Photo: EQRoy/Shutterstock

Take the Train Between These Two South Florida Cities for a Car-Free Seaside Escape

Travel Train Travel
by Molly O'Brien May 3, 2024

South Florida hosts abundant outdoor fun and active adventures. That’s in addition to its notably vibrant nightlife scenes, consistently sunny skies, and seemingly endless beach destinations. Thing is, I-95 can be a nightmare of congestion and parking is rarely free near the beach. For those who don’t want to be tied to a rental car during their getaway, Florida’s Tri Rail train service takes travelers from Miami to West Palm Beach and makes stops in many spots along the way. Here’s how to plan an epic vacation in two major SoFla cities — Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach — two walkable destinations with reliable public transit-equipped, sans car.

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Start your journey in Fort Lauderdale — a city known for the arts, shopping, and dining

las olas boulevard in fort lauderdale

Photo: Jillian Kain Photography/Shutterstock

The Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach areas are easy to navigate even without your own automobile wheels. If it’s too far to walk, use the circuit service in Fort Lauderdale and the Freebee service in Delray Beach. Both on-demand app-based services will get you around town at a lower cost than a rideshare service.

Sailing through Fort Lauderdale’s 300 miles of waterways and canals via the city’s Water Taxi Service from 10 AM through 10 PM daily is a relaxing, unique way to explore the city from a beautiful setting. The captains and crew onboard operate like tour guides, offering insider local insight into the area while you’re gliding along the water (and many of these highlighted sights can only be seen by boat!).

These covered boats arrive approximately every 35 to 45 minutes at each stop, traveling northbound and southbound between 20 stops in the city — including popular destinations like the shops and restaurants on Las Olas Boulevard, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, and a few waterfront bars and restaurants perfect for a sunset dining and drinking experience. Choose between a few ticket pass types, including the full-day pass for $40, a reduced-price evening pass, and the multi-day pass.

Wander down Las Olas Boulevard, an east-west running street that runs all the way to the beach and serves as one of the most popular shopping and dining districts in Fort Lauderdale. This palm-tree-lined street and promenade is very walkable, making it a great place to spend an afternoon stopping into shops and exploring on foot. Stop into one of the cute fashion boutiques or grab a bite at one of the bustling sidewalk cafes. Admire the artwork at one of the local galleries, or grab a drink in one of the buzzy bars.

fort lauderdale water taxi

Photo: Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock

For an unparalleled wellness experience, the 4,000-square-foot Conrad Spa at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach. The standout personalized service alone might be enough reason to embark on a restorative journey here — but the deliciously recharging treatments certainly make it worth spending an afternoon indulging in self-care.

Visitors can choose from various treatments, from body wraps to facials, massages, couples treatments, and nail services inspired by the natural elements in the oceanfront environment. Pre- and post-treatment, use the locker room area’s rainfall showers and steam rooms. There’s also an indoor relaxation lounge with fresh, healthy snacks and drinks (including bubbly). While on-site, spa guests can also enjoy the resort’s amenities like the pool, hot tubs, and high-tech fitness center.

Outdoor adventure lovers – or those seeking a serene escape – should visit Hugh Taylor Birch State Park (known informally as Fort Lauderdale’s “Central Park”), which is located steps away from the beach and a great place to hike, bike, fish, kayak, or just sit down and relax in the fresh air with a picnic. It’s even accessible via the water taxi service.

For some insight into the area’s history, visit Bonnet House Museum & Gardens tucked away along Fort Lauderdale Beach along the miles of modern-day beachfront development. Across more than 35 acres of breathtaking natural beauty, visitors can embark on a self-guided or guided tour of the property, which includes the main house, outdoor spaces, and grounds showcasing the distinguished albeit mysterious Bartlett family’s history and eclectic belongings — including prized artwork like paintings, sculptures, and floral collections.

Where to dine in Fort Lauderdale

conrad hotel fort lauderdale

Photo: Felix Mizioznikov /Shutterstock

Grab a coffee and a pastry at the Instagrammable Ann’s Florist & Coffee Bar, and wander around inside, admiring the adorable floral-themed goodies and beautiful bouquets at the on-site shop. Be sure to try out the “sparkling wine vending machine” for a special and fun experience.

At Louie Bossi’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria on Las Olas, dive into one of the in-house, daily-made pasta dishes, bread, gelato, pastries, or cookies. If the weather is nice, grab a seat on the back patio, bursting with fresh flowers and surrounded by exposed brick facades, making the dining experience feel like a real trip to Italy.

For upscale Italian fare in a breezy, elegant environment, stop by Vitolo at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, which aims to blend old-world culinary traditions with a modern South Florida spirit. This ocean-adjacent restaurant serves a range of exquisite dishes like fresh burrata, pizza, and seafood in a setting that’s extremely accommodating of dietary restrictions. If the weather is nice, try to get a spot on the outdoor Terrazza, which encapsulates an atmosphere reminiscent of a rustic Roman trattoria adorned with design touches like lush lemon trees and antique wine barrels.

