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Delray Beach, in South Florida, is a perfect place for a quiet (and active) vacation. Located just north of Boca Raton, Delray Beach is an affluent, yet still up and coming, beach town that caters to artists, retirees, vacationers, and families.
Unlike many of the larger South Florida cities, Delray Beach lacks the traffic and congestion that makes going to the beach a hassle. However, like all good beaches, you’ll find them full on weekends and it’s important to arrive early.
The great thing about Delray Beach is that it’s expansive. There is plenty of room for everyone. The artsy downtown area is walkable from the beach.
Below, I’ll share a few highlights of Delray Beach, Florida and more information about the hotels, restaurants, and parking. If you’re planning a trip to South Florida and want to avoid the congestion of Miami, drive an hour north to Delray Beach, relax on the beaches and enjoy the eclectic nightlife.
5 Things To Do In Delray Beach, Florida
There are plenty of things to do in Delray Beach. If my list isn’t comprehensive enough, stop by the information center at the east end of Atlantic Avenue (where it meets the sea).
The information center is perfectly placed and there you’ll find additional tips for museums, diving, and restaurants. The information center also has restrooms and it’s a great place to stop if you’re planning a walk along the beach.
1. Hit The Beach
It’s tough to beat a sunrise on the beach of Delray. The beach is wide and the city was wise to allow a grass buffer between the sea and the road (A1A).
From the road, you’ll walk though a small natural area then you’ll arrive at the beach. I think it’s the perfect way to separate the noise of traffic from a tranquil time at the beach.
Delray Beach runs south to Highland Beach and Boca Raton Beach, so you can spend hours exploring the sand and water.
If you visit during the week, you’ll have so much space to yourself. Many people who exercise prefer to use the paths along A1A so most people on the beach are either swimming or relaxing.
The water is warm year-round and the waves are calm.
2. Exercise on A1A
A1A in Delray Beach has amazing views of the ocean and of beautiful homes. I’ve spent hours walking along this road and I’m always impressed at the number of cyclists (sometimes greater than the number of cars).
At Delray Beach there is a wide sidewalk that spans a mile or two. In the morning there will be plenty of dog walkers and runners.
Because it’s a smaller community, people often stop to chat.
You can walk and grab a coffee at one of the shops on the west side of A1A. By mid-day people usually take a break from exercise and seek shelter from the heat.
If you do decide to exercise during the heat of the day the ocean is only a few feet away.
There is ample parking along A1A and there should be plenty of spaces available as long as you get there early (even on the weekends – but by late morning they will be full).
3. Hit Balls At The Delray Tennis Center
The Delray Tennis Center is one of South Florida’s premier clubs. The center is located on Atlantic Avenue, across from the library and not far from the beach.
If you’re a serious tennis player, check out this public tennis center that boasts 14 clay courts, 6 hard courts and an 8,000+ capacity stadium.
If you don’t feel like playing on vacation but need new gear, you can check out their pro shop where you’ll find top of the line equipment. After hitting balls at the Delray Tennis Center, walk across Atlantic Avenue to check out their beautiful public library.
The beach is only a few blocks east on Atlantic Avenue – everything is walking distance in Delray Beach!
4. Dine On Atlantic Avenue
In the evening, Atlantic Avenue comes alive. There are so many great restaurants to choose from. Many have outdoor seating under the shade of tree-lined streets.
While Atlantic Avenue is the main attraction for restaurants, there are several side streets (NE 2nd Ave & SE 4th Ave).
After dinner, catch live music at Arts Garage (bring your own drinks). Arts Garage is always happening!
5. Attend The Delray Green Market
The Delray Green Market takes place Saturday mornings on Swinton Avenue, just north of Atlantic Avenue. It’s a relatively small set-up but offers fresh vegetables and fruits, along with pastries and other exotic cuisines (Latin and African dishes).
Farm fresh eggs, Florida grass-fed meat, fresh cut flowers are all common place as well.
If you’re into locally purchased food, or just want to taste test a variety of foods, stop by the Green Market and have a look. This is a stop for locals and tourists alike.
Hotels In Delray Beach, FL
It’s usually expensive to find nice hotels near the beach, however, compared to larger cities in more touristic areas, hotels in Delray Beach are quite affordable.
The following hotel options are my favorites because they offer convenience (near the beach) and all the extras that you’d want on vacation.
