Delray Beach offers everything that’s quintessentially South Florida—colorful homes and architecture, a cultural melting pot, and the beach—without any pretension. This eclectic beach town, situated between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, has seen rapid growth in recent years via higher-end hotel and restaurant openings. While locals and in-the-know travelers have long loved strolling along the town’s main drag of Atlantic Avenue for art galleries, bistros, bars, and shops, the downtown area is now expanding with even more to explore. And bookending the town is a pristine beach with sugar-white sand and ample room to spread out.
Summer is a great time to visit now-bustling Delray Beach. The temperatures rise, sure, but hotel rates plummet and the town’s crowds thin out. Pack comfortable clothes and stay hydrated, and you’ll forget all about the heat while you take in the views from a sleek hotel rooftop or the Atlantic Avenue drawbridge. Here are the best things to do in Delray Beach, Florida.
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Getting there and around
It’s easy to get to Delray Beach by flying into Ft. Lauderdale International or Palm Beach International—it's about 30 minutes away from either. If it doesn’t break the bank, flying into PBI provides a less stressful, easier to manage situation. Even though Delray’s downtown area is dense, you'll want to rent a car as South Florida is generally spread out. If you plan on visiting anything outside of a one mile radius you’ll want to drive. Nearby towns, such as Boca Raton, are worth visiting and public transportation is less than stellar—though the Brightline, a new high-speed train line, makes it easy to take a day trip to Miami sans vehicle.
What to do in Delray Beach
Delray Beach lives up to its reputation as an artsy hamlet thanks to an abundance of art galleries. It’s hard not to stop in your tracks when you stroll past Blue Gallery on Atlantic Avenue with whimsical metal wall sculptures by Joel Amit on display among other works. A couple blocks off of Atlantic Avenue, a former spa was transformed into the Heart of Delray Gallery which displays art and houses artist workspaces. If you happen to be in town the first Friday of the month, check out the First Friday Art Walk for a self-guided tour of the galleries featuring live music throughout.
Take an excursion to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, about a 20-minute drive west of downtown. The museum pays tribute to Yamato, a colony formed by Japanese farmers that moved to the area in 1904, and sits on 200 acres, 16 of which are traditional Japanese gardens designed by Hoichi Kuriso. The museum houses Japanese art and artifacts along with rotating exhibits.
Visiting the beach is easy, just follow Atlantic Avenue until it dead ends at A1A. While you're there, you may as well pop into the Sandoway Discovery Center, found across the street from the beach on A1A. Kids especially love the historic house-turned-science museum that puts Florida nature on display throughout its rooms. The museum's backyard adds an exciting element in the form of a recently renovated 15,000 gallon saltwater pool that's home to a nurse shark (with more on the way), as well as a stingray touch tank.
One of the best ways to see Delray Beach—and its stunning waterfront mansions—is from the intracoastal on a Delray Yacht Cruise tour. Available daily, the two-hour cruises go up and down the waterway (keep an eye out for marine life).
Best restaurants in Delray Beach
One could easily spend two days just snacking along Atlantic Avenue. Start the day at Over the Bridge Cafe, a completely alfresco, but covered, dining spot where comforting breakfast items like cream cheese-stuffed challah French toast topped with strawberry compote and short rib hash reign supreme. If you prefer pastries for breakfast, stop by Amar Bakery which specializes in Mediterranean-inspired baked goods such as mini olive oil and lemon loaf cakes, za’atar and haloumi croissants, and spinach pies. They also serve locally-roasted Pumphouse Coffee.
You're in a coastal town, so waterfront dining is mandatory. Deck 84 sits on the intracoastal with views of the drawbridge and passing boats with fare like smoked fish dip and burgers. For a meal with fewer frills, Sandwiches by the Sea serves up hearty subs worthy of a beach picnic.
Dinnertime calls for something more elevated—nothing in Delray is ever too fussy, however—like the glitzy Elisabetta’s which counts brick oven-baked wild mushroom pizza and fried bread with ricotta and prosciutto among the standout options. Even in the heat, Delray mainstay Dada, offers respite in its eclectic dining room within in a 1920s house. Outside, a sprawling patio graced by a stately banyan tree makes an ideal spot to enjoy jalapeño agave-glazed salmon alongside a fruity mojito (start with the strawberry basil).
Delray may be even more lively at night thanks to music venues such as Tin Roof and Johnnie Brown’s, where you’ll hear anything from Mo Town classics to classic rock. The Arts Garage, located within the Pineapple Grove Arts District, has comedy performances in addition to live music. And ending the night with a scoop of stracciatella at Gelato & Co. is always a good choice.
New hotels in Delray Beach
It's hard to beat the recently renovated (in 2022) Seagate Hotel & Spa for upscale accommodations that still manage to feel intimate on busy Atlantic Avenue. The lobby of the 154-room property sets the tone with soothing neutral accents while the recently renovated rooms are bright and airy with spacious balconies. Tropical trees surround the pool, lending to its secluded ambiance, and it's only a 10-minute walk from the beach. Guests also have access to the hotel’s private beach club with its own pool and restaurant.
For more of a resort vibe, the Opal Grand, a beachfront property that was renovated in 2021, has coastal-hued rooms, an expansive pool with ocean views, and a forthcoming roof deck. While you probably opt to only dine at the hotel, it comprises a cocktail bar, posh seafood restaurant, and a pool-adjacent alfresco bar making it easy to do so if you wanted. It’s an upscale family-friendly option with plenty of space to spread out whether that’s in a poolside cabana or a villa with a kitchenette.
The Ray Hotel, a recent addition to Delray, opened in 2021 and presents a modern alternative befitting the Pineapple Grove Arts District with living walls, sculptures, and a chic rooftop pool. It's further inland, about a mile from the beach, but ideal for those who like details such as chilled towels at the gym and swanky hotel dining. The crown jewel of the dining options, Akira Black allures with a Japanese and Korean-inspired menu by the eponymous chef who was born in Seoul.