With the fourth wealthiest zip code in the country according to Bloomberg’s 2019 Ultimate Zip Codes report based on IRS data, it’s no surprise that Palm Beach, Florida continues to be associated as a destination for the rich and famous.
Rod Stewart, Howard Stern, Celine Dion and James Patterson are just a few of the celebrities who have homes in the area and then there’s also the infamous Mar-a-Lago property owned by Donald Trump.
As she continued to ramble off the list of A-listers and real estate moguls living in the Billionaires Row area of Palm Beach, tour guide and local resident Leslie Diver of Island Living Tours noted the recent average net worth for families on the island was US$23 million.
Around the next corner, Diver shared a tale of the story behind the “ham and cheese house,” which is not notorious for the fact that its reddish brick and coral keystone draw similarities to a layered sandwich, but rather, the fact that its former owner hired a hitman to kill his estranged wife. Featured on an episode of City Confidential, James Sullivan went on to evade police for 17 years by fleeing the country to Costa Rica and Thailand before his eventual arrest.
Part of Palm Beach County, which stretches from Boca Raton up to Jupiter Beach, a visit to Palm Beach is just one of the highlights clients can enjoy on a vacation to the Florida county home to 39 municipalities and 76 km of Atlantic coastline.
Beyond learning tidbits like there are six female billionaires on the island, those embarking on one of Diver’s tours can expect an insider’s look at life in Palm Beach as she shares historical information and regales travellers with colourful stories about the destination, its standout architecture, its history and its notable people past and present, along with a touch of scandal.
Bookings can be made for clients looking to partake on a walking, biking, or driving tour, and are private and by appointment only.
The price is right
While there are no shortage of luxurious options to stay, Eva Damato, senior account executive, Leisure Sales at Discover The Palm Beaches told Travel Courier Digital there’s something for every budget in the county with over 220 hotels to choose from.
“There’s a misconception that it’s really expensive,” she said. “There are endless options for luxury or you can go casual. We have a lot of boutique hotels.”
Canada is the largest international market for The Palm Beaches, which is expected to grow with a 16.5% increase in airlift capacity from Air Canada Rouge, and since Vox International took on the role of managing trade relations for the destination in Canada in February.
“We are very excited about our seasonal service onboard Air Canada Rouge as we are the only airline that provides non-stop service between Canada and West Palm Beach,” said Jamie Fox, senior account manager at Air Canada. “Air Canada Rouge provides service from October to April from both Montreal and Toronto. Montreal will begin with three times weekly service then move to daily service in December. Toronto will begin with daily flights and we will then add a second frequency, with double daily flights as of December, until mid April.”
Seasonal service on Air Canada Rouge from both YUL and YYZ to West Palm Beach begins Oct. 28 through April 2020. The airline also offers year-round flights from both Montreal and Toronto to Fort Lauderdale, which is roughly an hour away from The Palm Beaches, and seasonal service from Ottawa in winter.
“As the weather begins to change and if you’re one to chase the sun, it’s a great reminder that we offer so many quick and convenient Florida getaways that will surely get you through the Canadian weather,” Fox added. “We look forward to welcoming everyone onboard this winter season.”
For those flying into Fort Lauderdale (or Miami) seeking an alternate to renting a car, Paul Larcher, account director for Discover The Palm Beaches/VoX International, suggests the luxe modern Brightline service, which is being rebranded to Virgin Trains USA. The route connects West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and is in the process of extending to Orlando.
“Some people think [The Palm Beaches] is just a stretch of beach, but it’s made up of 39 municipalities and 47 miles of beaches,” he said. “It’s much more than just a beach destination. It has amazing dining ranging from 5-star restaurants down to hamburger joints. There’s great nightlife. The Palm Beaches has a lot. It’s the only place in Florida you can watch a polo match in the Everglades. There is so much more to do than plop your bum on the beach.”
Selling the destination
The fact that there are direct flights into PBI and the ease of connectivity through the Brightline service makes The Palm Beaches easier to sell for Isobel Mickiewicz of New Wave Travel in Toronto, who recently visited the destination on a FAM trip. Mickiewicz said it’s a great option for her upscale luxury clients looking for a pre or post cruise land stay.
“It’s easy to get around, very clean and safe, and there are lots of things to do,” she said.
Similarly, Krista Shaver, branch co-ordinator/senior travel consultant tripcentral.ca in Hamilton, believes The Palm Beaches is a great choice for clients looking for a pre or post cruise alternative to Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
“The Palm Beaches are great for travellers who want a relaxing resort style vacation with the ability to safely travel off property and discover the destination,” she said. “Since all-inclusive isn’t an option you can choose to dine at the award winning restaurants at some of the resorts or go off property and take in the local dining scene that ranges from celebrity chefs to delicious burger joints.”
And for travel agents looking to increase their bookings, she suggests starting with a pre or post cruise stay, and then “clients will probably like it so much they will travel back just to experience Palm Beach.”
Things to do in The Palm Beaches
(Window) shop ’til you drop on Worth Avenue
Although it was the precursor to Rodeo Drive, Worth Avenue is often referred to as the Rodeo Drive of Palm Beach. Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton are just a few of the ships that line the picturesque street.