Grand Opal Resort and Spa
The Grand Opal Resort and Spa in Delray Beach has the prime location on the beach and many of its rooms offer panoramic views of the ocean. This hotel was formerly the Seacrest and Marriott hotel, but it’s now run by Opal – an impressive brand itself!
There is an amazing pool, classy spa, and plenty of on-site or off-site activities that can be arranged at your request. In addition to a variety of room sizes, the villas are spectacular.
This resort has been totally remodeled and it’s 100% class!
Residence Inn by Marriott
The Residence Inn at Delray Beach offers a more affordable option than the Grand Opal but it’s still incredibly close to the beach (a few minute walk).
If you want the location and those coveted Marriott points, stay in this hotel for a weekend and be in an ideal place near downtown and the beach. It’s literally around the corner from the Grand Opal.
The Seagate Hotel and Spa
This boutique hotel offers something that other hotels can’t. It offers the same great location (similar to the Residence Inn), but it also offers something the Opal Resort can’t.
Stay here and you’ll get access to the Seagate Golf Club and tennis courts (one of the finest courses Palm Beach County), and the Seagate Beach Club (directly on the beach). The beach club is set on the beach with views from the pool and colonial-style buildings (Seagate website).
If you want a nice hotel with extras off-site from the hotel, then this is the way to go. The golf access alone may be worth the price.
If you are planning a trip and want a truly unique experience, consider staying at an Airbnb. Airbnb offers the opportunity to live in a house or condo and live more like a local.
There are 100’s of Airbnb options for short and long-term rentals. If you use my link to register, you’ll get up to $65 off your first stay – this could be great for families on a budget!
Restaurants In Delray Beach
Breakfast: The Green Owl
Sometimes you can tell a place is good just by the amount of customers. This is one such place and a reason it’s a local favoite.
Walk by The Green Owl every weekend and you’ll find locals and their dogs eating on the patio. It’s also open for lunch, but I see this as a perfect place to grab a morning coffee and read the paper. Plus, the eggs, bacon, and pancakes are supposedly delicious.
The Green Owl is located just off Atlantic Avenue, so that’s probably why it remains a local spot (the tourists don’t stay long enough to find it).
Lunch: Mussel Beach
Mussel Beach has one of the coolest named restaurants in Delray Beach, and it’s also one of the most popular. By the name, you know what you’re getting when you arrive – seafood.
Located on a prime corner, yet in an unassuming building, the restaurant comes alive for lunch. Once you walk inside, you’ll see a beautifully clean operation with a wonderful presentation.
Mussels are the main menu item but you’ll find crispy French fries, lobster, crab, octopus, and sea bass. There’s no doubt why this is one of tourists favorite places to eat.
Dinner: Gary Rack’s Farmhouse Kitchen
If you’re a local, you’re aware of the name. The name “Rack” appears on restaurants around the Boca and Delray Beach neighborhoods and the brand continues to expand.
His Farmhouse Kitchen concept has taken off with locavores. Whether you want vegan food or something more carnivorous, the Farmhouse Kitchen offers delicious, local food.
Arrive for happy hour and find deals on tacos, drinks, and chicken wraps!
Parking In Delray Beach
Parking in Delray Beach isn’t bad at all. There is plenty of free parking along Atlantic Avenue and on it’s side streets.
If you want to park on the beach A1A offers a few miles of parking, however, this is paid parking.
Further south on A1A there are parking lots with many spaces available (also paid).
My advice: if you’re planning a day at the beach, arrive before 10am to get the prime spots. On weekdays there should be plenty of available spaces, but on the weekend it may take a while to find a parking spot if you arrive around mid-day or later.
Thankfully, most hotels offer free on-site parking and you can leave it there the whole weekend while you explore the town by foot.
I wouldn’t go as far to call Delray Beach a secret, but it’s one of the lesser known towns to tourists. There are plenty of locals and many “local retirees” in the town who have created a beautiful town to call home.
If you will be visiting the South Florida area for vacation, consider making the drive just north of Boca Raton. Delray Beach has everything you need, without the traffic and congestion of beaches farther south.
From Miami International Airport it’s about an hour drive, and only a 15 minute drive from Fort Lauderdale airport.
You can choose from a variety of hotels and if you’re on Atlantic Avenue, most things are walkable. Dinner, shows, markets, and the beach!
If you’re arriving on the weekend, get to the beach early (only for parking). There will be plenty of space on the beach for all visitors but sometimes parking is challenging when you’re close to the beach.
During the week there are few people so enjoy the fresh air and exercise on the sand, in the water, and along A1A. Cyclists will really love it here!