Escape to Tropical Paradise

Palm Beach, Florida, serves up everything from seaside mansions and historical elegance to palm trees and the flying trapeze.

By Sadye Osterloh
Photography by Marie Snow

 

Ah, winter is soon upon us. The dramatic leaves of fall are turning a crispy brown and drifting to the ground. What a perfect time to slide your feet into some slippers, grab a mug of hot chocolate and start planning a wintertime escape! Sure we love the seasons changing, but do you ever close your eyes and dream of being whisked away to a tropical paradise? I decided to make that dream come true with a weekend trip to Florida’s sunny Palm Beach and The Breakers Palm Beach.

If you’ve ever wanted to live like a queen (or a king), then I’m fairly certain I’ve found the exact spot. In fact, Princess Diana has even visited The Breakers Palm Beach, and it feels like a castle by the sea. Packed full of history and gorgeous architecture, this legendary resort sits right on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean and offers basically anything and everything you’d want out of a vacation experience and then some. With only four short days to explore, I made the most of my time at The Breakers.

Since construction of The Breakers in 1896 by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler, the building itself has suffered two major fires. It has maintained its historical elegance with barrel vaulted, hand-painted ceilings and carefully hand-restored antique tapestries, which are displayed throughout the main hall. I had the opportunity to set foot in the many ballrooms, from the Mediterranean Ballroom with its frescoed ceilings and Venetian-style chandeliers to the Circle Ballroom with its soaring, 30-foot domed ceiling and oval murals.

My favorite part of mornings at The Breakers was breakfast at the Beach Club. After one such delightful breakfast, our waitress, Deirdre, pointed us in the direction of the resort’s bike rentals. My travel companion and I took off gleefully dinging our bike’s bells, alerting any bird, bystander or golf cart, “Watch out, here we come!” The trail meandered along the island’s western shoreline through mansion country and also cruised past the Whitehall, Henry Flagler's Gilded Age estate, now-turned museum. Though my favorite part was dorkily ringing my bike bell, it was a lovely way to take in the island, work up a sweat and feel the ocean breeze through my hair.

Another great way to check out all Palm Beach had to offer was a driving tour around town. After freshening up at The Breakers, I headed to the courtyard where Deborah Hutchison, a family friend and founder of Gutsy Gals Inspire Me, was waiting to take me on a tour of the mega-mansions of Palm Beach Island. Current and/or former residents include the Kennedys, Trumps, Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson, so one can imagine there are some pretty lavish estates. Priced up to $74 million, some have a more modern look but many were built in the 1920s in the Mediterranean-revival style — a Palm Beach hallmark mix of stucco walls, Spanish red-tile roofs, Italianate towers, Moorish-Gothic carvings and the uniquely Floridian use of coquina, a grayish porous limestone made of coral rock with fossil-like imprints of shells. Two words: huge and beautiful.

If relaxing on a beautiful beach, enjoying four gorgeous pools, playing golf and gazing at the stars in a hot tub isn’t enough excitement, consider taking a flying trapeze class at the Aerial Trapeze Academy in Royal Palms. Yes, I tried the flying trapeze. I stepped into a harness, climbed the tall ladder and found myself standing at the edge of a very tall platform holding onto a trapeze bar about to jump off. Before I could chicken out, I heard the word “Hep,” which means it was my turn to jump and soar through the air, let go of the bar and be caught by another trapeze artist. No worries, not only was there a net below, but I was also harnessed in so it’s safe for people of all ages, shapes and sizes! Feeling triumphant, I decide to celebrate the flying-trapeze success with an evening at the HMF, The Breakers’ hip and glamorous establishment for classic cocktails and delectable tapas. Set in the historical Florentine Room, I dined and sipped while tapping my toes to the music and taking in the vibe of yesteryear.

Before heading to the airport my last day, I did some last-minute shopping. There are more than 10 shops at The Breakers including Lily Pulitzer and Ralph Lauren. While one could easily go a whole trip and never leave The Breakers, it was finally time to depart. On our way out of town, my traveling companion and I decided to stop in and check out some of the upscale shopping on Worth Avenue, including Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton and Cartier. We grabbed one last bite to eat at Cafe Via Flora. We sat back in our chairs and reflected on some of our favorite moments: the craft cocktails and mouthwatering meals, lounging by the pools, flying through the air on the trapeze, laughing as we rang our bike bells along the mansion trail and enjoying the breathtaking grandiosity of The Breakers resort. Palm Beach, I’ll be back.