Peanut Island, Visit Delray Beach area
Travel & Excursions

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.

Delray Beach, sun shining
Not a cloud was in the sky as we head to to Delray Municipal Beach.

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.

Municipal Beach

Delray Beach view
Sand Bar, Delray Beach
The Sand Bar is across the street from the beach, offering music, snacks and liquid refreshments.

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.

Elisabetta's in Delray Beach
If in the mood for Italian, try Elisabetta’s Ristorante and get an outdoor seat to enjoy the street vibe.

Elisabetta’s Ristorante

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.

Train approach in Delray Beach
Unique to Delray Beach is watching trains in the heart of the city.

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

Green Market purple produce

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!

Peanut Island

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.

Ferry Ride, Peanut Island
A quick trip on the ferry takes you to Peanut Island.

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.

Docking Boat, Peanut Island
The view of Peanut Island as the ferry docks at the pier.

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.

Peanut Island Florida
Enjoy views of Palm Beach, above, and Jerry Thomas Memorial Bridge, below, when taking a 1.25-mile walk on the path around the island.
Peanut Island

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

Peanut Island bridge
A bridge over an inlet is part of the trail system on Peanut Island.

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.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

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.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Florida
Witness wildlife species as you stroll along the boardwalk over the the wetlands.

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.

Wood Storks work on building their nests.
Alligator, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray
We came across this young gator sunning itself.

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.

Palm Beach, Worth Avenue
The famous view of Worth Avenue, Palm Beach (photo courtesy of the French Tangerine).

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

Palm Beach Grille, Palm Beach, Florida
Adding to the ambiance is watching the staff work on plating food.

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.

Tucci’s Pizza

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.

Tucci's, Bocca Raton
Delish pies taste so good cooked in a wood-fired oven. (Photo courtesy Tucci’s Pizza)

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.

Water taxi
Spend an afternoon cruising around Fort Lauderdale (photo courtesy of Water Taxi)

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.

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47 thoughts on “Vacay to Delray Beach: What to Do on Florida’s Gold Coast

  1. This looks like a fun place to visit. I love your pictures and I would like to visit Delray Beach. Will add it to the list of places I plan to visit.

  2. Hi Laurie,
    Lovely photos. I too look back to my time in Florida. Camping in John Pennekamp State Park, accidental close encounters with alligators while canoeing and swimming. Keep up the travelling! Xx

  3. I feel like I just escape to the beach. I love your pictures. I made some notes for our next vacation.

  4. Oh, do I miss Florida! Love checking out Palm Beach, it’s more of a chill vibe compared to Miami. Great guide for those traveling!

  5. Beautiful. I have family in Jupiter and am always in awe of how spectacular different areas in Fl are! Another place on the list to visit!

  6. Such a fun post! I live in central FL and we recently vacationed in West Palm! The whole area, and the manatees, are beautiful! Saving this so we can visit Delray Beach next!

  7. There are so many great places to explore. Delray Beach is definitely on my list of next go-tos! Thank you for such a detailed explanation. It helps new-goers like us a lot.

  8. This looks like my kind of place. Love that the downtown is bustling as well so there are a variety of things to do. And great that it’s just near Orlando. Adding this to my list.

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