Last updated on June 23rd, 2022 at 11:33 am
With palm trees lining its grassy berm and popular beach walk, Deerfield Beach has one of South Florida’s most scenic beaches with low-rise condos, contained commercial development and modest hotel presence.
The beach’s golden sand and gentle slope with near-shore reefs makes it a magnet for snorkeling, paddle boards and surfing. Beach-area businesses retain their Old Florida charm, a classic mix of restaurants and souvenir shops.
Deerfield Beach is an oasis in the middle of Southeast Florida’s urbanized oceanfront.
The main beach in Deerfield, where you’ll find the highest concentration of people, is centered on the main beach parking lot on Ocean Way, south of the fishing pier.
Surfers and paddle boards are restricted to the beach on the north side of the pier, where you’ll also find seven beach volleyball courts, often the scene of amateur and semi-pro tournaments. Overlooking this beach are two restaurants with outdoor bars and dining.
The most popular area for snorkelers and divers is a little north of the pier on Turtle Beach, where divers can access a reef and a wreck a few hundred feet offshore. The closest parking is at the North Beach Pavilion, but get there early if you want a spot.
The paver beach walk starts at the North Beach Pavilion and extends three miles south past the pier, along the Main Beach to the South Beach and the Embassy Suites at the town’s southern border.
South Beach is the most scenic area with its groomed dune vegetation and is considerably less crowded but devoid of nearby restaurants and bars you’d find near the pier.
The beach walk is lined with benches and covered pavilions with picnic tables, and the South Beach area has restrooms and observation patios overlooking the beach. Clusters of trees on the south beach provide idyllic space to spend your day reading a book in peace. Bring a lawn chair.
There is parallel parking along most of the length of the beach walk, and five public parking lots near the beach and a 360-space parking garage two blocks from the pier on State Road A1A.
Rambler Tip: If the main beach is too crowded and parking difficult, or you just want a quiet place in the sun, keep driving south on Ocean Way to the less-crowded South Beach.
The Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier
The Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier juts 976 feet into the Atlantic Ocean with views of the coast from Boca Raton south to the lighthouse at Hillsboro Inlet. The fee for sightseers is $2. The fee for all-day fishing is $4.
Rod rentals are available at the pier concession for $18 per day. The concession also sells fresh and frozen bait, tackle, fishing accessories, ice, and t-shirts.
The most frequent catches from the pier are mutton snapper, bonito, blue runner, mangrove snapper and pompano.
For a view of the undersea life, visit the live underwater web cam mounted on a pier piling.
The neighborhood around the fishing pier retains an Old Florida beach town vibe with a 21st Century touch as new restaurants and cafes sprout up along the beach walk. Moderately priced fare, including breakfast, can be had at the Deerfield Beach Pier Cafe. Higher-end dining is available at the oceanfront Oceans 234, JB’s on the Beach and Cafe Med, all of which are accessible from the beach walk and offer indoor and outdoor seating.
But the best chow for my buck is found at the Whale’s Rib Raw Bar, a local favorite just down the street from the pier. The same block includes an eclectic cluster of restaurants, bars, beach gear and souvenir shops and a 360-space public parking garage.
Paddle to Deerfield Island Park
Truly a hidden gem.
Wedged between Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton, Deerfield Island Park is a 50-acre undeveloped spoil island with canals on all three sides. The only way you can get there is by boat. A free shuttle runs from Sullivan Park every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Paddlers can kayak to the island, launching from the boat ramp at Pioneer Park at 217 NE 5th Ave. into the Hillsboro Canal. Paddle downstream (East) about a half-mile to the island.
There’s a small marina on the north side of the island, but boaters can access sandy beaches on otherwise inaccessible portions of the island.
The island has nature trails, observation decks, a picnic area with shelters and rest rooms.
A fish packing house across the Hillsboro Canal from what is now Deerfield Island Park was reportedly used by gangster Al Capone as a gambling casino, brothel and shipping point for illegal booze during Prohibition.
In 1930, the 52-acre island was purchased by attorney Vincent G. Giblin for Al Capone to use and build a private home.
Capone was arrested for tax evasion in 1932 and the home was never built. The name Capone Island stuck. It wasn’t until 1955 that the island became Deerfield Island Park.
The casino on the mainland would later become the Riverview Restaurant, a popular eatery that closed in 1995 and was demolished after suffering hurricane damage. The site is now a city park where you can catch the ferry to Deerfield Island Park.
Related article: Urban paddle: Backyards of the 1%
Quiet Waters Park
Deerfield Beach is blessed with a 430-acre regional park with three lakes, one featuring a popular water park with slides, fountains and beach. Another lake is the site of a challenging cable water-ski concession, and the third accommodates paddlers in canoes, kayaks and standup paddle boards.
Picnic areas, some with shelters, are scattered throughout the park, most on the banks of the paddle lake.
A rent-a-tent campground with two teepees and 10-by-10 canvas walled tents holds down a peninsula between two lakes, all with lake views. Each campsite has 20-amp electric, a fire ring, charcoal grill and picnic tables.
The park also features a paved multi-use trail that weaves from one end of the park to the other, and a back-country mountain bike trail that is well maintained.
