For a state with so much beachfront, it is shocking how few Florida coastal communities have Victorian style waterfront boardwalks, complete with restaurants, souvenir shops, and amusements. Excluding inland lake frontages (WDW’s Boardwalk) and river-walks like the new one in Tampa, here are my favorites.
The 2.5 mile 1925 terracotta-colored Hollywood Beach Boardwalk is still special and unique. It caters more to nostalgia and is more adult-oriented as a beachfront. Some of its long time restaurants like the Sugar Reef Grill and Istanbul are popular with people who remember the debut of “Where The Boys Are.”
In the winter, armies of French-speaking Canadians give the beachfront a more cosmopolitan sound. Recently there was great fear that the Fall 2015 opening of the gigantic Margaritaville Resort, with its 349 rooms and music venue would overwhelm the old atmosphere and image of the Boardwalk.
The resort is getting great reviews and the people are still coming to the Boardwalk despite the loss of one of the site’s largest parking lot. Imagine this: in Florida they replace a parking lot with Jimmy Buffett.
My favorite “young family” boardwalk is the 1938 somewhat modernized Daytona Beach Boardwalk, even though a street separates the shops from the walkway and beach. A 1000 foot pier, fun arcades, mini go-carts, slingshot rides, and overpriced saltwater taffy reminds me of Atlantic City or Ocean City.
On the West Coast Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach makes the 1080 foot pier the focal point for a “Key West” style sunset, complete with stilt walkers, magicians and live music. You have to cross the street for the huge selection of restaurants and shops, although both ends of the park have large beachside resorts.
Waiting For The Sunset Rituals
I give half-credit to nearby Johns Pass Village and Boardwalk with its huge marina, complete with a pirate ship, loads of decent seafood restaurants, numerous festivals, and tourist shops. It’s only problem is it is not on the ocean directly, but on a pass a short walk to the Gulf of Mexico.
For a relaxing and low key boardwalk atmosphere, I top my hat toward Times Square at Fort Myers Beach, where good parking next to the pier, lots of live entertainment restaurants, and good shopping give visitors a good time.
Where-ever you vacation in Florida for old fashioned beachside fun.