Palm Beach is a perfect vacation destination; just ask anyone. Former presidents, golf pros, and even manatees all make this divine stretch of Florida coast their getaway of choice.
When you visit, stay at the PGA National Resort & Spa to take advantage of their incredible amenities, like five legendary golf courses and an opulent pool. Its location is ideal; perched on the edge of a nature reserve, it's far enough away from the hustle and bustle that it feels like it's you’re a whole other world, yet it's less than ten miles from the coast. Spend your mornings getting pampered at the spa and your afternoons exploring one-of-a-kind attractions and nightlife. Or you could enjoy the beach in the morning and the onsite dining at night. There's no wrong way to experience Palm Beach, with its natural beauty and vacation-ready atmosphere.
Palm Beach Gardens' PGA National Resort & Spa isn't just for avid golfers, although it's got 90 holes to play for those who do want to hit the links. It's all about the spirit of the game. The Resort is surrounded by five gorgeously landscaped courses and backs up to Grassy Waters Preserve, which protects a stand of lush Everglades landscape... the resort is an oasis of natural calm far from the hustle and bustle of the city.
In addition to the golf courses, the Resort offers a gorgeous zero-entry pool surrounded by comfy lounge chairs and cabanas, great fitness equipment and classes, tennis courts, and a state-of-the-art spa (which includes access to the amazing outdoor healing mineral soaking pools).
The guestrooms, suites, and cottages offer incredible views and plenty of quiet and privacy for relaxing after a long day of golf or exploring. There are six onsite dining options, including a cocktail bar, a sports bar, a steakhouse, and a cabana-style poolside grill, all of which manage to stand out, even in Palm Beach's stellar culinary scene.
Grassy Waters Preserve offers a taste of the wild Everglades landscape that once covered Florida. It features 23 square miles of wetlands, tree islands, and forested hammocks unlike anything anywhere else in the country. Trails and boardwalks of varying length and difficulty crisscross the preserve, so anyone can spend as much or as little time exploring as they want. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might spot great blue herons, otters, bobcats, alligators and more. Or, take advantage of guided hikes and canoe paddles through Grassy Waters with experienced naturalists. Even if you go on your own, you'll come away with an appreciation for the work that goes into protecting this special slice of wilderness.
All beach trips should include at least one lighthouse stop, and in Palm Beach, the most scenic lighthouse is the one at Jupiter Inlet. The red brick tower was built atop a sand dune in the mid-19th century. The location was long a strategic point for Native Americans in the area, and later, for the US military. The lighthouse originally contained a signal station and Weather Bureau station, and by the 1930s it had a keeper's house, a radio beacon, powerhouse and several outbuildings spread across more than 100 acres. The coolest thing about the lighthouse is the role it played in WWII. It housed the Navy's Radio Detection Finding Station, which was known as "Station J." The purpose? Intercept German U-boat radio messages to warn Allied ships and help the US military destroy the enemy submarines; dozens were destroyed, thanks in part toStation J.
Today, the old WWII building houses a museum dedicated to the unique history of the light and the local area. You can also climb to the top of the tower to check out the view. There are usually guides at the top who are more than happy to point out features and attractions below and answer questions.
If you're planning a beach day during your visit, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is the best bet. It boasts two miles of pristine beach, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving (the limestone reefs just offshore house all kinds of unique creatures like parrotfish and loggerhead sea turtles), and surf fishing (with a license). The park has an awesome welcome center with exhibits on the cultural and natural history of this stretch of shoreline. Learn about the dolphins, manatees, crabs, turtles, and other creatures that call this ecosystem home before diving into the natural beauty. There's also a gift shop, in case you need to stock up on sunblock, as well as kayak rentals. The park's Munyon Island is only accessible by boat at high tide, but is worth the journey. If you're not looking to get in the water, there are two excellent self-guided nature trails to enjoy.
Pro tip: if you've got coolers, chairs, and toys you're bringing along, the park offers a tram from the parking area to the beach.
President John F. Kennedy was known for vacationing in Palm Beach so much that they nicknamed his compound the “Winter White House”… but few knew that during the height of the Cold War, Kennedy had a secret bunker built under a manmade island nearby. Now, you can climb inside the hidden shelter yourself.
The bunker, which was built in just 10 days by the SeaBees, could hold up to 30 members of the Kennedy family and key White House staff, and was stocked with enough food, water, and supplies to last for a month. The bunker could act as a temporary command center for the entire country. The entrance was hidden in a thicket of trees, and to make it inside, you’d have to pass a radiation quarantine. In the event the secret bunker became not-so-secret to any invading force, a hidden passageway at the back led to a helipad from which the president could be whisked to safety. As far as anyone knows, the bunker never had to be used (except to time how long it would take Kennedy to reach it – 10 minutes, if you were wondering), and by the time it was disclosed to the public in 1974, it had long sat abandoned. When it was reopened for the first time in 20 years, flooding had destroyed most of what was left inside.
Fortunately, in 1995, the Palm Beach Maritime Museum leased the land and has since set about restoring the bunker to its original state. Today, you can take a boat out to the man-made Peanut Island and experience the confines of the presidential fallout shelter for yourself.
Manatee season in Florida runs from November through the end of March, so if you're in Palm Beach during the season, you're very likely to see the gentle creatures taking a leisurely swim in the warm waters of Manatee Lagoon. The Florida Power & Light Company’s Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center outputs especially warm water that attracts manatees when temperatures drop in the winter. As more people came to see the manatees, a whole facility was developed around the lagoon. There's now a visitor center with loads of engaging, hands-on exhibits about manatees in addition to an observation deck where you can watch the manatees in the winter. Parking and admission are totally free, and the center’s mission to raise awareness for these endangered creatures is touching, making for an unforgettable stop.
For a relaxing morning or afternoon stop, plan a stroll in the Mounts Botanical Garden. Its caretakers describe the garden as a living museum, and they seek to highlight the variety of plants that can be grown in Palm Beach's unique subtropical climate. Spread across 14 perfect acres are 25 different garden areas, including water gardens, a fragrance garden, a butterfly garden, a children's hedge maze and a Zen garden. The garden includes especially impressive collections of roses, begonias, and Florida-native plants. The coolest part is that each season brings new blooms, so there's no bad time to visit.
Whether you're relaxing at the pool at the PGA National Resort or exploring the special history and natural beauty of Palm Beach, there's no escaping the perfect feeling of sun-drenched calm. It's a beautiful place for an escape from everyday life that's worth daydreaming over for years to come.
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