Get out on the town
Grab a coffee from Subculture Coffee and discover all the street art along Clematis Street, which is lined with restaurants, bars and shops. An up and coming neighbourhood to experience is the Warehouse District, where former restaurants and loading docks have been converted into breweries and hangout spots. The key attraction is Grandview Public Market, a food hall featuring a variety of food vendors.
Feast on these delights
There are plenty of fabulous restaurants to choose from in the area. A few surefire options include Lynora’s Downtown West Palm Beach, Imoto at Buccan, Buccan and Avocado Grill.
Head for the great outdoors
For visitors looking for outdoor activities, Damato suggests Juno and Jupiter, great for paddle-boarding, kite surfing and taking in mangroves. Another fun option on the water is to cruise on the Pontiki, a tiki-style party boat rental.
Get up close and personal with wildlife
In winter, families looking to spot manatees can head to Manatee Lagoon, a free education centre with a viewing platform to see the aquatic mammals in the wild.
Those interested in learning about wildlife can head to Loggerhead Marinelife Centre, dedicated to sea turtle education, or Gumbo Limbo Nature Centre, a nature centre with aquarium displays and butterfly gardens.
Say hey to Delray
A charming beachside town to discover in the county is Delray, which has a new boardwalk along its two-mile stretch of beach.
“What makes us unique in Delray versus West Palm or many of our surrounding beach communities is our beach is a full beach, there are not any condos or hotels on the beach it’s all open for you to have your beach chairs and your cabanas and water sports, surfing, snorkelling,” said Laura Simon, executive director, Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority. “It has a fun, family vibe. We’re very relaxed, but we have a lot of fun here. You can wear flip flops to fancy dresses, but it’s very casual and very walkable, and friendly.”
For those looking for a unique culinary experience, Delray hosts the annual Savour The Avenue event, where over 1,000 people dine along a quarter mile of connected tables on Atlantic Avenue for a four-course dining experience. The 12th annual event is slated for March 23, 2020.
“Our community is a smaller area, we’ve got a mix of fine dining, casual dining, high end shopping to your bargain shopping as well as our proximity to the interstate and to the beach,” she said. “Miami is Miami, if you want that huge South Beach type of 24/7 vibe, you won’t find that here. You’ll find a snippet of fun and entertainment. We’re an all-inclusive city that has something for everyone. We’re a huge wedding and honeymoon destination.”
Where to stay
Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa
A perfect option for long stays and families looking to cook some of their own meals is Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa. The one or two-bedroom suites include kitchens, a washer and dryer, a private balcony and a separate living room and dining spaces. The hotel boasts the only water slide on the island, two swimming pools, an outdoor fire pit and more. Guests can also rent bikes to get around.
Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
Perfect for clients seeking a luxurious stay, the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach has reopened after a US$70 million renovation. Be sure to grab a bite at Florie’s, the first US restaurant by three-Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco. All guestrooms are being refreshed along with the addition of double vanity sinks in the bathrooms. The remodelling included the addition of a new pool, a redesigned pool terrace and new Cabana terrace rooms. All the upgrades are set to be completed by Nov. 19. Clients can indulge at the spa or take advantage of beachside amenities like getting their sunglasses cleaned or buzzing the wait staff with the push of a button.
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa
Another upscale but independent option is Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, one of two Forbes Five-Star resorts in Palm Beach. Some of the unique offers of the property include a champagne butler on a surfboard and a Patron bike where guests can blend their own margaritas by powering the blender as they pedal. The resort is located on a private beach on seven acres of oceanfront. Accommodations are designed by Jonathan Adler, and the resort features an award-winning spa and teens and kids’ clubs.
The Brazilian Court Hotel
For a hotel packed with history, look no further than The Brazilian Court Hotel, where celebrities like Katherine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Sofía Vergara, Lionel Richie, and Tommy Lee Jones have all stayed. Back in the day, the entrance to the boutique hotel opened to a courtyard off Brazilian Avenue, hence where it got its name. The 80-room hotel is adding a new room category which will maintain its traditional feel with dark characteristics but with more modern touches like bedside USB plugins. Be sure to grab a bite at Café Boulud.
PGA National Resort & Spa
Those with a penchant for golfing can opt for the PGA National Resort & Spa, a AAA Four-Diamond hotel featuring 90 holes of championship golf on five courses. For clients looking to unwind after time on the green, there are the “Waters of the World” outdoor mineral pools. There are 339 rooms at the resort and 32 cottages. The hotel is home to the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic. For those looking to get crafty, a weekly painting class is offered with resident artist Beth Williams.
The Seagate Hotel & Spa
A member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, The Seagate Hotel & Spa keeps the sea theme alive with aquariums throughout the property, including a 2,500-gallon shark tank, and sea-inspired fixtures evoking tropical tranquillity. Those seeking some sun can relax on the onsite pool or jump on a dedicated trolley for a lift to the beach with a private beach club.
The Breakers Palm Beach
Arguably one of the most iconic properties in the destination is The Breakers Palm Beach, which was founded by industrialists Henry Flagler in 1896. Every year US$30-35 million is reinvested back into the property. The landmark property features amenities like four pools, nine restaurants, an indoor-outdoor fitness facility, an award-winning spa and the newly-renovated Ocean Course.