Florida coast to coast: Palm Beach, America’s First Resort

Simon Calder begins his drive across the Sunshine State, leaving as the sun rises above the Atlantic Ocean and hoping to catch it setting on the Gulf Coast

Simon Calder@SimonCalder
Thursday 18 January 2018 10:29
Sunrise to Sunset - Palm Beach - “America’s First Resort Destination”

America’s First Resort Destination: that’s the impressive claim for Palm Beach, posing beautifully in the Atlantic Ocean and a fine place to begin a great drive.

It occupies a 16-mile barrier island, which in the 19th century was one of America’s final frontiers — and little more than a mosquito-infested swamp.

The first structure on Palm Beach was Seagull Cottage, built in 1886. Seven years later it was sold to Henry Morrison Flagler, a visionary entrepreneur who drove the railroad down into Florida. He later moved into the rather more opulent Whitehall, which has now become the Flagler Museum.

In a classic example of the concept of “build it and they will come”, the rail connection from New York and Washington triggered a tourism boom. As the reputation of Palm Beach spread, it became a stronghold for the rich and famous: the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers and John F Kennedy took holidays here. And he’s not the only President associated with the island. In 1926, an heiress named Marjorie Merriweather Post built a mansion here. In 1985 it was bought by the businessman Donald Trump, and within weeks of his inauguration as President in 2017, Mar-a-Lago was nicknamed the winter White House.

The centrepiece of Palm Beach is a half-mile thoroughfare known as the Street of Dreams. New York has Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills has Rodeo Drive. Palm Beach’s response? Worth Avenue. Italian artisans were brought to Florida to create the Palm Beach look, and what I call America’s ritziest road.

My America Holidays offers holidays to Palm Beach from £899 per person. Visit www.myamericaholiday.co.uk or call 020 8290 9751. Hertz car hire in Florida starts from just £21 per day. Visit Hertz.co.uk

Discover more at visitflorida.com @VisitFlorida #LoveFlorida

*Price includes flights and accommodation and is based on 2 adults sharing on a room only basis with selected travel dates and departure airports. Prices may vary, are subject to availability and correct as of 15 January 2018