Surf the Pier at Lake Worth Beach, Florida

By Tee1

Lake Worth Florida Beach Vacations

Everyone knows that “where the tropics begin” is Lake Worth Beach, 60 miles north of Miami. Maybe not, but it’s a cool slogan for this Florida beach destination of about 35,000 people. In the 250 miles between Fort Lauderdale and Daytona, the Lake Worth beach is by far the best. Surfers travel for miles to this bohemian outpost. A lot of other people come for the artsy community and white sands.

Beach vacations to Lake Worth, will locate you further east than anywhere else in South Florida. The weather is pleasing and warm all year because the Gulf Stream is found closer to shore in Lake Worth than anywhere else. This progressive town is even looking at trying to “be the first to develop a viable and sustainable ocean current electrical generation plant” and harness that power.

Where is Lake Worth? 26°37′N 80°3′W

Lake Worth, Florida is 60 miles north of Miami. For statistical purposes, it is included in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach Metropolitan area which consists of 5.5 million people. This small coastal city is a part of Palm Beach County and is named for the body of water to the east of the town. Over the years, this has been updated to the Lake Worth Lagoon.

The lake itself was named for General William J. Worth, who led U.S. forces during the last part of the Second Seminole War. At the time of the conflict, Worth was a Colonel. To his credit, “Worth recommended early in 1842 that the remaining Seminoles be left in peace if they would stay in southern Florida.” He led a long and distinguished military career. His wise thoughts on impartiality are included in West Point’s “Bugle Notes”, a knowledge book which all cadets must memorize. Worth was the first commandant of cadets at West Point. Visit 5th and Broadway on 25th Street in Manhattan, if you would like to pay your respects. Inside a 51 foot monument on Worth Square, you will find his remains.

Lake Worth Beach : One of the best places to visit in Florida

The Lake Worth Lagoon was a fresh water lake in the early 1800s, named after a military commander during the Second Seminole War. Seepage from the Everglades was the only flow of water into the lake then.  An inlet was built in 1877, which turned the lake immediately into salt water. The Intercoastal Waterway was completed around the turn of the century. This connected Lake Worth to Biscayne Bay in Miami.

To the beach in Lake Worth is an easy trip

With a number of welcoming B&Bs along scattered throughout the liberal enclave of Lake Worth, Florida, the town has evolved into a home for surfers, artists and quirky individuals. The downtown area is a full of galleries, high end colorful boutiques, and avant-garde restaurants. It is a nice area with a leafy town square as the hub.

[pullquote] The second largest Finnish diaspora as a percentage of total population in the world, is in Lake Worth (1026 people)[/pullquote]

Revitalization efforts in the city has come a long way rapidly. In the 1980s and early 90’s, the city commissioner said Lake Worth, “had become known as the skin-flick capital of the country.” The Playtoy was an infamous x-rated movie theatre. It had the distinction of being raided by police, when showing Deep Throat. The Playtoy is now the Lake Worth Playhouse, showing It’s a Wonderful Life this Christmas and other more family appropriate titles.

Property values are way up in this LGBT friendly city!

With the gentrification of this formerly blighted area, property values have skyrocketed. No small coincidence, but Lake Worth happens to be the most LGBT friendly area in Palm Beach County. Lake Worth holds an annual Gay Pride Parade. Another noteworthy event in Lake Worth is the incredible Street Painting Festival which transforms the sidewalks into living art. The town offers fun things to do all year, including weekly concerts in the Cultural Plaza.

This expressive city also proudly displays the largest freestanding cross in the state of Florida and has an extremely active religious community.

Surf the Lake Worth Pier

Extending way out into the Atlantic Ocean, the William O. Lockhart Municipal Pier, is the most recognizable symbol of Lake Worth. The hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, were especially damaging for Lake Worth. The fishing pier was smashed by 3 storms: Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. The pier reopened in 2009 and self funds with modest entry fees for sightseers ($1.00) and fisherman ($3.00). The rebuilt pier has been raised 5 feet. The surfing in Lake Worth is consistently good, as a result of the sandbars created by the pier.

[pullquote]The rapper Vanilla Ice  is a resident and a house flipper in Lake Worth[/pullquote]

Lake Worth promotes itself as “where the tropics begin.” There is a wide array of tropical plants, so its not a misnomer and the weather is tropical. Some of the varied tropical plant life include:  many species of palm including coconut, the royal poinciana and mahogany.

In Southeastern Florida, the Lake Worth beach remains one of the few large open tracts of public space on the ocean. The open space and public parks in this small coastal city are a marked contrast to the neighboring towns. With great fanfare, the Casino at the beach was rebuilt in 2013. The building is meant to replicate the initial 1920s casino, which had been demolished by, yes, a hurricane. Today, the casino no longer offers games of chance or fortune and glory. 

Before there were beach days…

Near the Jupiter Inlet, remains of shell mounds indicate pre-Columbian habitation of this coastal area. The Jaega are the earliest known inhabitants of Palm Beach and Martin counties.

An African-American couple were the first to settle in Lake Worth. Samuel and Fannie James were ex-slaves known as the Black Diamonds. The couple claimed 187 acres under the Homestead Act of 1885. They boosted their property significantly over the time. Fannie James was the first postmaster of Jewell, the name of the post office for the surrounding area which included the shores of the lagoon. Jewell was on the barefoot mailman route.

For 7 glorious years, between 1885 and 1892, the carriers on the first United States mail route connecting Miami to Palm Beach were referred to as “barefoot mailman”. There was no road connecting the 68 mile route between Miami and Palm Beach, so the mailmen had to travel by boat as well as walk. 28 miles of the journey was covered by in different row boats, and the remaining journey was on foot, walking near the water in the firmer sand along this beautiful stretch of beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Initially, the mail carriers were called “beach walkers” or “beach walkists” and and the route called the “barefoot route”.

In the summer of 1913, Lake Worth was finally incorporated as a town. Interested in taking advantage of the winter vegetable market, the first residents were typically Southern or mid-western farmers. Lake Worth also prospered in the 1920s land boom. As you can easily guess, that did not end well.

After the hostilities of the second world war came to an end, a number of pensioners, decided they had enough and came to Lake Worth. The moved  from Finland, Quebec and even Germany later. They built 1000 square foot cottages and the town flourished under through their hard work for many years. Decades later, we still see their footprint in Lake Worth in the churches, beer halls, chocolatiers and delis that obviously do not belong in South Florida suburbia.

The Lake Worth beaches are open (guarded) from 8am until midnight from Sunday through Thursday! Friday and Saturday nights the beaches are open an hour later until 1am. The beaches are 1,300 feet long.

I’d like to thank my old friend from Spring Lake for the great pictures. Paul lives the South Florida dream these days. After he was dropped as a child, he became a Mets fan. I have not seen Paul in nearly 15 years, but my liver is still angry at him.