We are so fortunate to have access to the free amenities that many Americans would be jealous of: the beach.
The beach is our sanctuary, our escape from the stress of work and home, our respite from the unforgiving sunshine with its (usually) gentle winds and swaying waves.
The problem is keeping it low cost. Almost every city charges parking now, and even those places can be hard to get to. You can bring your own food, but if you want to go to a restaurant, the prices are often exorbitant. And if you want to rent a bike or a pair of skis, the costs of our free shore excursion start to increase.
Here’s a handy guide to budget-conscious places to park and eat, as well as compromises that won’t spoil your budget. We can’t include every beach in South Florida, of course, but here’s a sample to help you plan a comfortable and affordable excursion from east to ocean (don’t forget your sunscreen).
This is not your beach if you want to get away from it all. Fort Lauderdale Beach remains a beloved national destination, crowded most of the time and excellent for people-watching. The beach has an extensive promenade on the east side of the A1A state road, and hotels, shops, outdoor bars, restaurants, and loud music on the west side; Choose the ambiance that suits you and go away.
parking: Metered parking near the beach costs $2-4 an hour, depending on where you’ve chosen. There is also Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, on State Road A1A north of Sunrise Boulevard, which charges $6 for the entire day. It offers several parking alternatives, including a free shuttle, Sun Trolley, which allows you to park inside and takes you out onto the sand. In Lauderdale-by-the-Sea to the north, fees range from 75 cents to $3 an hour.
food: For a classic Fort Lauderdale beach dining experience, head to Coconuts on the Intracoastal Waterway, where you can get peel and eat shrimp for $17 and $14 for a burger. If you’re in Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, a great option is Park & Ocean, a casual bar and café within the park. Their burger is $11.50 and the fish taco is $12.50.
For a doggy treat, check out the mermaid show at The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort (free if you spend $30 on food and drink).
Sun Sentinel entertainment writer Ben Crandell is a big fan of the North Beach Village neighborhood, near the Intracoastal south of Sunrise Boulevard, where he says, “The beach vibe of Old Florida has quietly managed to hold.” His favorite spot: Wine Garden, “One of the great hidden wine bars in South Florida.”
Rentals: You can rent almost any beach facility imaginable, including umbrellas, boats, bikes, and paddle boards. At American Watersports, the cost is $30 for an umbrella and two chairs and $35 for a cabana.
Hollywood Beach is best known for its Broadwalk, a 2.5-mile wide sidewalk walkway and bike path with an assortment of characters in colorful costumes or very little dressed. It’s fun seeing the old art deco bungalows right on the pier with sunbathing outside, the way they were before the apartment towers occupied invaluable space for people-watching. There are plenty of benches to rest and cafés to feel the breeze, or sit right on the sand with chairs and an umbrella in tow.
parking: The least expensive parking in town is at North Beach Yards, starting at about 3600 N. Ocean Drive: $2 an hour Monday through Thursday and $3 an hour Friday through Sunday. Otherwise, the garages of City Beach (300 Connecticut Street and 327 Nebraska Street), Beach Community Center (1300 blocks from South Surf Road and 1200 blocks from South Ocean Drive) and other lots are $3 an hour Monday through Thursday and $4 American per hour. hour from Friday to Sunday.
hollywoodfl.org (and search for “beach parking”)
food: At Let’s Eat, South Florida, the foodie’s Facebook group on Sun Sentinel, members have a lot to say in terms of recommendations. Among their suggestions: Rocco’s Pizza ($3 a slice), 205 Johnson Street; Istanbul ($12.95 for Chicken Kebab Sandwich), 707 North Broadwalk; and Pachamanka (variety of ceviches starting at $12), 321 Johnson St.
There’s also Le Tub, a popular dive bar a few minutes from the Intracoastal Waterway, which Mike Mayo, former food critic of Sun Sentinel, said often achieves “simple perfection in a burger.”
Rentals: Your least-expensive option if you want to tour the Broadwalk on a bike is the Hollywood Beach Trikke, 327 Johnson St.; $20 for three hours of bikes or skis. There’s also Sun & Fun Cycles, 1404 N. Broadwalk, which offers a base cruiser or sled for $10 an hour. Hollywood Beach Bike Shack, 101 N. Ocean Dr. Slightly more expensive at $15 an hour for the base bike.
sun and fun bikes
At Deerfield Beach, you can find a spot in the sand, fish from the pier, stroll along the widening pier and grab some lunch, all in a small area. There are also volleyball courts, tiki shade huts, reefs for snorkeling, and grassy areas with ocean-view benches.
parking: For city-owned meters and lots near the beach, you’ll pay $2-4 an hour, depending on the time of day and location.
food: Stroll the crowded restaurant strip along Northeast Second Street; Options include pizza, burgers, burritos, and plenty of seafood. The Whale’s Rib has been around for nearly 40 years and premiered on the Food Network in 2009. It’s best known for its raw bar and whale fries ($7.99), which are served with a honey mustard dipping sauce that patrons call “liquid crack.”
Rentals: The Oceanside Beach Service charges daily rates of $20 for a lounge chair and $30 for an umbrella. You can also fish at the 976-foot International Fishing Pier; It’s $2 entry for non-residents and $4 for hunting. Rod rents are $18 plus a $25 refundable cash deposit. There are many shops where you can rent a bike. Try Fun Rentals, right in the beachy downtown, which offers scooters, or super buggies, for $89 for four hours, plus bikes and scooters.
Drive east to the end of trendy Atlantic Avenue and you’ll hit the water. The city expanded its 1.3-mile beach boardwalk in 2019, and it’s spacious and clean. There is a large covered balcony to feel the breeze in the shade. For a unique South Florida experience, walk to Sandoway Discovery Center, 142 S. Ocean Blvd. , an authentically restored 1930s home that now serves as a nature center, with live shark feeding, live corals, a pristine seashell collection, and an assortment of invertebrates that visitors are allowed to touch.
parking: If you go early enough, you may be able to get a space right on Ocean Boulevard. The cost is $1.50 per hour for up to 3 hours from 8am-8pm and public beachfront placements are $1.50 per hour, 9am-9pm. Beach to walk with all your beach gear. However, you can take a free on-demand, electric-powered shuttle called FreeBee from one of the three downtown garages to the beach.
food: Cross Ocean Boulevard from the beach and there are a variety of restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and T-shirt shops. A perennial favorite is Boston’s on the Beach, 40 S. Ocean Blvd. Located a little further west on Atlantic Avenue, Pizza Rustica has plenty of pizza options, including the “Four Pigs” (ham, pepperoni, sausage, and bacon, $6.95 for personal size), there’s also sandwiches by the sea, and it’s a small café Beautiful with lighter options ($7.75). For ice cream, indulge in a creamy cone from Ben & Jerry’s; They have vegan sorbet and ice cream now, although my favorite flavor is still Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz! ($5 per scoop).
Rentals: Oceanside Beach Service chair rentals, which include two padded chairs and a canopy, cost $50 per day (“simply sit down and the host will approach you,” according to the website.) Delray Beach Watersports, in a beach trailer at the Casuarina Road junction, rents surfboards on Water for $15 an hour, bike cruisers for $20, kayaks for $30, and sailboats for $90 to $140, depending on size.