- Larry Aydlette Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Amphitheatres. Equestrian centers. Fishing lakes. Golf courses. Artificial reefs. Water parks. Nature exhibits. Aquatic centers.
There’s a lot more going on in Palm Beach County’s parks than you might realize.
The county runs 83 parks, from tiny playgrounds to thousand-acre behemoths (and then there are state parks, beach parks and parks run by individual cities.)
Of the parks maintained by the county, here’s a list of the top 10 parks you must visit.
Size: 1,702 acres
Location: 7715 Forest Hill Boulevard, west of West Palm Beach
Why you must go: This park has got something for everyone. It features the 111-acre Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, with riding ring and trails for horse enthusiasts. It has a 27-hole golf course. The Okeeheelee Nature Center features exhibits, gift shop and walking trails (the nature center is closed for renovations until mid-April.) There is water skiing, a BMX track, boat launches and a fresh-stocked fishing lake, baseball fields, bike paths, kayaking, disc golf and more. If you can’t find something to do here, you might as well stay indoors.
Size: 726 acres
Location: 2700 6th Ave S, Lake Worth
Why you must go: Another big park that has a lot to do and see. And you can spend the night! The park boasts a 48-acre campground. Golfers needing to brush up on their skills can go to the John Prince Golf Learning Center, which has practice holes, driving ranges and 42 hitting stations. And there are playgrounds, canoeing and kayaking on a lake with 35,000 feet of frontage, fishing, boat ramps and more. (And, depending how things turn out, part of the park may become the new spring training home of the Atlanta Braves.)
Size: 100 acres
Location: 12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach
Hours: Vary, nature center open Wednesday-Saturday from 9 am-3 pm; boardwalk open daily from 7 am-sunset
Why you must go: A stunning nature setting with a 1.5-mile boardwalk where you can see all kinds of habitats and wildlife, from bobcats to alligators. Looking for that perfect outdoors Instagrammable moment? This is the place for it. The nature center has wetlands and animal exhibits, a gift shop and a lecture hall.
Size: 666 acres
Location: 9060 Indiantown Road, Jupiter
Why you must go: If you want to get a little history with your nature walk, Riverbend is the spot. It is adjacent to the Loxahatchee River Battlefield Park, site of two 1838 battles of the Second Seminole Indian War, and the Loxahatchee River, designated a National Wild and Scenic River, runs through it. There are 7 miles of equestrian trails and about 10 miles of walking trails. Fishing and picnicking areas, too.
Size: 560 acres
Location: 7301 Haverhill Road, West Palm Beach
Why you must go: If you play sports, from pickup games to youth leagues in central county, you’ve probably played at Dyer Park. There are baseball, basketball and multipurpose fields, a youth golf learning center, a radio-controlled airplane area, plus the usual assortment of trails, fishing, bike paths, etc.
Size: 189 acres
Location: 4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach
Why you must go: The park may not be gigantic like some other county parks, but it’s got one unique amenity: It’s adjacent to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, and if you haven’t walked the museum’s gardens, you haven’t completed your Palm Beach County bucket list.
Size: 15 acres
Location: 900 E. Blue Heron Boulevard, Riviera Beach
Hours: Sunrise-sunset (fishing pier open til 10 p.m.)
Why you must go: One word: Snorkeling. The park’s underwater snorkeling trail is a unique spot under the Blue Heron bridge to see all kinds of aquatic life as well as an artificial reef built with 600 tons of rock. It’s a favorite of divers and photographers. Another place for an Instagrammable moment.
Size: 120 acres
Location: 400 S. S.R. A1A, Jupiter
Why you must go: Sure, most people think of the beach when they think of Carlin Park, but it’s much more. It’s got a restaurant for breakfast and lunch beloved by locals — the Lazy Loggerhead Cafe. There’s an amphitheatre that features everything from concerts to Shakespeare in the Park productions. There’s a bocce court, softball field, tennis, walking and exercise trails and plenty of picnic pavilions.
Size: 19 acres
Location: 19075 DuBois Road, Jupiter
Why you must go: Dubois is a spread-out park along the Jupiter Inlet and one of the area’s most visually attractive parks, from the roped-off snorkeling lagoon that’s a favorite of families to the excellent views (another Instagrammable moment) of the Jupiter Lighthouse.
Size: 848 acres
Location: 11500 Yamato Road, west of Boca Raton
Hours: Sunrise-sunset (some courts and facilities open later)
Why you must go: The second-largest park in the county boasts the Sunset Cove Amphitheatre, which draws major names in rock and country music to its stage (there was even a Donald Trump rally recently.) It also has a golf course, the Daggerwing Nature Center and the Coconut Cove Waterpark, with four-story water slides and an 897-foot river ride. There’s also a dog park, community center and every kind of outdoor activity imaginable.