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A woman strolls an entrance point to the beach in Delray Beach.

The Best Beach in Florida? Delray Beach Voted Number One

Scenic, natural, and accessible – these are just a few of the reasons Delay Beach was deservedly awarded “Best Beach in Florida” in USA TODAY’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

If there’s one thing Florida is known for, it’s sand, sun, and surf (okay, well, three things). With approximately 228 beaches – spanning roughly 835 miles along Florida’s coastline of straight stretches, gentle curves, and intricate inlets and islands – there is seemingly a swath of sand to be sought out around every corner. However, that doesn’t mean every beach is a best beach. In fact, there are only 10 golden crescents that get called out each year when they make the esteemed “Best Beach in Florida” list from USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards – many of them being located in Opal resort destinations, including Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island Beach, and Jupiter.

The number one-ranked Florida beach according to USA TODAY in 2024? The two-mile municipal beach in Delray Beach set along the southeast Atlantic Coast of Florida in Palm Beach County. “We knew we were being considered in the top 20,” says Laura Simon, executive director of Delray Beach’s Downtown Development Authority. “But to come out as number one – that was really exciting, and so well-deserved.”

Well-deserved, indeed. So what did it take for Delray to clinch the number one spot for best beach in Florida? Read on to find out.

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A lifeguard tower on Delray Beach in Florida.

Ever notice that there are no high rises or buildings along Delray’s public beach? “Much of the land our city sits on was previously owned by the pioneering Gleason Family during the nineteenth century – and that included the beach,” explains Simon. “In 1899, the Gleason sisters deeded the beach to the city, but only with the promise that it remain public and accessible for all, and never to be monetized or extensively developed.”

Delray has made good on that promise. In fact, the city has invested so much into keeping it scenic, natural, and accessible, the beach also recently earned a Blue Flag designation for the second year in a row (in 2023 and in 2024). Blue Flag is a prestigious globally-recognized status that means they’ve met stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria. To give you a sense of the enormity of that: It was the first of one of only two beaches in the U.S. to earn the award (the other beach is in Malibu, California).

Not to mention – thanks to a third party contracted by the city – that gorgeous golden sand is raked and graded each morning, promising a perfect canvas to stretch out and sunbathe.


Two kids run along the beach in Delray Beach, Florida.

One weekend, the water may be flat and calm, and the next, ruffled with chunky wind-swell waves that local surfers love. But one thing that is always consistent? The temperature of the water – which hovers around a comfy 73 degrees. “Because of where Delray Beach sits – very close to the Gulf Stream – the water is warmer and rarely sees shifts comparative to the more tidal intracoastal in Boynton Beach and Boca Raton,” says Simon.


The two-mile stretch of beach in Delray Beach, Florida, at sunset.

The beach is centered right at the east end of Atlantic Avenue, making it easy to go from the downtown scene to the beach in just a quick stroll. “It’s kind of like Delray’s ‘font yard,’” says Simon. “Not many cities in south Florida have a main street that close to the beach.”

In addition to that, it’s also one of Palm Beach County’s most wheelchair-accessible beaches – for several reasons. A boardwalk and 300-foot, hard-packed nature trail through the dunes is wheelchair accessible, plus a 50-foot-long Mobi-Mat (a portable non-slip wheelchair beach-access mat) extends the north end of the beach for up-close views of the water.

But the neatest feature? The city offers the use of free beach wheelchairs (known as “surf chairs”) on a first-come, first-served basis. “These specialized wheelchairs have oversized wheels designed to navigate through sand and uneven terrain,” says Simon. Available to borrow from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, all you have to do is meet at either Atlantic Dunes Park or lifeguard towers South 1, South 3, or South 5 and ask for one. There’s also handicap parking on A1A and a newly constructed accessible restroom at Sarah Gleason Park.


The art deco-inspired pavilion in Delray Beach, Florida.

While the beach lacks the high-rises and commercial development, it doesn’t skimp on facilities or amenities. Running parallel to the beach entrances is a recently widened seaglass-speckled sidewalk promenade, perfect for strolling, roller skating, and biking. An Art Deco-inspired beach pavilion – a replica of the original 1929 pavilion – is a lovely gathering space to take in ocean views under the shade of a standing-seam metal roof. Eight new retro-looking lifeguard stations (reminiscent of the kind of towers you’d see in Miami Beach) pepper the beach and are staffed by Ocean Rescue lifeguards are licensed emergency medical technicians 365 days a year. Not to mention, many of the beach entrances are equipped with bathrooms, showers; surf, bicycle and towel racks; and drinking fountains complete with bottle fillers.

Didn’t bring a beach chair? Not a problem. The city works with a third-party vendor to provide beach chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas for rent – simply sit down and the attendant will approach you. Three parks – Atlantic Dunes Park, Anchor Park, and Sandoway Park – offer playgrounds and picnic areas with easy access to the beach.


A family enjoys a beach day in Delay Beach, Florida.

“Surfing, volleyball, sailing, and kitesurfing are all very popular pastimes here,” explains Simon. “But these activities all have designated beach areas, so – if you’re here to purely rest and relax – you never feel bombarded. You don’t have to worry about a stray volleyball rolling into your beach picnic.”

There’s also an outfitter, Delray Beach Watersports (located half a mile south of Atlantic Avenue near Casuarina Road), where you can rent Hobie Cats, surfboards, snorkel gear, paddleboards and kayas right on the beach. In fact, it’s set only 150 yards away from the SS Inchulva (also known as “The Delray Wreck”), a 386-foot British steamship set in 15-foot-deep water that sunk in 1903. Now a popular dive site, it makes a great dive for both beginner and advanced snorkelers.  

But one of Simon’s favorite places to snorkel? About 200 yards out, past the Delray Wreck, you’ll find the ocean floor littered with sand dollars and star fish. “If you’re a strong snorkeler, it’s a great one,” she says. “I grew up here and this was how I used to love to spend my free time: diving for sand dollars.”

Other USA TODAY “Top 10 Beaches” in Opal Destinations

A sunny day on the sand at Clearwater Beach in Florida.

Number 4:

Clearwater Beach | Clearwater, FL

Having won “best beach in the country” in past years, Clearwater Beach is also a regular on this list for its sugary talc-white sand, calm turquoise waters, stunning sunsets, and family-friendly amenities.

Stay: Opal Sands Resort
Stay: Sandpearl Resort
The wide stretch of beach on Treasure Island, Florida, at sunset.

Number 5:

Treasure Island Beach | Treasure Island, FL

Known for its incredibly wide stretch of sparkling sand, Treasure Island Beach is clean, pristine, and perfect for families with gentle waters that lap the shore.

STAY: Treasure Island Beach Resort
The view of the beach in Jupiter, Florida from Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa.

Number 9:

Jupiter Beach Park | Jupiter, FL

The community of Jupiter offers a three-mile stretch of serene and secluded shoreline, including the picnic areas and shaded pavilions of Jupiter Beach Park.

Stay: Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa
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