Timeless classic revisited

Fresh on the heels of celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding by oil tycoon Henry Flagler, Palm Beach has a new energy that’s fast transforming its image as Miami’s staid neighbour to the north. Its lush beauty, classic architecture and small-town character combined with a burgeoning cultural scene, influx of innovative new chefs and ever-evolving shopping district makes Palm Beach, Florida even more welcoming than ever. Here’s what to discover in the new Palm Beach.


To best understand Palm Beach’s evolution you need to first understand its past. The legacy of America’s Gilded Age, the era between 1890 and 1925 characterized by unprecedented commerce, culture and wealth, is on fine display at Whitehall, the former estate of industrialist Henry Morrison Flagler. Now the FlaglerMuseum, this 55-room mansion built in a Beaux Arts Style with massive Doric columns evoking the temple of Apollo, boasts a sumptuous interior in period styles from Italian Renaissance to Louis XIV. It’s easy to imagine the Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys and other affluent members of early Palm Beach high society mingling within the opulent Great Hall of gleaming marble.

Now a NationalHistoricMonument, Whitehall has been newly renovated and features elevator access and the Café des Beaux-Arts where visitors can enjoy an elegant Gilded Age Afternoon Tea in a railway conservatory room overlooking Lake Worth. The innovative Flagler Museum Music Series offers concerts throughout the winter with an exciting line-up of acclaimed classical and chamber music.

Outdoor Bounty

Another legacy of the Gilded Age is the Palm Beach Lake Trail, a wide paved path restricted to pedestrians, skaters and cyclists originally built by Henry Flagler in 1894 for hotel guests. Now, it offers a safe pathway with beautiful views of the Intercoastal Waterway, West Palm Beach and the mansions of Palm Beach. Rent a bike and pedal the scenic route or take a short stroll to soak up the natural beauty.

The lush gardens of the Brazilian Court have long been a celebrity hideaway Credit – Michele Peterson

Or, do some modern celebrity spotting by peering into the gates of mansions owned by Tiger Woods (or his ex), the Trumps, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, Rod Stewart and other superstars.  Also don’t forget to relax in the tranquility of Pan’s Garden, a botanical garden oasis filled with more than 300 native Florida plant species, created on an abandoned parking lot.

Palm Beach is blessed with a vast coastline of sand dunes Credit - Michele Peterson

Palm Beach is blessed with a vast coastline of sand dunes Credit – Michele Peterson

A major Palm Beach attraction is its Atlantic Ocean shoreline with sandy public beaches ideal for beachcombing or strolling. Watch for the historical plaque near Worth Avenue marking the former site of the Palm Beach Pier. Erected in 1929, it served as a hub until damaged by hurricanes and removed in 1969. Now it’s a popular spot for photo-ops.

You’ll find even more active options north at John D MacArthur State Park, a preserved eco-system of front barrier island where you can participate in a ranger-guided nature walk that includes bird-watching for pink roseate spoonbills, great blue heron and ibis wading in the mudflats during low tide.

Culinary Diversions 

If the fresh air and exercise gives you an appetite, the Leopard Lounge in the Chesterfield is an early evening institution with its Happy Hour, piano bar and people watching. A new go-to spot is HMF at The Breakers a glamorous lounge that toasts classic Palm Beach culture with new twists on time-honoured cocktails. Try a Railcar #91, a heady blend of Courvoisier VSOP, fresh lemon juice, local honey and orange foam, named after Flagler’s oak-paneled private railway car.

Enjoy Sunday Brunch in The Circle a lavish dining room at The Breakers Credit – Michele Peterson

While old-school institutions like Charley’s Crab and the Palm Beach Grill (try the Kosher Hot Dog with a side of devilled eggs) continue to draw a loyal crowd, an infusion of inventive chefs is fast transforming Palm Beach’s food scene.

The place to begin is on South County Road where James Beard Award nominee Clay Conley (formerly of Azul at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental) heads up two hot spots. At Buccan, you’ll find small-plate pintxo, (the Basque equivalent to tapas) such as wood-fired BBQ quail and conch ceviche with mango. At Imoto, a sushi bar featuring fish from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji market, enjoy Asian-inspired dishes such as wagyu short ribs over kimchi fried rice.

