Vacay to Delray Beach: What to Do on Florida’s Gold Coast
If you have a chance to visit Delray Beach, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re from a cooler clime like me where winter can seem forever long. My husband and I visited in February and we were blessed with five idyllic days of perfect weather. Delray Beach provides an excellent home base to explore Palm Beach County where there’s so much to do. You’ll fill out your itinerary in record time and start planning your next visit to the Gold Coast.
Fortunately for us, we stayed with family who graciously welcomed us to their vacation home. And they took us to their favorite places! Win-win! It was so freeing to know we were in good hands to fully enjoy ourselves without having to plan an itinerary.
My sister-in-law (SIL) and I have a lot in common, so everywhere she suggested was top-notch to me. Plus, it was a special time for the hubs and his brother (noted as BIL in this post!) to have some quality time together outside regularly planned family occasions. I hope you’ll enjoy some of the favorite things we did in southeast Florida that our “hosts with the most” shared with us. See my other Literally Laurie travel and excursion blogs.
City of Delray Beach
The beach itself was my favorite, of course, but don’t miss the downtown. There’s a lot to do in the center of town that can keep you busy day or night.
We found street parking beachside (download the ParkMobile app) arriving at Delray Municipal Beach before 10 am on a sunny, clear and cloudless day. With a mild surf, the water was refreshing and warm. Walk the beach to get in your steps and people watch. Pack a lunch to make a full day of it or drop by a beach restaurant for drinks and snacks. Across the street from the beach, we dropped by the Sandbar, a lively tiki bar to enjoy the music, snacks and beers to conclude our day. Boston’s on the Beach, next door, is another Delray Beach favorite to check out.
Downtown Delray is lively and home to many culinary opportunities. At Elisabetta’s Ristorante, we opted to dine al fresco to enjoy the beautiful night and the Atlantic Avenue vibe. We snagged balcony seats where we could hear music at a nearby venue and look down on the activity while enjoying our Italian meal. Check out their specials including martini Mondays, half-priced bottles on Wednesdays, bottomless brunch and a daily aperitivo hour.
Stroll the Avenue at Night
Following dinner, stroll along the avenue to browse the shops and check out the scene. During season, the downtown area is alive with pedestrian traffic, retail therapy, dining and bars. Along the way, you’ll likely do some trainspotting when the ding-ding alert abruptly sounds and the crossing gates block the main thoroughfare as Tri-Rail, CSX or Amtrak trains pass through.
Green Market is definitely a Saturday morning stop before heading to the pool or beach. From fresh produce, food trucks galore of all ethnicities, baked goods, spices, teas, smoothies – and the list goes on! – you will find anything and everything you need. Pictured above are some colorful offerings including purple produce to paella. We couldn’t resist buying fresh salsa and guac freshly made before our eyes!
A day on Peanut Island was truly the highlight of the trip for me. You won’t be disappointed to enjoy a Caribbean-like vibe to spend your day swimming, collecting shells, watching yacht activity and soaking up the views. While it involves some planning and a 45-minute drive from Delray Beach, a day spent at Peanut Island, is definitely worth the effort.
Located in the Lake Worth lagoon, this county park is located between Riviera Beach, Singer Island and Palm Beach. Surrounded by urban views, this island sanctuary is managed by Palm Beach County parks.
A Day in the Island Park
Our hosts knew best to get on the first ferry so we’d have first dibs on the best beach real estate. At 10 am, we were on the first boat for a 10-minute ride to the island. Visit ferry website.
As we approached the dock to debark, my SIL pointed out the very spot we would spend our day (see image on top of blog of our view for the day). We snorkeled literally steps from our beach chairs. It was truly underwater eye candy with a wide array of colorful tropical fish with clear visibility. I loved seeing beautiful blue parrotfish.
Be sure to pack a cooler with lunch, snacks and drinks. Restrooms and grills are available; alcohol is prohibited. Don’t forget your walking shoes to walk the island’s circumference!
