How Palm Beach is boosting Florida’s luxury tourism market

By Rose Adams | 04 Jul 2019 | Travel

Forget Miami – Tempus travels to Palm Beach to discover why it’s one of America’s best kept secrets

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* Eau Palm Beach Spa Resort Palm Beach sits along seven acres of private beach, with spacious rooms offering unhindered balcony views of the sun rising above the waves each morning

If you’re planning a trip to Florida for your next escape – and with it's tropical climate and abundance of beautiful beaches why wouldn't you? – forget popular Miami because Palm Beach should be your next port of call. Palm Beach is an undiscovered gem filled with five-star hotels offering first-rate hospitality, as I explored the 2,300 square miles that make up this spot synonymous with oceanic opulence.

It's immediately obvious why the glitterati have started to flock here in their droves. Historically a hit with the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Astors, Palm Beach is now home from home to the likes of Sir Rod Stewart and US President Donald Trump – who happened to be in residence during our visit. While we didn't chat to POTUS himself, we did manage to enjoy some presidential treatment of our own at the five-star Eau Resort & Spa, just a stone’s throw away from Trump’s coastal Manalapan property.

The hotel sits along seven acres of private beach, with spacious rooms offering unhindered balcony views of the sun rising above the waves each morning – a truly unforgettable wake up call. If you can drag your gaze away from the window, take note of the beautiful interiors – rooms are decorated with contemporary Mediterranean accents, courtesy of esteemed American designer Jonathan Adler. A stand out feature of this hotel is it’s ‘adult playground’ – an exclusive spa which adopts a ‘pause, play, perfect’ approach to relaxation. I opted for the Eau Spa Signature Massage, a full-body aromatherapy massage with luxury foot treatment and hot stones to finish. Each massage is completely bespoke – a point of difference that echoed throughout all aspects of the Eau’s hospitality – and you’re able to tailor the music, scents and colours inside your treatment room to create your own moment of bliss. Every treatment is accompanied with a duo of cupcakes and glass of champagne – a perfect antidote to any lingering jet lag. >>

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* The Breakers is still one of the grandest resorts in Palm Beach

One of Palm Beach's biggest appeals is its rich history. It was industrialist Henry M Flagler who transformed the land from an uninhabited wilderness to a luxury destination in the 1890s, by connecting Palm Beach to the Florida East Coast Railway and constructing luxury hotels Hotel Royal Poinciana and The Breakers.

The former was pulled down in 1935 but the latter is still one of the grandest resorts in Palm Beach, boasting an array of restaurants, its own golf course The Ocean Course, and four pools. There, you can dine at their recently refurbished Seafood Bar – its aquatically themed décor is inspired by the allure of the yachting lifestyle and features a striking nautical interior including beautiful aquariums and 360 ̊ ocean views. Embracing the ocean theme, I opted for fresh stone crab claws on ice, followed by coconut shrimp with sweet chili aioli – a local delicacy that’s well worth sampling. Exquisite cuisine is most certainly part of Palm Beach's core ethos, and something I experienced frequently throughout my visit. One eaterie that remains particularly memorable was Meat Market, a prestigious steakhouse with unrivalled service, where I feasted on delicious local produce alongside inspiring cocktail fusions. 

Speaking to the many residents we met during our trip, it's evident how proudly, almost passionately, they look back to Flagler and the history of their home. His former mansion, the Gilded-Age Estate, Whitehall, still exists today as The Flagler Museum. The 75-room estate, originally a wedding present for his wife Mary, is full of opulent art and antique furnishings. >>

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* All your luxury shopping needs can be met at The Royal Poinciana Plaza [Photo credit: CO The Royal Poinciana Plaza]

But it's not all museums – Palm Beach also boasts a reputation as a retail therapy hotspot. Worth Avenue, a historic shopping street not dissimilar to California’s Rodeo Drive, boasts a wealth of upscale boutiques including Tiffany & Co. and Chanel; and trendy eateries such as Ta-boo, a 1941 vintage bistro with a Continental-American menu. As I walked the length of the palm-lined avenue, impeccably presented women known as ‘Worth Avenue Models’ caught my eye. Dressed head to toe in outfits curated from the avenue's stores, they made for an original walking advertisement.

You can also spree at the open-air Royal Poinciana Plaza. Built in the late 1950s, it remains one of Palm Beach’s most treasured cultural gems, where you can pick up everything from rye bread to red Birkin bags. For inspirational interiors, residents head to Restoration Hardware to discover an array of new ideas obtained from the world's most renowned artisans, showcasing beautifully unique products and home furnishing combinations – its opulent rooftop restaurant makes for the perfect brunch pitstop too.

Those who have ventured to Palm Beach are rightly smug in the knowledge of its lesser- known credentials, while those who’ve only just discovered its wonder – myself included – are in awe of all it has to offer. And with Trump a fan, it’s sure to be on everybody’s radar soon, so beat the crowds and claim your slice of sunshine sooner rather than later.

Read more reviews, news and exclusive interviews in the latest issue of Tempus Magazine, out now