On the Lake Worth Lagoon, this coastal town in Palm Beach County was founded in the 1920s by the ambitious developer, Harry Seymour Kelsey. He hired world-famous planners to lay out what would be the first zoned municipality south of Washington, D.C..
This was during the height of the Florida land boom, and Kelsey’s plans were brought to a dramatic end by a devastating hurricane in 1928 and the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The settlement was then declared to no longer be functional and lots its charter.
I’m happy to say, things are a lot less turbulent in Lake Park now. In a town of 9,000, there’s a lagoon-front park, and a marina with an awesome monthly community party.
Lake Park is within shouting distance of beach parks, renowned dive sites, and a whole host of visitor attractions in the Palm Beaches.
1. Kelsey Park
The main place to hang out by the Lake Worth Lagoon in Lake Park is this waterside park named for the town’s founder. If you haven’t been to Kelsey Park for a while you may be shocked by all the upgrades here.
The highlight for me was the playground, with a marine life theme and super-soft paving. The large Lake Park Tennis & Pickleball Center is also here, with reservations available via the Lake Park Special Events Department.
Most of all Kelsey Park is a prime place to linger and enjoy the lagoon. Lots of people launch kayaks and paddleboards here, or cast their fishing lines from the wall.
2. Lake Park Harbor Marina
This 112-slip municipal facility is a busy departure point for a lot of experiences on the water around Lake Park. These include snorkeling adventures, fishing charters, paddleboarding, and tons more.
If you’re a serious mariner setting sail for the Bahamas (60 nautical miles to the east), the Lake Park Harbor Marina is the only marina of its kind offering extended overnight trailer parking.
For my part, I was just here for a stroll. It’s one of the best places in the area to see the sun come up, and there’s a landscaped area with mature trees and benches. Try to be here on the last Friday of the month for the wonderful Sunset Celebration.
3. Sunset Celebration
On the last Friday of every month there’s a big free gathering at the Lake Park Harbor Marina. Like a mini-festival, the Sunset Celebration is a wonderful event and my favorite time to be in the town.
For three hours you’ve got live music with awesome performers from all over South Florida. This is matched with food vendors, arts & crafts, and a full cash bar with happy hour prices.
The Sunset Celebration has a slightly different flavor every time, with seasonal themes. For example, I was here for Halloween, which featured a costume contest and trick or treating.
4. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
North of Riviera Beach the shoreline’s heavy development disappears, in favor of more than 430 acres of mangroves and tropical and coastal hammocks.
At John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, I adore the seclusion, away from the more crowded beaches of the Palm Beach area. At the parking area there’s an awesome nature center, with exhibits going into the rich ecology all around.
From here, a scenic boardwalk takes you across the lagoon, through the hammock and onto the beach. It’s quite a long walk, but one I don’t think anyone will soon forget.
As well as classic beach activities, the park is an excellent place to do some paddling, as you make your way through the mangroves on the estuary side.
5. Park Avenue, Lake Park
Many of Lake Park’s local businesses are concentrated along several blocks of Park Avenue, which continues east to the intersection with US 1.
As opposed to a traditional downtown, these shops, restaurants, services and performance venues are slightly withdrawn from the avenue, with large parking areas all the way.
All the same, I’d recommend getting out of the car and seeing what you find. At the time of writing there were eateries for pan-Caribbean, Jamaican, pizza, and a gastropub. These were complemented by the wonderful Brewhouse Gallery, which I’ll come to below.
Mixed in with the dance studios, barber shops and fitness centers were shops for art supplies, vinyl, antiques, and Asian specialty foods.
6. Riviera Beach Municipal Beach Park
The closest beach access to Lake Park is five minutes away in an almost perfect location. What you’ll find is a sizable public space, with paved paths crossing the dunes and bring you to the majestic Atlantic shore.
My ideal time to be here is just after the tide has receded, when there are all kinds of interesting shells to be found. Behind the beach are grassy areas with pavilions, and a dense tree canopy, perfect for picnics.
Last but not least, the beach is right by a lively commercial district, with ten different dining options when I was here. These ranged from seafood to Mexican to ice cream.
7. Phil Foster Park
For decades, the Blue Heron Bridge linking West Palm Beach with Singer Island has been a world-famous diving and snorkeling site.
In fact there are few places in the world that combine such diverse marine life, easy accessibility and near-perfect underwater clarity.
The entry point is Phil Foster Park, and there’s a designated snorkel trail looping around the south side of the bridge.
Congregating around the interesting submerged objects you’re likely to see pipefish, seahorses, octopuses, batfish, stargazers, frogfish, and much more than I could ever list here. Make sure to bring a ‘diver down’ flag and stay clear of the swimming area and boat channels.
