Whispered secrets. Massive fortunes. Marked graves off Worth Avenue and sequestered public gardens; billionaires and heiresses and presidential retreats … this is Palm Beach, and there’s no place in the world quite as tantalizing.
One of the most moneyed zip codes in America, Palm Beach is the destination of choice for thousands of the world’s wealthiest snowbirds. A secluded sanctuary for the jet set and around 40 billionaires, Palm Beach is geographically separated from sultry, anything-goes Miami by a mere two hours — and only one on the Brightline — but in reality, it’s worlds away.
The 10-square-mile barrier island making up Palm Beach proper is notoriously hard to penetrate, but peeking behind the shimmering and seemingly untouchable curtain is half the fun of visiting. Fortunately, in my nearly seven years of living here (and thanks in part to the brazenly curious, unquenchably adventurous spirit of my husband), I’ve done the digging for you.
Unravel the island’s web of intrigue for yourself and explore these nine hidden gems of Palm Beach that will immediately elevate your status from tourist to in-the-know insider.
Carve your own under-the-radar itinerary at area resorts
Here’s one of Palm Beach’s best-kept insider tips: You don’t have to be the guest of a ritzy resort to enjoy some of its most alluring amenities. For example, at The Breakers, the undisputed icon of Palm Beach, even non-guests can waltz in and claim a seat at the oceanfront Seafood Bar, where an elongated aquarium with live fish serves as the bar’s countertop. (Ask to self-park upon arrival to avoid the $30 valet fee.)
A mainstay of quintessential Palm Beach, The Colony has been a hideaway for the rich and respected ever since its 1947 debut. Dressed in a pale pink façade, the hotel is now equally appealing to the Instagram set. Its modern verve — there’s a frosé dispenser at the outdoor Bimini Bar and a palette of sunny pastels is used throughout — carries through to the backyard pool, which is surrounded by tropical foliage and a lush carpet of mown grass. Here, lawn games like corn hole and croquet make every happy hour more lively, for guests and non-guests alike. And you’ll notice something unusual if you view the patio from its southern end: The pool is ever-so-slightly Florida-shaped. There are private villas for rent across from the main hotel if you find that you can’t resist a month-long sojourn.
In addition, you can snag a day pass to Eau Palm Beach’s opulent Eau Spa for just $80.
Bike the 5.5-mile Lake Trail
Tour around on two wheels by biking the 5.5-mile Lake Trail, which runs parallel to the Intracoastal Waterway and delivers views of Palm Beach estates to the east and the West Palm Beach skyline to the west. Along the way you’ll spot natural wonders including the otherworldly coral cut and a sprawling kapok tree lovingly nicknamed “Big Tree.”
Coral towers high on both sides of the passage where North Lake Trail meets Country Club Road, and the nondescript barred window cut into the rock — a bit reminiscent of the Bastille — has spawned many an urban legend. (In reality, it’s just a water department door. Or so they say.)
Pro tip: If your resort doesn’t provide bicycle access as a courtesy — and many do — by-the-hour SkyBike rentals are available just over the bridge in West Palm Beach.
Uncover the secrets of Worth Avenue
While Worth Avenue is an undisputed highlight of Palm Beach, few take time to fully explore the enchanting vias that wind around and behind the avenue’s high-fashion storefronts.
You’ll have to dig deeper to uncover Worth Avenue hidden layer. Alleys like Via Amore hide garden patios, playful sculptures, and shady sitting areas, while Via Mizner is imbued with historical significance as the former home of famed Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner. You’ll even find a tiny Starbucks and a gelato shop if you look hard enough.
On the main drag, smaller, winsome shops like Raptis Rare Books — don’t miss its collection of signed first editions by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Julia Child — are worth tucking into when you tire of all the Louis, Gucci, and Tiffany.
Pro tip: Hidden gem it isn’t, but the retail experience at the brand-new Lilly Pulitzer store is out of this palm-studded world.
Visit hush-hush public gardens and lushly cloaked courtyards
Though the island exudes an impenetrable air, public spaces here work the same way they do anywhere: arrive during opening hours and you’re free to enjoy. Little-known gardens dot the island — uncrowded havens offering semi-private viewing of the tropics’ flashiest foliage.
Fountains, sculptures, and bright-pink bougainvillea-laden pergolas are tucked into The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden and a bronze statue of Pan of Rohallion graces the entrance pool at the half-acre Pan’s Garden, where 300 species of native trees and wildflowers thrive. And at The Brazilian Court Hotel, a discreet enclave dating back to the 1920s, visitors will find one of the most intimate courtyards on the island.
Source: Travel + Leisure