Palm Beach, Florida is home to the super-rich. Extravagant mansions are commonplace and luxurious miles of beaches are the norm.
You might wonder if there is anything attainable behind the glittering facade for the normal person.
The town is an hour’s drive, around fifty miles, from the gay hub of Fort Lauderdale. It’s about an hour and a half’s drive from Miami and a hundred miles from the Florida Keys.
So is there anything behind the glittering facade for the normal person? Say a gay guy looking for a relaxed weekend?
With beautiful weather all year round, I headed on a premium seat with Norwegian.
From the second I stepped onto the flight from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale, I knew I’d be encountering some people who lived the high life. My seat neighbor was an American woman who has houses in both Palm Beach and London. Accompanying her was a ‘therapy dog’, the cutest little ball of fluff.
‘She’s not allergic!’ she said, her insanely white teeth glaring at me. ‘She has hair just like us!’
Thankfully, the service was splendid, the seat was comfortable and the dog was quiet.
Arriving in the cool tropical climate, I headed straight to the boutique hotel.
Crane’s Beach House is a hideaway in Delray Beach with two pools, lined with palm trees. I stayed in one of the luxury villas, and it was everything I could want.
With an open floorplan, the king bedroom was very large and comfy. There is a state of the art 60″ flat screen smart TV with digital cable and complimentary Netflix access.
There’s also a private patio, a kitchen, complimentary bicycles and yoga mats.
Living the high life
Arts Garage was one of the go-to places for me at Delray Beach. An innovative independent creative arts venue, it plays host to many up-and-coming performers in South Florida.
Garage Queen is a pageant style contest for 12 drag queens, hosted every Friday during the summer.
I went to go see the Markus Gottshlich Trio, led by the Austrian jazz pianist. It was held in an intimate setting and I can’t ever complain about a place that has a policy of bringing your own booze.
Island Living Tour
Perhaps the quickest and easiest ways of getting to know Palm Beach is by bike.
Led by the hilarious and knowledgeable Leslie Diver, I learned everything about the town from famous residents to its colorful history. We spotted Donald Trump’s gaudy gold-trimmed mansion next door to Rod Stewart’s rocking abode.
Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
Speaking as a Londoner, it’s always hilarious to me when Americans try to say something that was built a century ago is really ‘old’. And don’t get me wrong, comparisons are relative, but the Henry Morrison Flagler museum was only built in 1902.
Flagler is known as the ‘grandfather of Palm Beach’, an oil monopolist who created the Florida East Cost Railway and a series of luxury hotels. If you’re a fan of the Gilded Age, it’s somewhere I would recommend. However, it’s not essential.
Delray Yacht Cruise
I probably went on the wrong day for the Delray Yacht Cruise. It was perhaps not the greatest planning that I ended up alone on the special Father’s Day voyage.
The brunch cruise, which includes a buffet of cooked meats and continental options, was passable. I spent the majority of the trip sunning myself on the upper deck. If you wanted to see even more of the area’s beautiful mansions, this is a place to go.
Eat and drink
Sant Ambreous Palm Beach
Sant Ambreous is serving Milan meets Manhattan. This perfect brunch spot combines a classic 1950s style Italian cafe with the coffee bars typical of New York. Service was impeccable.
Grato is all about simple Italian fare done excellently. Chef Clay Conley creates homemade pasta of high quality, offering an array of classic Mediterranean dishes. Easily the best pasta I’ve ever had in the United States.
Yaxche Tearoom and Emporium
Yaxche (pronounced ‘yaw-chee’) has its own water filtering system that hopes to create the ‘purest water possible’. You go in, and you’re first asked about your taste preferences. The baristas will then create the perfect concoction for you. I had a beautiful chicken, strawberry and goat’s cheese salad.
Inside an offbeat old house, Dada is perhaps the coolest restaurant in Palm Beach.
Featuring live events and open mic nights and concerts, it’s an affordable and delicious meal. Make sure to try the Dada Dates, their speciality. They are bacon wrapped medjoool with goat’s cheese and chorizo. I also tried their crab cake – very fresh. For main, I had the crispy skin chicken breast with sweet potato puree, kale walnut craisin salad and a blackberry vinaigrette. Light, unusual, but very filling.
The Breakers is arguably one of the most luxurious hotels in town. Featuring a plethora of amenities, I headed there for cocktails and tapas-style bites.
Head to HMF, named after Flagler, for old school glamor. Try the Korean short ribs, the duck bao buns, and wagyu beef sliders.
Caffe Luna Rosa
Caffe Luna Rosa, founded as a simple ice cream and panini place, now has an expansive menu. If you fancy a simple meal with great service with sea views, this is a great place to come.
LGBTI life in Palm Beach
While Palm Beach may not have as much LGBT nightlife compared to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, there is still fun to be had.
Palm Beach is home to the Gay Polo League, a group representing a cross-secton of ages and abilities. We interviewed the founder, Chip McKenney, and we will posting a full article when the league comes to Reading for a special tournament.
Rooster’s is one of the most popular spots, having been going strong since the early ’80s. Check out some of the best drag southern Florida has to offer on the weekends.
Fort Dix is a friendly diverse dive bar. Cheap beer and a bar lined with games, it’s one for the locals.
The one thing I feared was that Palm Beach would just be pretty on the outside. If you’re not a multi-millionaire, can you even enjoy yourself?
I learned you absolutely can. It has a soulful, relaxed, chilled atmosphere with amazing views. And for the food, well, I might go back just for the pasta.
For more information about the area, go to Discover The Palm Beaches.
Norwegian operates three weekly flights year round nonstop between London Gatwick and Fort Lauderdale International Airport.
Flights are operated by a fleet of brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with two cabins – premium and economy. Fares start from £165 one way / £309 return in economy and £505 one way / £1,055 return in Premium including all taxes and charges. To book, visit Norwegian’s website. To book visit their website.