Hamachi Sashimi, Peruvian chilies, yuzu vinaigrette, crispy lotus root salad

Hotel Scene

Also evolving is the hotel scene. Another Flagler legacy, The Breakers Resort just completed a 10-year, $250 USD million revitalization program that retained its Italian-Renaissance ambiance but included a redesign of all guest rooms and suites. Even if you don’t overnight, it’s worth visiting for its legendary Sunday Brunch. A Palm Beach tradition for more than 25 years, the lavish buffet is held in the elegant Circle Dining Room replete with a hand-painted dome ceiling, ocean views and couture-clad patrons.

World famous Worth Avenue is just steps to the sea Credit – Michele Peterson

Also timeless is 80-room Brazilian Court with its Mediterranean Revival architecture, mahogany woodwork and elegant courtyard.  Located on a residential street, the lodging feels more like a rich aunt’s gracious villa than hotel. Built as a private home in 1924, it’s been discreetly hosting Hollywood stars such as Joan Rivers since 1926. Dine at Café Boulud and you may rub shoulders with celebrity regulars Tommy Lee Jones or Rod Stewart.


When it comes to great shopping avenues of the world, Paris has the Champs-Élysées, Chicago has the Magnificent Mile and Beverly Hills has Rodeo Drive. Palm Beach has Worth Avenue, a shopping mecca of classic architecture set amid lush gardens and 200 upscale boutiques that’s been serving shoppers since 1925. The recent $15.8 million Worth Avenue revitalization makes it more elegant than ever.

Worth Avenue

Shopping on Worth Avenue is a mix of history and style Credit – Michele Peterson

Even if you’re not ready for a major splurge, an afternoon of window-shopping makes for fascinating browsing. Enjoy au courant window displays by iconic luxury labels such Gucci, Cartier and Tiffany while cutting-edge boutiques such as Gypsy appeal to a whole new generation of shoppers with designers such as Victoria Beckam, Maiyet and Rick Owens

If you’re on a budget, do as Martha Stewart has done and make a stop at The Church Mouse, an upscale thrift store that’s been operated by the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea since 1970. Browse the shop’s well-organized racks and you might very well score a designer handbag, jewellery or evening gown. All proceeds go to charity so it’s worth stocking up.

No matter where your interests lie, you’ll be sure to discover something new among Palm Beach’s charms, accessibility and ever-evolving attractions.

A bicycle tour is a prime way to see the sights Credit – Palm Beach Tourism

Travel Planner

When to go: It’s wise to visit Palm Beach during the four-month stretch of winter known as “The Season” when all shops and restaurants are open, cultural events begin and high-society soirees take place.

Getting There: Air Canada offers seasonal direct flights from Montreal and daily via Toronto to Palm BeachInternationalAirport in West Palm Beach. American Airlines, US Airways, United and Delta offer daily flights year round.

Planning: Trip planning, maps and event listings (PalmBeachFL.com and www.VisitFlorida.com).

Henry Flagler Museum: The Café de Beaux Artes is open November – April. Advance reservations for Afternoon Tea are recommended. Order tickets for music concerts in advance to avoid disappointment (www.flaglermuseum.us).

Stately homes of Palm Beach Credit – Michele Peterson


Bradley Park Hotel: Dating from 1924, this Mediterranean Revival historic landmark is a wallet-friendly option near the FlaglerMuseum. Many of the 32 suites are equipped with full kitchens (www.bradleyparkhotel.com).

The Breakers: Sumptuous rooms, a waterfront location and two championship golf courses make this property a favourite. The exclusive Flagler Club floors offer concierge service, private lounge access and superior rooms. (www.thebreakers.com).

Brazilian Court: This luxurious low-rise property offers a Frédéric Fekkai Spa, fine French-American cuisine at Café Boulud and 80 rooms, many with terraces/balconies set around an interior courtyard.

The Church Mouse: This posh thrift store located at 378 South County Road is open October-June (www.bbts.org/churchmouse.shtml).

Worth Avenue Shopping Association: Historian Rick Rose conducts one-hour history and architecture walking tours of Worth Avenue on the second and fourth Wednesdays monthly during the winter season. Cost is $10 USD with proceeds to charity (worth-avenue.com)

MacArthur Beach Park Nature: (www.macarthurbeach.org).

R. G. Kreusler Park: Entrance to this beach is at 2882 S. Ocean Boulevard at Lake Avenue.

Flagler Museum Music concerts

Flagler Museum Music concerts feature acclaimed international musicians Credit Flagler Museum

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