Rambler tip: Quiet Waters has a fenced dog park near the canoe/kayak concession.
Riding a bike in Deerfield Beach
Ocean Way is a comfortable and safe three-mile ride along the beach, and even though you share the road with vehicles, the traffic is one-way south and very slow. The beach walk is off limits to bicycles.
A bike lane runs the length of the city’s main drag, Hillsboro Boulevard, but it’s too narrow to be safe in my opinion.
Serious riders extend their rides south on A1A through scenic canopy of Hilllsboro Beach and north through Boca Raton, but A1A is narrow and, in my opinion, too dangerous.
The city’s premier destination for bicycles is Quiet Waters Park, which has 7 miles of trails, a multi-use paved trail that weaves through the park alongside the lakes and a well-maintained mountain bike trail that skirts through the park’s back country. There is a $5 fee to ride the mountain bike trail.
A really fun, scenic and adventurous ride is 10 miles west of Deerfield atop the levees along the edge of the Everglades. For access, go all the way west on Hillsboro Boulevard through Coconut Creek and Parkland, turning left at the end onto Loxahatchee Road, to the south gate of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Park in the refuge parking lot and you can bicycle 20+ miles in any direction on the three levees that converge there. These multi-use trails are unpaved but reasonably smooth and well-maintained.
Occasionally, you may encounter an alligator sunning itself or crossing the trails. It’s unlikely bother you if you don’t bother them. Give them a wide berth until they move along. For me, the alligators and 275 species of birds that reside here only enhance your experience.
eBikes are permitted on the levees at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge and the paved multi-use trail at Quiet Waters Park. The mountain bike trail at Quiet Waters is currently off limits to eBikes. Otherwise, state law allows eBikes anywhere a traditional bike is allowed. A license tag is not required.
Related article: Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge: Window to the Everglades
Places to eat in Deerfield Beach
Deerfield Beach is blessed with a full slate of dining opportunities. Cuisines range from traditional American to Peruvian, Columbian, Thai and Vietnamese. Here are a few of our favorites:
Whale’s Rib Raw Bar. A rustic seafood restaurant and raw bar with sidewalk seating. My all-time favorite. 2031 NE 2nd Street (A1A). Phone: 954-421-8880.
JB’s on the Beach. Colorful beach atmosphere with outdoors bar and beachfront dining. Great destination for out-of-town guests. 300 North Ocean Drive (A1A). Phone: 954-571-5220.
Ocean’s 234. A pricier choice with excellent food. Industrial design. Next door to JB’s with outdoor patio dining on the beach walk. 234 North Ocean Drive (A1A). Phone: 954-428-2539.
Near the beach
The Cove Shopping Center, across the Intracoastal Waterway from the beach, offers a variety of restaurants appealing to a multitude of tastes. Our top picks:
The Cove. A lively destination with dockside dining and tiki bar on the Intracoastal Waterway. Seafood focus. Friday Happy Hour is a big draw. Phone: 954-421-9272.
Patrizia’s of New York. A new addition and our new favorite. Moderately priced, industrial decor. Italian cuisine with a twist. Phone: 954-751-9797
Le Val de Loire. Moderately priced French restaurant and bakery for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Cozy dining room with sidewalk seating. Cafe menu features coffees, teas and, of course, yummy pastries. Affordable wine selection. Phone: 954-427-5354.
Muddy Waters. Key West themed casual dining with outdoor patio. Focus is seafood with raw bar specials, but the juicy burgers may be the best in town. 2237 West Hillsboro Blvd. Phone: 954-428-6577
Olympia Flame Diner. Traditional diner once featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show when local celebrity Suze Orman worked the counter. Typical Greek diner fare, moderately priced and tasty. 80 South Federal Highway (U.S. 1). Phone: 954-480-8402
Little Havana. Above average Cuban restaurant with a deep Latin menu. Really good food at budget prices and the servings are ample. 721 South Federal Highway (U.S. 1). Phone: 954-427-6000
Places to Stay in Deerfield Beach
The most popular hotels are on the beach, of course. There are a dozen small mom-and-pop motels a block off the beach and several brand-name inland hotels within easy driving distance. Here are our top oceanfront picks:
Wyndam Deerfield Beach Resort. Oceanfront hotel at the pier with a very good restaurant and a popular patio bar. Easy access to restaurants and shopping. 206 NE 2nd Street (Ocean Way) Rated 9/10 by Hotels.com.
Embassy Suites. Oceanfront hotel on quiet South Beach featuring a restaurant, pool and a pool bar. Great location for a laid-back visit and avoiding crowded beaches. 950 Ocean Drive. Rated 8/10 on Hotels.com.
Royal Blues Hotel. Upscale boutique hotel on the oceanfront near the pier. Three luxury suites and nine guest rooms with balconies. Restaurant and bar on premises. 45 NE 21st Avenue at the corner of Ocean Way). Rated 9.6/10 on Hotels.com
If you use the Hotels.com links above to make your reservations, Florida Rambler may receive a modest commission. You can also book your room directly through the hotel with the hotel-name links for which we receive no compensation. Here’s a a complete list of Deerfield Beach hotels on Hotels.com.
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.