There are few places left in southern Palm Beach County where you can see the Atlantic Ocean. Private homes and condos block most of the views. Only along the public beach in Delray Beach, in spots where sea grapes have been trimmed along Boca Raton’s public beach and at the inlet bridges are glimpses of the ocean still visible.
Manalapan provides some stunning views along A1A, but the increasing number and size of scattered beach cabanas may soon leave that stretch with views of the ocean limited to all but the property owners.
There is one stretch of road, though, where for generations those “in the know” could drive to check on the beach conditions or simply cruise by to catch a glimpse of moonlight on the ocean. It’s named Old Ocean Boulevard and is what remains of the old coastal route through Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes.
Before the hurricane of 1947, this was the road many from Palm Beach took — traveling the dune-top road down to a gas station and shell shop in Briny Breezes and then a bit farther to the polo fields in Gulf Stream and beyond to Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
Briny pioneers tell tales of Harold Stirling Vanderbilt and his wife stopping off in Briny to buy gas and chat with the station owners on their way to and from Eastover, their home in Manalapan.
A1A runs to the west now, the gas station and shell shop are gone and the polo fields are mostly golf course, but historic Eastover and Gulf Stream Golf Club remain — as does Old Ocean Boulevard.
I’ve traveled this bit of road in both directions for more than 30 years — sometimes taking my elderly mother or aunt for a ride to feel the sun on her face and see the rolling blue expanse of the ocean, and sometimes just to check for myself to see if the surf’s up or if the sand is inviting me down for a walk along the shore.
At night I often drive home along this road from dinner with friends in Briny Breezes or the county pocket, listening to jazz on the car radio and stopping to catch a glimpse of moonlight on the water.
Could I (and others) still do these things if Ocean Ridge’s proposal to turn this stretch of road into a one-way “promenade” happens? Maybe. But what if Briny Breezes chooses the un-neighborly option of turning “their part” of the road private?
If these changes are implemented, we all stand to lose an important connection to local history. And for those of us not lucky enough to live on the water, there will be one less place to catch a glimpse of the ocean.
— Mary Kate Leming, editor