The Palm Beaches dazzle with luxury and approachable hospitality.
Pulling up to Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, I can almost hear Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous TV host Robin Leach inviting me to “Enter their dazzling world of luxury on privileged tours of the fantasy palaces they call home.” The selection of gleaming Bentleys, Lamborghinis and McLarens parked at the valet station reinforced the impression. Palm Beach and adjacent Manalapan, where the Eau is located, may be home to the designer shops and high-end dining you’d expect, but I discovered it’s also a delightfully down-to-earth beachside destination.
My friend and I settled into our Eau accommodations, with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean’s waves crashing on the private sandy beach. The vibrant blue and yellow Jonathan Adler-designed rooms contrast with the lobby and lounge areas outfitted with fine art and antiques, a reminder of the property’s former life as a Ritz- Carlton. At the resort’s Breeze Ocean Kitchen, my seafood cobb salad with fresh poached shrimp and lobster, grilled pineapple, avocado, bacon and a tangy citrus vinaigrette paired perfectly with an icy, salt-rimmed margarita. After lunch, we settled into beach loungers and found that the people watching with fellow guests decked out in their Prada and Missoni resort wear competed with our novels for attention.
We called in a favor with a local friend to score us a table at Pizza Al Fresco, an Italian restaurant that spills over into a courtyard perfumed with hydrangeas and lit with hundreds of twinkling lights. It’s not fancy, but creamy burrata with prosciutto di Parma and basil pesto, a Neapolitanstyle pizza from the wood-burning oven and a glass of rich Chianti evoked memories of my favorite experiences in Italy (likely boosted by our charming Italian server). Finding a car to take us back to the hotel proved challenging, so we detoured to The Colony Hotel Palm Beach. The pink exterior is quintessential Palm Beach, and the lobby’s junglethemed, custom hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper alone is worth the visit (find the panthers sporting diamond necklaces). We sidled up to the poolside Swifty’s bar, ordered cocktails from a friendly bartender and enjoyed the balmy South Florida night.
The next morning, we set out to experience some of the spots that have made this city a resort destination for well more than 100 years. The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum’s centerpiece is Whitehall, the 75- room waterfront estate the Standard Oil co-founder and railroad tycoon completed in 1902. The jaw-dropping property is filled with opulent antiques and family artifacts, making it easy to envision house parties full of other Gilded Age luminaries.
We drove across the drawbridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway for a walking food tour of downtown West Palm Beach. A local guide led our group to taste a mahi tostada, croque monsieur, Colombian espresso, an Asian-fusion bento box and an award-winning Key lime pie, showcasing the diverse culinary talent in residence.
No trip to Palm Beach is complete without a stroll down Worth Avenue, the island’s preeminent shopping street. Just about every luxe designer you can imagine is represented: Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, to name just a few. Venture into the alleys tucked off the main drag for treasures you won’t find elsewhere such as former Buckhead resident Danielle Rollins’ fashion designs at Coastal Girls and custom leather footwear at Il Sandalo of Capri.
Palm Beach surprised me. Sure, it’s a place to make all of your “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” come true, but it’s also possible to have low-key experiences punctuated by genuine hospitality.
IF YOU GO
Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa
Pizza Al Fresco
Swifty’s at The Colony Palm Beach
West Palm Beach Food Tours
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
Senior Contributing Editor and Beauty Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Travel, Food and Design Writer and Author.