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Travel blueprint - Palm Beach

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1 January 2008 by Pete Mathers

Palm Beach County sits on Florida’s south-east coast, 60 miles north of Miami. A long-time favourite with America’s super rich, it promises to deliver ‘The Best of Everything’. “Europe is a place where people come from. Nobody should actually go there,” wrote Henry Morrison Flagler over 100 years ago. The self-made American developer, oil baron and partner of John D. Rockerfeller preferred the sunnier climes of Florida to the blustery winters of Europe.

In 1902, as a wedding present for his third wife Mary Lily, Flagler built a 55-room Beaux Arts home in the sunshine of Palm Beach, a barrier island of palm-studded sands and tropical breezes. The wealthy of America’s Gilded Age declared it “more magnificent than any other private dwelling in the world”. Almost instantly, Palm Beach became the location in which to see out the winter.

To this day, the town remains an enclave of the ultra-affluent, home to countless millionaires and more Rolls Royces per capita than anywhere else in the world (with the exception of Hong Kong). Worth Avenue, the east coast’s answer to Rodeo Drive, offers everything from haute couture clothing and designer jewellery to paintings and antiques. Whitehall, Flagler’s famous estate, became Florida’s first museum, where original furnishings and Flagler’s personal railcar are still on display today.

Palm Beach County was established in 1909, named after its wealthy first community. With average temperatures of 78°F, Gulf Stream breezes and 47 miles of pristine Florida beaches, it’s an ideal year-round destination, be it part of a tour of the Sunshine State or an extension to a stay in Miami.

Spread across the county’s 38 municipalities and unincorporated areas are over 2,000 highly acclaimed restaurants, 160 golf courses (making Palm Beach County Florida’s golf capital), and an enviable list of attractions. Exploring is as rewarding as the weather.

Boca Raton offers trendy shops and restaurants, a distinctive Resort & Spa of Moorish and Spanish architecture, and Mizner Park, where concerts are held throughout the year in the Count de Hoernie Amphitheatre. West Palm Beach holds Florida’s largest waterfront music and art festival in the first week of May, yet at any time of year you’ll find world-class shopping, dining and nightlife along Clematis Street, as well as a permanent collection of over 5,000 works of art at the Norton Museum of Art.

Delray Beach is a beach town with style, with a traditional main street, complete with quaint brick sidewalks, cosy bistros and outdoor cafés. Nearby Boynton Beach is a popular fishing spot, so it’s no surprise that its seafood restaurants are some of the best on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Lake Worth has a vibrant nightlife with live music, family-owned restaurants and some quirky traditions, like the Annual Street Painting Festival in February, where hundreds of artists transform the downtown streets into works of art.

Pahokee is Palm Beach County’s centre of eco-tourism, with activities that stretch from fishing, hunting and sunset viewing to camping, hiking and lake-bound canoeing.

Tailormade holidays: In peak season (mid-Dec to mid-Apr) it can be easy to spend a fortune on some rather luxurious resorts – consider The Breakers if you do, another opulent Flagler hotel on a priceless sliver of beachfront. But travel off-peak (mid-Apr to mid-Dec) and many of the area’s hotels offer substantially reduced rates. You’ll also benefit from a complimentary booklet full of savings and discounts at other restaurants and attractions. Call 020 7838 5966 or email your enquiry to [email protected].

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