For more than a century Palm Beach, Florida been known as a playground for the jet-setting crowd and winter home to the wealthy. While it’s true that the Kennedys, Prince Charles and Tiger Woods have made the rounds, there is more than meets the eye in this affluent South Florida city.
To get a feel for the moneyed set you can take a drive down Royal Palm Boulevard or Royal Poinciana Way. Reminiscent of Hollywood, California, towering tropical palm trees line the median and world famous shops sit back from the sidewalk. Mansions from the 1920’s grace the adjoining streets. Beautiful architecture and beautiful grounds complete the feel for old money.
Henry Flagler, the railroad tycoon, had a winter home here known as Whitehall. Today it is a museum. A tribute to the Gilded Age of South Florida, the home is a spectacular showcase of artwork, design and extravagance. The museum is open to the public for a fee ($18 for adults and $10 for children 13-17, $3 for kids 6-12). The museum is closed on Mondays but open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 12 noon-5pm.
While the Flagler Museum may be a little out of budget range for visiting families, there are still other less costly options. Bring your bikes or your walking shoes and take a tour of the Lake Trail. This trail runs for approximately five miles along the Lake Worth Lagoon or Intracoastal Waterway from Royal Palm Way (SR 704) on the south up to the north part of the island. The trail runs by Seagull Cottage, Flagler’s first beach house, the famous Breakers Ocean Golf Course, a marina, the Flagler Museum and other stately homes. This trail was designed exclusively for bicyclists and pedestrians. You will need to park on one of the side streets or up near the Henry Flagler Museum. Make sure you carry some water and snacks because there aren’t any convenience stores along the way. There are some drinking fountains near the Quadrille Bridge and a new Publix is supposed to open in the Fall of 2011 north of the Breakers Ocean Golf Course. These places could be a stop for trail riders.
A municipal beach runs along the coast near Worth Avenue along Ocean Boulevard. It does have metered parking. Some spots are reserved for residents of the area so be sure that you’re not parking in them. After hours (6pm) is probably the cheapest time to access the beach but no lifeguards are on duty. There are some rocky areas on the beach so note those before swimming.
Palm Beach does have other nearby nearly free or modestly priced things to do or places to visit. Most of these are within an easy drive of the island. CityPlace in West Palm Beach offers upscale shopping and entertainment. The open air plaza features live entertainers during the weekend. You can stand around and listen to the music for free. Once again, parking is generally in a parking garage or at a meter.
Cheaper venues are found north at Loggerhead Park in Juno Beach with beach access, picnic facilities and trails. Loggerhead Marine Life Center is a good place to tour with children. There is a fee. Another location to consider is the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park off Jack Nicklaus Drive in North Palm Beach. This site offers beach access, kayaking, boating, a visitor’s center, fishing, hiking and other water related activities.
Palm Beach is still a pricey place to visit but it is close enough to other attractions to make it a nice location for a day trip or for general sightseeing.
Henry Morris Flagler Museum http://www.flaglermuseum.us/
Palm Beach Trail Guide http://trails.fateback.com/