8. The Brewhouse Gallery
One of a number of inviting local businesses on Park Avenue, the Brewhouse Gallery is several things in one. By day it’s a vibrant co-op gallery for local artists, with the work of 14 artists on show at any one time.
By night this is one of the most revered live performance venues in South Florida. On the menu is a feast of live music, open mic nights, poetry readings, mixed with other activities like trivia nights and painting classes.
In 2020 they launched their own nano-brewery, so there’s also high-quality craft beer in the mix. When I was here there were more than 30 on tap, as well as locally roasted coffee, a full wine list, and unique specialty sodas.
9. Peanut Island
The dredging work that created the Palm Beach Inlet and the Port of Palm Beach also resulted in this 80-acre island.
Here since the 1910s, Peanut Island is now a public park, reachable only by water. The easiest way, if you don’t have your own boat, is to catch a shuttle from Riviera Beach.
When you land you can explore a little tropical paradise with lots of stories to tell. One compelling thread is Cold War history, at a blast shelter built in the early 1960s for JFK.
A trail leads around the shore, linking lots of little beaches, as well as a scenic overlook on the north side. Just offshore are snorkeling reefs teeming with marine life, as well as a sandbar flocked with people on hot days.
10. North Palm Beach Country Club
In Lake Park you’re just moments from one of the country’s best municipal courses. This facility dates all the way back to the 1920s and became a municipal course in the 1960s.
During an overhaul in the 2000s, the great Jack Nicklaus was called in to redesign the course. With an open links layout, this is one of just two courses in the United States to be designed by the Golden Bear.
Making the most of the natural sand dunes, and passing along the Intracoastal Waterway, this is a “thinkers’” course, imbued with Nicklaus’s signature playability.
11. Manatee Lagoon
Head south along Broadway and in a few minutes you’ll be at one of the best places in the area to see manatees.
Known to seek out warmer water in winter, manatees huddle around the outflow channel for a Florida Power & Light plant.
A whole educational attraction has been set up by the water, with indoor exhibits explaining the natural value of the Lake Worth Lagoon, and telling you all you need to know about manatees.
You may see a manatee here out of season. But I’d come mid-November through March for the best chance of seeing these beautiful mammals.
Whenever you stop by you’ll become aware just how rich these waters are, with rays, nurse sharks, and a wide variety of smaller fish often visible.
12. Easternmost Point in Florida
For a quirky detour you can visit Florida’s easternmost point, at the southeastern corner of Singer Island. This is something that can be done from Riviera Beach park.
An adorable little trail leads through Palm Beach Shores, cutting east along the Palm Beach Inlet. Eventually the seawall gives way to a short jetty, although the path was a little slippery when I was here.
I’m always fascinated by these kinds of geographical curiosities. It’s no surprise that this is a fantastic place to see the sun come up, but there’s also a great view along the inlet, with giant cruise ships passing by all the time.
13. Lake Park Scrub Natural Area
When I went to press, a wide variety of improvements were in the pipeline for this preserve in the west of Lake Park. A range of passive amenities are due to be installed, including trails, kiosks, and an observation platform.
Still, although the Lake Park Scrub Natural Area was a little spartan when I walked here, it’s a lovely natural space. On just over 50 acres there’s a sandy swath of scrubby flatwoods, wet prairie, and mesic flatwoods.
This once encompassed a much larger area, continuing all the way to the Lake Worth Lagoon. Look out for former Florida East Coast Railway infrastructure, as well as wildlife, from osprey to gopher tortoises.
14. Ocean Reef Park
Just north of Riviera Beach is another awesome shorefront park, five minutes from Lake Park. I visited Ocean Reef Park on a weekday and had a big spread of sand pretty much to myself.
There’s 700 feet of guarded shorefront here, all edged by a patch of dunes between the condo towers. You’ll find an overlook in this environment, which is a wonderful spot to come to early in the day for sunrise views.
As for the beach, the currents can be quite strong so parents and less accomplished swimmers should take care. Also, be sure to bring snorkeling gear as there’s a rocky area to discover a little way out.
Ocean Reef Park features a comprehensive array of amenities, from a large picnic pavilion to single-table picnic areas, extensive parking, restrooms, showers, and a playground.
15. Rapids Water Park
With lively surf on the Atlantic Coast, sometimes a waterpark is a better option for families. Luckily there’s a good one next door in Riviera Beach.
A part of the scenery since the 1970s, Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach has more than 40 different attractions. Among them is a big roster of water slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river.
I always make a bee-line for the most thrilling rides at these places. Two stars for me were Black Thunder, which flings you into a pitch-black vortex, and the 70-foot drop slide, Brain Drain.
Several attractions, like Splish Splash Lagoon and the new Barefootin Bay, are suitable for toddlers and young children. Meanwhile there’s a variety of family cabanas you can rent for some privacy.