Olive & Sea is a tasty, water-taxi-accessible rooftop restaurant serving fresh Mediterranean cuisine overlooking the Intracoastal waterways. It can be a great place to pop in for a happy hour drink or sunset cocktail, weekend brunch, romantic dinner, or any outing paired with an impressive backdrop of panoramic water views.

art on las olas boulevard

Photo: Brian Logan Photography/Shutterstock

Fort Lauderdale nightlife

Wind down after a night out (or amp yourself up for a night on the town) with a craft cocktail in Room 901 at the Hyatt Centric Las Olas. This reservations-only speakeasy-style bar is unmarked, which helps to create an exclusive atmosphere inside. It’s nestled into a corner of the ninth floor at the Hyatt Centric Las Olas hotel and feels like taking a step back in time. Vintage decor and dim lighting set a sultry mood in an intimate space where guests will enjoy an experience featuring highly personalized service via a private bartender. Choose from a specially curated menu of light bites and a lineup of hand-crafted signature cocktails for an unforgettable experience in one of the trendiest destinations in the city.

Visit Spinnaker After Dark at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach (even during the daytime) for a handmade craft cocktail with a stunning view of the Intracoastal Waterways and the Atlantic Ocean in a laid-back setting. It’s a great spot to grab a happy hour drink and watch the sunset.

For buzzy rooftop vibes, visit Rooftop @1wlo, where visitors can admire sights of the Fort Lauderdale skyline in a lush setting in a spirited atmosphere above Las Olas Boulevard. The open-air patio setting features eclectic lounge and bar seating and has been described as feeling like “a garden in the sky” with its lush decor and vivacious atmosphere. It’s a vibrant destination to grab a bite or a drink and people-watch.

Spend the night at the W Fort Lauderdale

Photo: Diamond PR
Photo: Diamond PR
Photo: Sobe Vegan
Photos: Olivia Harden

The luxurious and trendy 440-room (100% of which offer water views) W Fort Lauderdale is lively and fun — but not overzealous. It’s set in a great location just a few steps from the beach. The building itself appears to mimic the appearance of a ship’s sail, and there are other subtle design touches on-site that also pay homage to its beachy location, like the blue and white wavy carpeting in the guest rooms, which appears to mimic the movement of the ocean below your feet.

Visitors will check in at the fourth-floor lobby, which is dubbed “The Living Room” by W brand standards (and it does feel more like a friend’s eccentric living room than a traditional hotel lobby) and boasts a bar helmed by friendly bartenders serving traditional cocktails and bites with a South Florida twist.

There are two pools on the property. “WET East” is perched on the roof facing the ocean, featuring transparent pool walls and a menu of delightful vacation cocktails set to the sounds of DJs spinning on weekends in a “high-energy sunbathing mecca” that’s fun for any age. And across the property, “WET West” feels like a more serene and secluded sun-soaked oasis with Intracoastal waterway views and an infinity-edge hot tub.

Amenities included in the price of an overnight stay include access to W-branded bike rentals to explore beyond the hotel (for those who want to leave, that is), access to the bright and clean fitness center, and complimentary admittance to the daily beachfront fitness classes like sunrise beach yoga or Bootcamp.

The hotel’s on-site spa, AWAY Spa, is a vibrant respite from the sun and offers wellness experiences ranging from traditional massages to the “Quick Fix” menu of offerings like a 10-minute neck, back and shoulder massage or a 15-minute eye brightening facial touch-up. There’s also a full “glam station” for those seeking a professional hair and makeup session.

The property feels more like a hip art gallery or museum than a hotel, with its numerous art installations scattered throughout the common spaces, including eye-opening sculptures, thought-provoking paintings, and tantalizing interior design visuals. It’s a Fort Lauderdale experience in and of itself.

Book The W Fort Lauderdale

Taking the train to Delray Beach

tri rail in fort lauderdale


Travelers can use the Tri-Rail to explore nearly 74 miles between Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties for an affordable rate. The trains are air-conditioned, double-decker cars, and most Tri-Rail trains are even equipped with one dedicated bicycle car per train set. Trains arrive every 30 minutes during weekday peak hours and 60 minutes off-peak, including weekends and holidays. On weekends, tickets cost a discounted flat fare of just $5 for a whole day of unlimited use in any direction. On weekdays, it’s $3.75 for a one-way fare between these two cities. It’s a seamless, five-stop, 30-minute Tri-Rail train ride to the Delray Beach station from the Fort Lauderdale station.

What to do in Delray Beach

This vibrant, artsy South Florida city sits halfway between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Delray offers a smaller, more intimate community-feeling vibe than its larger city counterparts — but still boasts ample entertainment and adventure opportunities enjoyed in larger cities.

Visitors will encounter residents and tourists of all ages and backgrounds. There is no shortage of trendy spots here to dine, drink, relax, play, and explore — from the bustling downtown area known for its galleries and buzzy nightlife to the relaxing beaches with clean air, sand, and salty seas.

silverball museum in delray beach

Photo courtesy Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority

Stroll down Atlantic Avenue, the city’s main drag, boasting shops, restaurants, art galleries, and bars. Soak up the sunshine on the beach, or walk the paved pathway that parallels the sandy shoreline and showcases sights of the sparkling ocean. Delray Beach is also known for its bustling art scene, brimming with charming art galleries featuring the works of local and international artists.

