This sunshine-soaked spot has been the poster girl for American resorts since the early 20th century. And here’s why.
Though The Palm Beaches are made up of 39 distinct towns, Palm Beach is the OG resort locale. A 16-mile-long barrier island separated from the mainland by the Lake Worth Lagoon, railway magnate and vacation visionary, Henry M Flagler spotted its prime location in the 1890s and transformed it into the palatial resort town it is today. Home to numerous high-profile figures, celebrities and the largest glut of the world’s billionaires – 57 at last count – Palm Beach is where the great and the glamorous ‘vacay’. But there’s more to this beautiful barrier island than big shots and super yachts.
Find beach blanket Babylon
With year-round sunshine and 47 miles of buttery beaches daisy-chained with cutesy beach towns, The Palm Beaches are like a Babylon for sun worshippers. There are 14 main beaches, from the rugged Jupiter Beach in the north down to Boca Raton, a ritzy stretch in the south. And it’s not just the leisure crew it attracts. The warm Atlantic waters mean this stretch of southern Florida is a popular area for breeding loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles. Venture over to Juno Beach and visit the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which rehabilitates sick and injured turtles before releasing them back into the ocean.
Aside from snorkelling, sunbathing and schmoozing, there are many ways to enjoy the coast. Master naturalists offer guided paddleboard eco tours around the mangroves of MacArthur Beach State Park, where you might see spotted eagle rays, dolphins and manatees who flock to the northern end of Singer Island.
Cuban cafe culture
The Palm Beaches are an easy place to be busy doing nothing. On a sunny Saturday morning, pop over to West Palm Beach on the mainland and pick up a Cuban coffee and some French pastries at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket, which USA Today hailed as the best farmers’ market in America. Stop for a cafecito in one of the Cuban coffee shops in West Palm Beach, such as the family-run Cortadito, which knocks out the finest Cuban sandwiches this side of Havana. For lunch, wander along Clematis Street in Downtown’s historic district and eat your way around the globe in one of the chichi restaurants.
Sport and shopping
Shimmering with year-round sunshine, The Palm Beaches are a magnet for snowbirds and sports fans. Golf is the main pastime and there are more than 160 golf courses packed into the county. And if you don’t get invited to Mar-a-Lago, tee off on The Breakers’ legendary ocean course, the oldest 18 holes in Florida.
If shopping is more your sport, follow the trail of diamond-encrusted Bentleys and gold Rolls-Royces and introduce your trembling credit card to the designer boutiques on Worth Avenue, the ritziest and most exclusive shopping district in the world. Enhancing the Pretty Woman vibe, pick up a pair of flats and go divot-stomping at the National Polo Center in Wellington.
It’s worth packing matching pairs of elasticated shorts, as The Palm Beaches’ culinary scene is off the scale. Planta in The Square, West Palm Beach, sates even the hardiest of carnivores with its heavenly plant-based dishes such as truffle udon noodles. While Sant Ambroeus in the Royal Poinciana Plaza is where the locals go for fritto misto “Palm Beach Style” and ambrosial fresh pasta.
And the Palm Beaches’ cocktail game is just as strong. Head to Spruzzo at The Ben Hotel, one of Downtown’s popular rooftop bars, and sip a Saint Tropez Martini as the sun sets over the lagoon. Whether it’s the epicurean decadence, the Gilded Age architecture or powdery palm-lined beaches, The Palm Beaches offer romance in spades.
An interior reminiscent of Villa Medici in Rome, The Breakers was Flagler’s first hotel and counted the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts as early guests. It now attracts the billionaire brigade with its four ocean-front pools, two championship golf courses and top-drawer dining. From 1947, The Colony Hotel has been a pink paradise with its tiki bars and fancy restaurants and has wooed the Floridian elite for nigh on a century. Alternatively, head south of The Palm Beaches to The Boca Raton, a glorious 1920s resort which features the Sponder Art Gallery, designer boutiques and a splendid spa; it simply oozes Gilded Age glamour.The best places to stay in Palm Beach.