Atlantic Dunes Park
1600 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach
561-27-BEACH (for beach conditions)
Did you know that the waters at Delray Beach are just a bit warmer because it is closer to the Gulf Stream than other South Florida beaches? Still, that is probably not what draws so many families (and tourists) to the beach in this area. The popularity of Delray's beaches may have more to do with the fact that they are extremely well kept, have lifeguards on duty, and are easily accessible with plenty of public metered parking available along A1A and in three public lots. And if you have driven down Atlantic Avenue lately, through Delray Beach's revitalized downtown, you know that the town is booming with activity, restaurants and shops.
For a quiet, family-friendly locale along the beach, check out Atlantic Dunes Park, one block north of Linton Boulevard. Michelle Davidson of Delray Beach says she and her family prefer this beach because it is "never crowded."
"We're always able to find a good spot near the water so we can watch the kids. There's lots of beach space, thanks to the beach renovation that took place not too long ago."
The park has other advantages, too. It features a boardwalk, nature trail, picnic tables and covered benches, as well as showers and restrooms. (If you go to the Delray Municipal Beach a little farther north, you will have to cross the street to use the restroom.)
The park is still close to the downtown area, as well as to the Sandoway House, a hands-on nature center that makes a great stop-off either before or after your beach visit.
One more note: If you opt for the Delray Municipal Beach, make sure to select a spot at either the south end or north end, where recreational activities are permitted. No ball throwing or beach games are allowed in the other areas.
Red Reef Park
1400 N. State Road A1A, Boca Raton
(Gumbo Limbo Nature Center)
Red Reef Park has been a favorite of the Kozar family of Boca Raton for nearly 20 years. Manola Kozar says she and her husband, Jim, came to the park early on in their marriage and then started bringing their son, James (now 16), when he was just 2 years old. What they love most about the beach are the artificial reefs found both in shallow and deeper waters along the shore.
"The best thing is that you have this reef where you can go snorkeling in shallow water and see hundreds of tropical fish and barracudas," Kozar said.
Children who are not ready to snorkel can still get close enough to stand in the shallow water and look at the fish. Young kids also enjoy watching and playing with the tiny crabs that inhabit the exposed rocks at the beach. Lifeguards are on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Red Reef Park has much more to offer, too. There are restrooms, shaded picnic tables, grills, play areas, and a playground. The boardwalk is a great place to observe plants and animal nature.
Just across the street is the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Education Center with a nature center, more nature trails, and ongoing programs that take place both at Gumbo Limbo and Red Reef Park.