Wakodahatchee Weltands year-round to enjoy the respite offered by the 50 acre, man-made ecosystem. While it doesn't sound very romantic at first -- the wetlands are created by the Palm Beach County's daily pumping of more than 2 million gallons of reclaimed, highly treated water into the land -- Wakodahatchee has become one of the region's quiet gems.

Today, the wetlands have attracted an extraordinarily diverse wildlife population, including turtles, frogs, alligators and birds. In fact, birders have been attracted to the park, as more than 150 species of birds have been spotted here, including herons and egrets. Take a stroll along the 3/4-mile boardwalk that winds through the wetlands past 3 large pools of water, and learn more about South Florida's ecology through the informative signs along the way, or simply sit and relax in one of the boardwalk's gazebos.


Getting here and Around
By Air
Delray Beach is located between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) is 19 miles away and is the closest to the town, though Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is larger and offers more frequent (and typically cheaper) flights. From the airport you can take either a taxi or rent a car to drive into Delray.

By Car
Delray Beach is a 20-minute drive from Interstate 95. The town's main intersection is Atlantic Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.

In Town
Your best bet for getting around Delray is to walk. The town is easy to traverse on foot, and most hotels are in walking distance from the beach as well as the shops and restaurants on Atlantic Avenue and Ocean Boulevard. Visitors should also consider renting a car for the duration of their stay, so they can visit some of the region’s surrounding sights and activities.

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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