A public display of affection can be anything from holding hands to explicit fondling. Some people feel quite uncomfortable displaying their affection in public, while others have no qualms.
Holding hands, hugging, and kissing are very much accepted in the general public. Foreplay, the kind you would normally do in your bedroom, is frowned upon (however, there are always exceptions).
For the US military folks, the US Uniform Code of Military Justice specifically prohibits Public Display of Affection, especially if it is between two uniformed individuals. I remember getting chewed out by an Ensign because I had my hand on my girlfriend's hand on a table. Guess he was jealous, she was one of the few women who looked great in uniform.

There are always exceptions, though. The most notable one is when a ship returns from a deployment. There is more hugging, kissing and groping going on than a Roman orgy, but nobody really minds.

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