Delray Beach, a Gem Dandy
The South Florida beach town keeps getting better.
The Delray Beach Marriott on A1A is the only hotel in town that faces the ocean.
MARRIOTT: DELRAY BEACH MARRIOTT
Seagate guests can enjoy the use of the hotel’s private beach club
I have spent extended weekends on 14 named beaches up and down Florida’s east and west coasts, sinking my toes in white sand stretching from the Panhandle to Naples on the Gulf and watching the surf break from Amelia Island to Key Biscayne on the Atlantic side. But there are just a few beaches that I would return to any time I got the chance to take a long weekend, and Delray Beach tops that group, East Coast division.
Waves? Got ’em, big and clear blue like the sky above. Luxury resorts? Two beauts, the oceanfront Delray Beach Marriott and the nearby Seagate Hotel and Spa. Restaurants? All kinds, beachfront and on The Avenue, Delray’s main hangout (think Park Avenue), as well as in the Pineapple Grove arts district just off The Ave., with nary a chain to be seen. Shops? Boutiques and galleries aplenty. Bring a pair of comfortable shoes because this is a walkable urban-style beach town, casual and chic at the same time.
The real charm of Delray is it remains a hidden gem, though that status soon may not apply as it continues to attract attention. Delray Beach has stepped up its game the last five years, aspiring to be considered a first-class destination. But its humble ambience is still a refreshing contrast to blue-blooded West Palm Beach, 20 minutes north, and hedonistic South Beach, 90 minutes farther south on I-95.
It almost pains me to broadcast how great Delray Beach is for a long weekend. I’m planning another trip (my fourth in six years) there this summer, and, well, I still want it to remain off the beaten path.
Where to Stay
It’s tough to choose between the DELRAY BEACH MARRIOTT (marriottdelraybeach.com) and THE SEAGATE HOTEL AND SPA (theseagatehotel.com), so flip a coin. You can’t lose. Both offer spacious contemporary rooms and suites, and many of the amenities you’d find at 5-star flags, like luxury spas and expertly trained staffs. The Marriott’s drive-up portico and grand lobby will immediately impress, as will its location directly across from the beach. It’s the only hotel on Delray facing the ocean, and the pool is party central on the weekends. The British-Bahamian-style Seagate is on The Ave., two blocks off the beach, but it has a private beach club with a pool and restaurant. You are chauffeured there and back in a luxury vehicle. The hotels’ interior décor is ocean-inspired, with saltwater aquariums in common areas and the signature restaurant, Atlantic Grille. Its guest rooms are big and plush, with large bathrooms. Both resorts offer bargain packages in the summer.
Outdoor dining is just one of the things to do on The Avenue, Delray’s main drag
Where to Dine
The recently opened 50 OCEAN (50ocean.com) on the second floor of the popular hangout BOSTON’S ON THE BEACH (bostonsonthebeach.com) is creating a lot of buzz. With floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Atlantic, 50 Ocean guests enjoy views of the surf while dining on fresh seafood. On The Ave., THE OFFICE (theofficedelray.com) remains a favorite of mine. It’s a concept gastropub that’s looks sort of like an office and kind of like a bookstore. Whatever, it’s a lively place, and the food is delicious. Get the Prime Office Cheeseburger ($16), and order a craft beer to wash it down. The Seagate’s ATLANTIC GRILLE (theseagatehotel.com) is an upscale dining option with a happening bar scene. In Pineapple Grove, an urban arts district just off The Avenue, MAX’S HARVEST (maxsharvest.com) is wowing foodies with its “farm to fork” philosophy that embraces freshness and eschews the use of growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids in meats.
The Office gastropub on The Avenue serves a great burger and offers a wide selection of craft beers.
50 Ocean on A1A offers beach views (left) and creative seafood cuisine (right).