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It's hard to imagine that a town on Florida's swanky Gold Coast could be described as low-key, casual, and unassuming.
But Deerfield Beach has somehow retained a charming small-town vibe as most of its neighbors went the way of the luxury high-rise. In a word, it's refreshing — and it's by design. In 1998, a grassroots movement called Save Our Beach was created to stem development that would forever change the landscape here. The beach has remained public, and the local pride in this stretch of sand has even led to a Blue Wave designation, awarded to American beaches that are particularly clean, safe, and conservation-focused.
The centerpiece is the 976-foot Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier, where you can rent a rod, buy live bait, and try your luck at catching a massive tarpon, cobia, or mahi mahi alongside seasoned regulars. You'll feel like a local in no time.
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Every Saturday morning from 7 to 9 a.m., Island Water Sports offers free two-hour surfing and stand-up paddling lessons, led by volunteer instructors. They even provide the boards. Classes fill up fast, so be sure to register online early, especially during the busy spring break season.
Cool off during those sweltering summer days at Ski Rixen USA, the first and longest cable water skiing park in America. The idea is simple: What if you want to water ski, but you don't have access to a boat? Just grab onto this high-tech pulley system, a concept created in Germany, and practice your waterskiing, wakeboarding, wakeskating, kneeboarding, or trick skiing as you glide over the 2,700-foot course.
Reachable only by a five-minute boat ride (shuttles are free on weekends), Deerfield Island Park is a 53.3-acre triangular island bounded by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Hillsboro and Royal Palm canals. The mangrove swamp habitat has been designated an Urban Wilderness Area, due to its abundance of gopher tortoises, raccoons, and armadillos. Beginning each fall, the South Florida Audubon Society hosts guided bird walks the first Saturday of each month through May.
Maryland has blue crabs, Maine has lobsters, and though perhaps not as well known on the national stage, Florida has stone crab claws. For some of the freshest seafood around, head to The Whale's Rib Raw Bar during stone crab season, October 15 to May 15. (If you live by the no-shellfish-during-months-without-an-R rule, then the winter is an all-around great time for seafood!) The place is so beloved by locals that a write-in campaign even got it featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.