Things to Do in Pompano Beach, Florida
Discover this Affordable, Family-Friendly Vacation Alternative
NOTE: Enjoy this three-minute YouTube music video postcard of Pompano Beach to see many of the wonderful sites and local events in the story below. Story and photos by Elaine Fitzgerald.
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. -- Sun drenched tourists who bask on one of the widest sand beaches in South Florida open their eyes to the gentle hum of an airship. They gaze up in awe as the massive Good Year Blimp floats by on regular promotional passes over the beach, from its base at the historic Pompano Air Park just a half-mile away. The pace is as relaxed as they are.
Each day just after sunrise, scattered handfuls of joggers dot the three and a half miles of pristine Blue Wave beach. They sprint along part of the same route as the infamous barefoot mailman from the late 1800’s, who delivered the U.S. mail from Jupiter to Miami and back along the sandy shore, to bypass the wild terrain.
The joggers fill their lungs with clean salt air, and give a “thumbs up” to the father and son who just caught a grouper from the 1,200-foot long fishing pier. They pass sea turtle preservation areas as they head up to the Hillsboro Inlet—a colorful pass between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean—with its fishing fleet, charter and dive boats and beckoning Hillsboro Lighthouse. Lifeguards are seen opening their string of stations along the beach to protect wayward swimmers with their watchful eyes.
Some might consider Pompano Beach a throwback to the fifties, compared to it’s more sophisticated neighbors….Boca Raton--15 minutes North, and Fort Lauderdale--15 minutes South. You can still find some of the quaint Mom and Pop inns along Scenic A-1-A, and clean, comfortable vacation rental properties like Cottages by the Ocean, Pineapple Place and Bahama Beach Club Apartments.
This family-friendly, oceanside community is the more affordable vacation alternative….still close to the excitement of all the nearby attractions, music, theater and cultural events…but a safe, peaceful refuge at the end of the day.
Pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and bike lanes span the entire length of the barrier island and cross the Intracoastal Waterway to the mainland. Visitors and locals stroll along the oceanfront sidewalk with its picnic areas, playground, outdoor showers and benches. They walk to shops, ice cream stores and waterfront restaurants. The mix includes friendly establishments like the Briney Irish Pub with live music most evenings, Mr. Fish gourmet seafood shop and the five-star Café Maxx bistro. Visitors watch passing yachts as they dine along the Intracoastal at Houston’s or Joe’s Riverside Grille. Pompano Beach boasts dozens of great restaurants to suit every taste and budget.
Known as South Florida’s saltwater fishing capitol, Pompano Beach celebrates it's heritage by hosting the annual Nautical Flea Market in January, followed by a huge annual Seafood Festival in late April and the popular Fishing Rodeo in mid-May. A unique and spectacular event on the Intracoastal Waterway is Florida’s oldest continuous Holiday Boat Parade which has taken place annually in mid-December since 1963. These major events have drawn visitors and locals alike for decades.
Pompano Beach is truly “nature’s aquarium” with some of the best fishing, boating and diving in the nation. The Gulf Stream comes closer to shore here than anywhere in the U.S., providing some of the clearest and warmest water for every kind of water sport. Parasailing, kite-boarding, paddle boarding, personal watercraft, and surfing are all popular here. A three-tier reef system offers variety in depth for every diver’s experience level, and is within a short swim offshore. Unique to most dive areas, in Pompano Beach you don’t have to take a boat to reach the reefs for diving or snorkeling. But it’s the dive operators who can take you for a short boat ride to the most beautiful reefs and the best of the 100+ shipwrecks and dive sites offshore. The snorkel/dive boats typically go out two to three times a day year round.
Pompano Beach is a wonderful place for landlubbers as well. The new Isle Casino and Racing, next to the Pompano Harness Track, is a large, dazzling, smoke-free casino with restaurants and entertainment nightly. Pompano Beach is also known as the “Winter Capital of Harness Racing.” Pompano Harness Track offers pulse-pounding horse racing and competitions throughout the year. Pompano Citi Centre is the newly remodeled shopping mall with popular stores like Macy’s, Sears and JC Penney. Take a shopping break or enjoy bowling or a movie just across the street. Head to the historic district for the Saturday morning Green Market, with fresh farm produce and live music, and visit nearby Founder's Park.
The city’s large Community Park has one of the best tennis and aquatics centers you could find….along with a dog park, amphitheater for outdoor concerts, 36-holes of golf and a driving range, all just a half mile to the beach. For avid joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers, a five-mile path surrounds the perimeter of the air park and adjacent golf course.
While the city is just 25 minutes north of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, not every community is lucky enough to have its own air park for private aircraft so close to the beach. For a treat, take a helicopter tour over the ocean or Everglades, or stop by the Good Year Blimp visitors’ center to witness touchdowns and landings by the airship “Spirit of Innovation.” It doesn’t cost a thing and the kids will love it.
For those who enjoy dance, Pompano Beach is central to the heart of South Florida’s dance “mecca” for ballroom, Latin and swing dancing, as well as Argentine Tango. You can find group and private lessons and multiple social dances every night of the week. Come with or without a partner. World champion instructors for every dance style are all within a half hour drive. In town, find Star Ballroom and Tower Ballroom. The City’s own civic center is also a venue for weekly ballroom dances on a beautiful floating wood dance floor. Take a five-minute drive to Casa Salsa for Latin instruction, or Dance Moves for swing dancing. Just a 15-minute drive west of the beach, find the famous Goldcoast Ballroom, which draws dancers from across the nation.
A visit to Pompano Beach would not be complete without checking out some truly unique nearby attractions like Butterfly World, Festival Flea Market Mall (the world’s largest indoor flea market) and the historic Hillsboro Lighthouse, which is reported to have world’s brightest beam of any lighthouse…and is available for bimonthly public tours. And don’t forget to explore parts of the Everglades along the hiking trails and boardwalks through nearby parks like Fern Forest Nature Center, Tradewinds Park, and Quiet Waters Park, which also has cable water skiing in the lake, and Splash Adventure—an interactive children’s water playground.
This town of clean air, lots of sunshine and friendly locals puts out the welcome mat to visitors from around the world. It’s a year-round destination with plenty to do, so come here and relax, slip off your shoes, put on your flip flops and enjoy.
We’ll see you soon!