Thankfully, Florida had the foresight to set aside some of its most beautiful coastal areas for the public's enjoyment. Many of the area's best beaches are located in state parks and are free to pedestrians and bikers, though most do charge for parking. Among the beaches I recommend are Delray Beach's Atlantic Dunes Beach, 1600 S. Ocean Blvd., which charges no admission to access a 7-acre developed beach with lifeguards, restrooms, changing rooms, and a family park area; and Boca Raton's South Beach Park, 400 N. Ocean Blvd., with 1,670 feet of beach, 25 acres, lifeguards, picnic areas, restrooms, showers, and 955 feet of developed beach south of the Boca Inlet, accessible for an admission charge of $15 Monday through Friday, and $17 Saturday and Sunday. The two beaches below are also very popular.
Delray Beach, on Ocean Boulevard at the east end of Atlantic Avenue, is one of the area's most popular hangouts. Weekends especially attract a young and good-looking crowd of active locals and tourists. Refreshments, snack shops, bars, and restaurants are just across the street. Families enjoy the protection of lifeguards on the clean, wide strip. Gentle waters make it a good swimming beach, too. Restrooms and showers are available, and there's limited parking at meters along Ocean Boulevard.
Spanish River Park Beach, on North Ocean Boulevard (Fla. A1A), 2 miles north of Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton, is a huge 95-acre oceanfront park with a half-mile-long beach with lifeguards as well as a large grassy area, making it one of the best choices for picnicking. Facilities include picnic tables, grills, restrooms, showers, and a 40-foot observation tower. You can walk through tunnels under the highway to access nature trails that wind through fertile grasslands. Volleyball nets always have at least one game going on. The park is open from 8am to 8pm. Admission is $16 for vehicles Monday through Friday; $18 on Saturday, Sunday, and major holidays.
Also see the description of Red Reef Park under "Scuba Diving & Snorkeling," below.
This area has plenty of good courses. The best ones that are not in a gated community are Boca Raton Resort & Club and the Breeze Golf and Country Club, formerly known as the Inn at Boca Teeca. Another great place to swing clubs is at the Deer Creek Golf Club, 2801 Country Club Blvd., Deerfield Beach (tel. 954/421-5550; www.deercreekflorida.com), which also features a 300-plus-yard driving range and practice facility. Rates at the Deer Creek Golf Club are seasonal and range from $45 to $140. However, from May to October or November, about a dozen private courses open their greens to visitors staying in Palm Beach County hotels. This "Golf-A-Round" program is free or severely discounted (carts are additional), and reservations can be made through most major hotels. Ask at your hotel or contact the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 561/471-3995) for information on which clubs are available for play.
The Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course, 8111 Golf Course Rd. (tel. 561/483-6100), is the area's best public golf course. There's an 18-hole, par-72 course covering approximately 6,200 yards, as well as a 9-hole, par-30 course. Facilities include a snack bar and a pro shop where clubs can be rented. Greens fees are $16 to $34 for 9 holes, and $24 to $56 for 18 holes. Ask about special summer discounts.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Moray Bend, a 58-foot dive spot about 3/4 mile off Boca Inlet, is the area's most popular. It's home to three moray eels that are used to being fed by scuba divers. The reef is accessible by boat from Force E Dive Center, 877 E. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton (tel. 561/368-0555; www.force-e.com). Phone for dive times. Dives cost $55 to $65 per person with an extra $15 for two tank fills.
Red Reef Park, 1400 N. Ocean Park Blvd. (tel. 561/393-7974), a 67-acre oceanfront park in Boca Raton, has good swimming and year-round lifeguard protection. There's snorkeling around the shallow rocks and reefs that lie just off the beach. The park has restrooms and a picnic area with grills. Located a half-mile north of Palmetto Park Road, it's open daily from 8am to 10pm. The cost is $16 per car Monday through Friday, $18 on Saturday and Sunday; walkers and bikers get in free.
The snazzy Delray Beach Tennis Center, 201 W. Atlantic Ave. (tel. 561/243-7360; www.delraytennis.com), has 14 lighted clay courts and five hard courts available by the hour. Phone for rates and reservations.
The 17 public lighted hard courts at Patch Reef Park, 2000 NW 51st St. (tel. 561/367-7090), are available by reservation. The fee for nonresidents is $5.75 per person per 1 1/2 hours. Courts are available Monday through Saturday from 7:30am to 10pm, and Sunday from 7:30am to dusk; call ahead to see if a court is available. To reach the park from I-95, exit at Yamato Road West and continue past Military Trail to the park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.