Life is better at the beach. But which one is best? There’s more than just South Beach to choose from. Pick a place for fun in the sun thatfits your vibe.
For Sun-Loving Fans of Au Naturel: Haulover Beach, Miami
Although it is theonly legal nude beach in Florida (since 1991), only part of the mile and a half stretch of Haulover Beach is internationally famous as clothing-optional. The north end is clearly marked to alert the unsuspecting to the lack of bikinis and swimming trunks, and nudists to the luxury of no clothes. A low fence gives a clear shot for previewing the bold and the beautiful in the buff before you take the plunge.
Why go bare? Not all naked sunbathers and swimmers are exhibitionists. Most just revel in the feel of saltwater, sun, and sand on skin.
Must bring: mirrored sunglasses, an oversized beach towel,a cool cover-up and high SPF sunscreen, especially for sensitive places.
Amenities: lifeguards on duty, chairs to rent, as well as a concession cart. Cover-ups are mandatory to use the shady picnic facilities, to rent a bike, or shop for kites across the street from Haulover Park.
Hot Tip: There will, of course, be gawkers. Nude does not mean lewd, however. Sex on the Beach is just the name of a drink here.
Details: Parking is $6 per vehicle; there are pedestrian tunnels under Collins Avenue from the parking lot. Haulover Beach Park,10800 Collins Ave.,Miami Beach. www.miamidade.gov/parks/haulover.asp; www.hauloverbeach.org
For the Fam: Deerfield Beach
Lined by souvenir shops and swimwear friendly restaurants, a long fishing pier, and – most important – public showers and bathrooms, as well as shade, Deerfield Beachmakes for a perfect family day at the beach. Children in the sand bucket brigade are thrilled anywhere they can dig big holes that fill with water. But when that gets boring, take them on a walk on the long wooden pier (paying $1 to go through the gate is part of the charm) where they can witness fish tales in the making. The surf’s often up on Deerfield Beach, which makes it fun to try and catch a wave, or watch the surfers glide along the surface. Hotly contested volleyball games are on the north side of the pier.
Amenities: When appetites kick in, you need food fast, but don’t have to settle for fast food. Hit Deerfield Beach Cafénext to the fishing pier for an early breakfast on the terrace. Scamper from the waves to Flanigan’s across the street from the beach and eat lunch on the outside patio in your swimsuits. Over 21?Take turns heading to the beachfrontPatio Bar & Grill at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resortfor a break. (The tuna tacos with homemade fajita chips are insanely good.) A mile-long wide sidewalk provides a runway for strollers when it’s time to get a baby down for a nap. On the way back to your car, visit Wings Beachwearfor fun souvenirs like shells and shark teeth, t-shirts and beach wraps. Cool off at Kilwin’swith an ice cream cone.
Details: If you arrive early you might be able to find metered parking along the beach. Otherwise there is a pay by license plate lot across from the beach, and a parking garage a block off the beach. 200 NE 21st Ave., Deerfield Beach.www.deerfield-beach.com
For the Watersport and Workout Enthusiast: Delray Beach
When people think of Delray Beach, they get stuck on Atlantic Avenue. But the famed strip of Atlantic Avenue – shop hopping, stumbling over chairs and tables on the sidewalk at endless restaurants, heavy traffic, the bridge – doesn’t give a hint of what lies beyond the sea grapes at the end of the road. Sandy paths transition to one of the Atlantic Coast’s widest, most beautiful beaches with talcum-powder, white sand. From doing your morning sun salutation on the beach to surfing, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and more, you’ll find a ton of fun activities to keep you fit while enjoying the sand and surf.
Skip Atlantic Avenue altogether, except for emergency food runs. Further south, park on A1A or in the Anchor Park lot and enter the beach around Casuarina. One of the first things beach goers notice is 8 volleyball courts that need no reservations. Just stand by the court and yell “Next!”
Amenities:Delray Beach Watersports Rentalsis in the same vicinity as the volleyball courts. Here you can rent a 1- or 2-man kayak, windsurf equipment, surfboards, paddleboards, even snorkels. Behind that concession, up near the sea grapes, you can rent Hobie sailboats, bikes, and book a kitesurfing lesson.
There are no food concessions on the beach, but with four restaurants at A1A and Atlantic Avenue – Boston’s, 50 Ocean, the Sandbar, Burger Fi,Pizza Rusticaand other dining venues within a block or two – you won’t go hungry.
Details: Metered parallel parking along A1A and lots at Sandoway and Anchor Parks; municipal lot just north of Atlantic Ave adjacent to Marriott Hotel. www.mydelraybeach.com; www.delraybeachwatersports.com
For Champagne Tastes on a Beer Budget: Palm Beach
Half the fun of hanging out at the public beach in ritzy Palm Beach is getting there. One of the most scenic stretches of A1A is between Delray Beach and Palm Beach. You go from the funky trailer park at Briny Breezes to trees knitted together over the road to form a leafy canopy. As you drive
north the landscaping becomes art, with precise boxy shrubs, or flowing curved shrubs, patterns on gate walls, and cutaways that allow a brief glimpse into the mysterious world of Mediterranean Revival style mansions. Even the water gets more turquoise, as if the Caribbean Sea had been imported to surround Palm Beach island. In short, Palm Beach’s beach is gorgeous.
Amenities: Of course, the super rich have their own beaches, and wealthy travelers stay at The Breakers. Still, you will find locals and visitors promenading the wide sidewalk or taking a break from shopping on Worth Avenue, which is just south of the public beach. The sunset strolling hour is a time to check out who is in town – especially during The Season.
Give Worth Avenue a whirl for maximum exposure.If you are into consignment shopping, Palm Beach is renowned for it:Check out Classic Collections, Church Mouse, or Goodwill Embassy Boutique for you could score half price Prada. Foodies with money to burn favor Bice,Buccan, Brazilian Court, or The Circle at the Breakersfor a high-end dining experience.
Details: There is metered parking via kiosks for $2-5 an hour, as well as free 2-hour parking on streets. No bathroom facilities.
For Nature Lovers: John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach
The 800 acres of John D. MacArthur Beach State Parkat the end of Singer Islandare what Florida looked like before high rises, strip malls, I-95 and the Turnpike – before concrete. A jungle like entrance, marine hammock of dense vegetation, estuary, and broad stretch of pristine beach provide a magically primeval environment. The scurrying lizard “dinosaurs,” orb weaver spider webs, and a lagoon full of fish, birds, crabs, and other marine life are a world apart. Sixteen hundred feet down the boardwalk that crosses the estuary is an uncrowded 2-mile beach for shelling, turtle spotting, and imagining the sands of Western Sahara on the opposite shore.
Amenities: Nature has provided a limestone reef for snorkeling off the beach. You might see stingrays, sand sharks, barracudas, eels, horseshoe crabs. Thousands of turtles nest here, including the endangered loggerhead,green sea turtles and the rare leatherback.
Kayak rentals allow exploration of the mangrove lagoon, where you might see manatees. Binocular rentals are available to observe peregrine falcons circling, wood storks, and terns. Jam at the bluegrass music concerts the second and third Sundays of the month in the amphitheater.
Details:No lifeguards. Wear rubber soled swim shoes. Admission is $5 per car. There is a shuttle between 10am and 3pm for those who don’t want to make the walk to the beach. 10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach. www.floridstateparks.gov; www.macarthurbeach.org