History buffs and pinball fanatics should check out Silverball Retro Arcade — a retro pinball museum featuring over 100 classic pinball machines and arcade games like Skee Ball, free to play once on-site.

Visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and take a guided tour, or stroll solo along the meandering pathways through the 16 acres divided into six vibrant gardens inspired by traditional Japanese design. It’s gorgeous — and a unique opportunity to become immersed in Japanese history and culture through exploring the grounds or participating in a traditional tea ceremony.

Dining and nightlife in Delray Beach

atlantic avenue in delray beach

Photo courtesy Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority

Delray Beach has many interesting spots to grab a bite, from fresh seafood to unique international cuisine options. Stop into the City Oyster & Sushi Bar waterfront restaurant for a fresh sushi and seafood lineup. For more waterside views, visit Deck 84 — a casual but elegant eatery set by the Intracoastal Waterway serving “classic American fare with a coastal twist,” with great happy hour specials and frequent live music.

Those seeking somewhere hip and artsy should visit Dada, set inside a historic house dating back to 1924. Admire the eclectic vintage decor and dine on global dishes in what’s self-described as a “nonconformist setting.” The bohemian vibes extend outside to the property’s beautiful open patio and lawn space — grab a table in the fresh air if the weather’s nice because it’s a great spot for people-watching.

When the sun goes down, Delray’s nightlife scene heats up. Grab a drink and try something new at The Wine Room Kitchen and Bar. This tasting hall-style outpost offers visitors the opportunity to explore and diversify their palette over a variety of varietals without committing to an entire glass or bottle. The self-serving mechanism is stocked with a constantly rotating selection of nearly 200 wines — doling out tastings in 1 oz, 2.5 oz, or 5 oz pour sizes. Visitors can grab a glass and pair it with one of the global cheeses and charcuterie boards on-site, expertly curated by international cheese expert (and James Beard Award-winner) Max McCalman.

For an active and fun social outing, visit THRōW Social — an Instagrammable, vibrantly flamingo-pink-themed lounge and bar space that feels like something straight out of a movie set. Cheeky decor, including faux-grass walls, neon signs with saucy phrases, and jungle-themed wallpaper, make this spot a buzzy space to hang out with friends for many hours. The outdoor courtyard space has a similar, spirited vibe with a retractable roof for shade and an abundance of games (think: axe-throwing, adult-sized Jenga, cornhole, and more).

There’s a fun cocktail menu with plenty of choices, but the crowd favorite is called a “Patrón Tree” and is exactly what it sounds like — four different flavored margaritas served by way of miniature Patrón bottles in a tree-like, tower-shaped structure.

For relaxation, visit the 8,000-square-foot, award-winning spa at The Seagate Hotel & Spa for a rejuvenating experience like a massage, facial, or body treatment. Plus, spa guests are granted all-day access to the pool, steam room, tranquility room, whirlpool, pool bar, and on-site fitness center.

Spend the night at The Ray

Photo courtesy The Ray
Photo courtesy The Ray
Photo courtesy The Ray
Photo courtesy The Ray

The Ray Hotel Delray Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton is known by both locals and visitors to be a trendy and spirited spot to spend time in Delray Beach. Featuring a modern design inspired by the hotel’s boisterous and artsy surroundings in the Pineapple District of downtown Delray, it feels modern and grown-up — but with an inkling of naughtiness felt in the atmosphere.

It’s just a mile from the beach and two blocks from Atlantic Avenue, the city’s bustling primary road. With just 141 rooms, there’s an intimate vibe on-site immediately felt upon strolling off the street into the airy lobby, whic is decorated with lush plans, golden lighting, and tropical, bohemian-feeling furniture.

Don’t miss the 22,000-square-foot rooftop pool deck, which features an upscale bar and restaurant, or the impressive fitness center, equipped with plenty of cardio and weights equipment to keep in shape while on the road.

There are two on-site restaurants, a lobby bar, and a coffee shop — and additional amenities like a golf cart transportation service, complimentary beach loungers, hotel bikes, and rentable surfboards and paddle board equipment for guests.

Rooms at The Ray are bright and airy, boasting sunbathed balconies or terrace spaces for relaxing in the fresh air. Roms are outfitted with upscale design features like handwoven rugs, elegant glass furnishings, and vivid wall art. Overall, it’s an upscale and zesty place to spend a night or enjoy a drink or dinner in Delray Beach.

Book The Ray

Or, those searching for somewhere more “home-like” to set as a home base can book a stay at Crane’s Beach House — a charming boutique property just steps from the beach that features house-style suites and villas. Guest accommodations here include fully equipped kitchens, separate bedrooms and living rooms, patios or balconies, a separate dining room area, and a lushly landscaped outdoor garden. It’s a great spot for longer stays and those seeking a kitchen to cook in.

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