Nestled among the bustling cities of South Florida’s east coast, Delray Beach holds its own with pristine beaches and a downtown with buzz.
Under the twinkling lights that wrap tall palms along Atlantic Avenue, a band strikes up at a corner bar, inviting flip-flops- and board shorts--clad surfers in for a closer listen. The laughter of diners resonates from a nearby pub, while the hum of a boat motor on the Intracoastal Waterway approaches. In typical weekend fashion, Delray Beach is hopping with activity.
That's a description the city—which has been nicknamed South Florida's "Village by the Sea"—strives to maintain, with small, locally owned boutiques and cafés, a walkable downtown district, and well-preserved historic beachfront cottages. (There are no high-rise condos here, due to restrictions on building heights.) With a good range of housing options in town, Realtor and resident Brian Pearl says prices start at about $400,000 for a quaint cottage, and go upwards of $2.5 million for a new home with ocean views.
Adirondack chairs painted with tropical scenes line the brick sidewalk through town, inviting passersby to sit and chat. The camaraderie continues during Delray Beach's frequent outdoor festivals—from farmers' markets to craft fairs—in the up-and-coming arts district, Pineapple Grove. "Artists will often invite you into their studios to watch them work," says Todd L'Herrou, managing director of the Delray Beach chamber of commerce.
In downtown Delray Beach you'll find the historic Doc's All American, a 1950s-style soda fountain that serves famously good root beer floats. Shops like Hands Office Supply (which began as a supply store in the 1930s) sell unique souvenirs and artwork.
Whether you're escaping the afternoon sun inside a tiki hut at the beachfront Sandbar or enjoying a happy hour lychee martini at the swanky Buddha SkyBar, staying social at all hours here is easy.
At RACKS Fish House + Oyster Bar, shellfish connoisseurs can watch fresh, tender oysters get shucked and kettle-steamed right before their eyes. Deck 84 offers a killer Key lime mahi mahi and prime Intracoastal Waterway views.
Two miles of pristine sand and turquoise water make up Delray Beach's public, lifeguard-protected beach, where locals laze under cabanas (for rent on the shore), rally friends for a volleyball game, or watch the sands for nesting sea turtles.
Seagate Hotel & Spa's especially spacious rooms include comfy living areas, breezy terraces, and marble bubble-jet tubs built for two. A stay also includes access to Seagate's private Bahamian-style beach club, located right on the beach. Rates start at $165; theseagatehotel.com.