The amount of small beach towns along the Florida Coast is huge. Seriously, they seem to just blend into each other to become one large generic beach town. However, if you want to do a little more while you are visiting South Florida I think it’s worth checking out any of the towns along the shore. They each have their own personality and unique vibe. Delray Beach has a great almost bohemian vibe that I think it well worth checking out!
A History of Delray Beach
It’s actually difficult to remember that most of South Florida was once a swampy, unfriendly to humans patch of land almost no one wanted. However for along time there was no one here but Seminole Indians trying hard to live life away from the control of the US government and escaped slaves or freedmen. As late as 1841 the only documented human inhabitants of the area where the City of Delray Beach now sits is military map that noted a Seminole encampment near what is now Lake Ida. By 1843 the war was over and the surviving Seminoles were forcibly relocated to Mississippi or escaped further south to the Everglades. The United States now had full control of the territory and in 1845 it became the state of Florida.
An Unwanted Territory
By 1845 there was a small settlement of African American families living in the area and by 1895 it had grown large enough to petition the government for a school. The land they lived on was owned by white families and in 1896 the first “official” town was established and named after the landowner William Linton. The town of Linton grew steadily for the next few years with the establishment of several churches and another school for whites. In 1898 William Linton defaulted on his loans and the town was renamed “Delray”.
Getting the Economy Going
The town continued to grow with new churches, a library, cemetery and even a town hall. The population of southeastern Florida was still tiny with only a few thousand people in the entire area. This began to change in 1904 when a group of Japanese settlers arrived in the area and established a colony south of Delray. These men were recruited by the industrialist Henry Flagler in an effort to jump start economic development. Jo Sakai, the leader, named the colony “Yamato,” Soon the men were joined by their wives, children, friends and relatives.
Yamato Leaves a Legacy
The residents of Yamato became integeral members of the Delray community and their children attended High School in Delray. George Morikami was one of the later settlers and he donated more than 200 acres to the city and it now houses the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Henry Flagler’s interests lay in getting the rail system going which required goods and people to transport, his efforts were successful and the area began to grow. By WWI the area was just beginning to come into its own with a land boom that is reflected in 1920’s architecture that can still be found throughout the city.
A Snapshot of “Old Delray”
If you want to see what Delray Beach might have looked like back in the day or like me you like to envision what it might be like to live in every place you visit (every single place) take a visit to Del-Ida Park. The homes are built in the Mediterranean Revival and Craftsman Bungalow styles. Originally established in 1923 this residential neighborhood is one of Delray’s first planned developments. Its charming!
Fun and Food!
I had to research a local coffee shop because I do sooooo love a good cup of freshly roasted beans. There are not a ton of options but you are in luck in Delray Beach. Subculture Coffee offers some lovely roasts, baked treats and the coffee shop itself is a lovely quiet nook to camp out in if you need to answer a few emails before you jump into your day of sightseeing and beach walking.
Wander up a bit from Subculture and park your car whereever you can find. We parked just on the other side of the train tracks because we were headed across the street to The Silverball Museum. “Museum” might seem like a stuffy, wander around and look but don’t touch kind of place. Don’t be fooled, this is a hands on place full of fun for EVERYONE. As a matter of fact on the day we were there we spotted a family with their kids, a group of biker looking guys playing with real intensity and more than a few couples on a date. The museum is FULL of pinball machines dating all the way back to the 1950’s.
The cost of admission allows you to play on any machine or all of the machines (whatever you wanna do!) I am not much of a video game person, but I LOVE pinball. Its fun to see the graphics and technology evolve with the times but fundamentally you are bouncing a silverball around. Its really shocking how simple the game is, but its so much fun! There are two full bars on the premises along with food options (but don’t eat there, you’ve got to leave some space for lunch at one of the many fun restaurants nearby!) Enjoy all the vintage signage, midway games and of course the pinball and when you are ready head on out to enjoy the rest of the strip.
You have lots of options for ice cream on this little stretch of road but we stopped for a nice scoop of Gelato at Gelato-Go. A South Florida franchise opened by two Italians in 2013. Their Delray Beach location had just been open a few weeks when we stopped in for a scoop. They make their gelato fresh daily with ingredients like pistachios and hazelnuts sourced straight from Italy. I gotta say, their italian recipes and made-fresh daily approach does pay off. The gelato was delicious!
Once you have crossed the bridge the shops actually thin out a bit and there are more businesses and hotels. Which seems a bit counter intuitive, but it makes sense. That beach-side life isn’t cheap! The beach is your usual Florida beach, well manicured, white sand ready for fun! The day we were there it was quite windy, perfect for wind surfing or just a stroll down to the water.
Lunch errr Dinner… Linner?
As we headed back we were starving. We decided to make a stop for a quick bite and maybe a cocktail. There are so many options, pizza, burgers, seafood (of course!) Whatever you might be in the mood for really. We finally decided to stop at Park Tavern. It was crowded, looked like a comfy spot and offered lots of opportunity to sight see. I think we made a good choice. The service was good, the food we picked was super tasty and my cocktail was really quite good. A touch sweet for me, BUT perfect once I added some sparkling water. (To be fair, gin and tonics are quite sweet!). The french onion dip was exactly what you would expect it to be, onion-y and tangy, just what we wanted and the smoked fish dip was delicious. A perfect little snack/lunch to get us to dinner!