Peanut Island History
So, what’s with the island’s name? Here’s a bit of history: Originally named Inlet Island, it was renamed after a planned peanut oil-shipping operation failed in 1946. In 2005, after a $13-million renovation, the island park opened, offering camp and picnic sites, gardens, walking paths and a man-made reef. One last bit of trivia: A secret blast shelter was built here for JFK shortly after he was elected president.
If you’re into nature and seeing wildlife up close and personal: GO HERE. Wakodahatchee Wetlands is relaxing yet exhilarating to walk along the three-quarter mile boardwalk to take in wildlife in their habitats.
On the day we went, we got to watch colonies of Wood Storks; as they nest in the winter and spring. As hoped, I got an alligator sighting. We saw birds of all varieties including herons, ibises and cormorants, as well as iguanas, turtles and fish.
Open since 1996, the wetlands were built on 50 acres of a former wastewater plant. Today this sanctuary is free to the public to enjoy. It’s a popular destination so there can a wait to get a parking spot, so I recommend going early. It’s open 6 am to 7 pm daily. Visit the website for more details.
Drop by Palm Beach
In my younger days before I started my career, I spent several months in Palm Beach County to escape winter while doing a travel-and-work stint. During that time, I lived in West Palm Beach and have fond memories of biking to Palm Beach along the Intercoastal Waterway and over the bridge to Municipal Beach.
Grandeur of Worth Avenue
To do this day, I still vividly remember taking in the breathtaking promenade of palm trees along Worth Avenue while cycling to the beach. On this trip, I loved taking in the sights on our way to dinner to soak up the shopping district at night. However, being nostalgic, I still crave experiencing the avenue in the light of day. Definitely on my to-do list for another visit!
Palm Beach Grille
I was happy a dinner at the modern and elegant Palm Beach Grille brought me back to the area to reminisce my days living in Florida. I’d definitely recommend the shrimp cocktail and heirloom tomato salad. It was hard to decide on an entrée: Try a scrumptious sandwich with super-fine string fries? Or choose from a list of specialties from seafood to beef? And there are so many interesting side options. If you’re a cheeseburger fan, note that it’s served dressed with all the fixings and cut into quarters for you. See the website’s gallery of photos.
Friday Evening in Boca Raton
This was our first stop after leaving the airport in Fort Lauderdale on our way to Delray Beach. We arrived on a Friday night and then headed to my SIL and BIL’s favorite pizza joint (see below). After dinner, we enjoyed the beautiful night walking around Mizner Park to browse the Artisan Market, window shop at high-end stores and check out restaurants and entertainment.
We arrived at Tucci’s Pizza around 7 pm and while there was a short wait, we didn’t mind because we relaxed across the way at a park to catch up. The pizzeria’s wood-fired oven produces a delectable pie crust. In fact, their tagline is: The char is flavor. Absolutely true and the perfect stop for our first night.
We ordered extra pizza so we could bring the leftovers home to have for lunch. Why not? We had a pool day at the condo planned the next day!
To-Do List for Next Visit
We didn’t have time to squeeze everything in in five days so we’ll need to go back another winter! Through conversations with my BIL and SIL, here are three things I have in mind that you may consider when in southeast Florida.
Cruise on a Water Taxi: Head to Fort Lauderdale and spend an afternoon traveling along the Intercostal Waterway. Take in the sights of mansions on Millionaires’ Row and mega yachts. You can enjoy a three-hour ride along the main Fort Lauderdale loop or hop off/on to explore or grab a bite. Visit website.
Seeing Manatees: Even though I lived in Florida long ago, I never saw one of these amazing creatures, so this remains on my bucket list. My SIL said if we come in January when weather is cooler, we’d have a better chance seeing them in the wild. Learn about seeing manatees in Palm Beach County, especially at Manatee Lagoon in West Palm!
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: I would love to: 1) Walk the one-mile path through the garden. 2) Learn about the connections between Japan and South Florida and the origins of the Yamato Colony 3) Stop by Cornell Cafe to enjoy a Pan-Asian snack or lunch on a terrace overlooking the gardens. Visit website.