The Splendor of Palm Beach, Continued

the nation's corporate giants, leading financiers and all around socialites gather here for a whirlwind of black tie galas to raise money for an endless list of charitable causes. And, of course, they come here to enjoy the subtropical setting that offers the finest, be it dining, shopping, golfing or just plain relaxing. You can do that too, tuxedos and tiaras not required.

Joining the town's list of Forbes' wealthiest in recent years is a growing list of entertainment celebrities who have taken up residence here. Look closely and you might see rocker Rod Stewart on the town's recreation center, kicking a soccer ball around the athletic field. Or Jimmy Buffett with his little ones in tow, crossing the street to get to the beach.

Sandwiched in between the British rocker and the tropical troubadour is none other than The Donald, as in Trump. He lives in his own private world known as The Mar-a-Lago Club, a members-only establishment that the real estate mogul opens on a regular basis to local charities.

A peek through the arch
at Mar-A-Lago

Though you can't just drive in and take a look around, that doesn't stop many a tourist from just parking outside the gated entry for a quick peek and a photo. You certainly can't miss it. The national landmark dominates South Ocean Boulevard and gets its Mar-a- Lago name from its ocean view to the east and Intracoastal Waterway view to the west. The 17-acre estate, known as "The Jewel of Palm Beach" was built by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and includes its own golf course and underground tunnel leading to the beach. A mansion in the truest sense of the word, it boasts the tallest tower on the island - 75 feet in height. Trump, who definitely knows his real estate, bought the estate in for a mere $7 million back in 1985 from the Post Foundation.

And up the street from Trump is ex-wife number one, Ivana, who has her own home just across from the Atlantic Ocean.

Palm Beach has always attracted big names, as evidenced by the arrival of Spanish explorer Senor Juan Ponce de Leon who made a brief stop on the island back in 1513, waved ashore by Indians who were more interested in his boat than his travels.

Mary Lily and Henry
Morrison Flagler.

© Flagler Museum

Another ship, the aptly named Providencia, made an unscheduled stop on the then anonymous barrier island when it ran aground in 1878. The unfortunate accident for the Spanish crew left early settlers with 20,000 cocoanuts - part of the ship's cargo. The South Florida pioneers planted about 14,000 of them. The stately trees combined with the ocean backdrop led the settlers to christen their swampy, isolated home "Palm Beach" in 1886, registering the moniker with officials in Washington, D.C., in order to receive mail by boat from Jacksonville, Florida.

The New Breakers Spa and Beach Club

The Spa At The Breakers is an exciting new addition to this world-class resort, where one can indulge in head-to-toe revitalizing and pampering, from the plush robe and slippers provided upon arrival to the complete range of relaxing or invigorating activities and services. Twelve different massage therapies are available, as well as sea therapies from France, body scrubs wraps, facials, beauty salon, manicures and pedicures. There are seventeen private treatment rooms, Swiss shower, Vichy shower, massage, steam, sauna, a fully equipped oceanview cardio and weight room, 300 square foot oceanfront jacuzzi and a 25 meter lap pool. Treatments can be a ala carte or as package programs. Why not go for a complete day package, starting with a Le Soin Bleau facial, then a scrub, aromatherapy bath and massage, rejuvenating hand therapy with manicure or pedicure, hair styling and unlimited use of the Spa facility and classes?

Emerge beautified and fortified at the stylish oceanfront Beach Club Restaurant and Terrace and enjoy offerings such as Spa foods or the spectacular Sunday Brunch. The Beach Club's expansive vista of the Atlantic Ocean provides the stylish backdrop for this 26,000 square foot facility, which includes 4 pools, including a children's pool and a lap pool, 10 private cabanas, with all the trimmings such as a daily delivery of a basket of goodies, beverage service, and pool deck lockers.

It wasn't until the late 1800s that today's Palm Beach began to take shape under the direction of Henry Morrison Flagler, one of the founders of the Standard Oil Corporation. Flagler saw, and took, the opportunity to turn the out-of-the-way jungle-like setting into a literal playground for the rich. Not only did he make Palm Beach accessible through his Florida East Coast Railway, he left an indelible mark through Whitehall, the stately mansion built as a wedding gift for third wife Mary Lily Kenan. Completed in 1902, it still stands today as the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.

The Flagler Museum

© Flagler Museum

When you come for a visit, the private-home-turned-museum would make an excellent starting point for any Palm Beach tour.

Dubbed the "Taj Mahal of North America," the museum preserves not only the spirit of Flagler, but also the nation's Gilded Age when industry was booming and today's necessities such as electricity, telephones and automobiles were just changing the American landscape.

The museum, which throws open Flagler's ballroom as well as private bedrooms for public view, transports visitors back to that time when possibilities seemed endless. The museum grounds also pay tribute to the visionary by displaying one of his private railcars, giving a glimpse of the status and stature Flagler enjoyed during his time.

The spectacular interior of The
Breakers was handcrafted by
Florentine artisans.

photo courtesy of The Breakers

Another "must see" is that grand dame of hotels, The Breakers, which marked its 100th anniversary in 1996. Built by Flagler in 1896 as the Palm Beach Inn, it has re-emerged after fires and hurricanes as the breathtaking historic landmark that dominates the island today.

Whether there as a registered guest or just passing through for cocktails and dinner, The Breakers does not disappoint. Its extravagant attention to detail - be it the fragrance of fresh lilies that greets you in the lobby or the impeccable service that just seems to naturally flow from the staff - adds up to a feeling of Old World enchantment mixed with modern day efficiency without being rushed.

The hotel lacks nothing, offering golf, tennis, fishing, sailing, diving - virtually every form of outdoor vacation sport - along with quiet courtyards ideal for people-watching in between meals at one of the hotel's nine restaurants. And if that weren't enough, The Breakers recently completed a $25 million project that added the Oceanfront Conference Center and Spa to its long list of amenities (see sidebar).

The Brazilian Court,
a romantic
Other accommodations on the island are just as impressive, if on a smaller scale. The Brazilian Court has its identity down pat, billing itself as "a quiet oasis." Nestled in a quiet, residential area, the hotel exudes European charm, offering understated elegance throughout from its recently renovated guest rooms and suites to its award-winning Chancellor Grille restaurant and calming flower-filled courtyard.

Don't be surprised if you stumble upon a bride and groom while you're there. Because of its tranquil, romantic atmosphere, the Brazilian Court has cultivated quite the reputation as the perfect spot forintimate weddings. Fido will love it too. Yes, the hotel offers a room service menu for the pampered pooch.

The stately Colony
Another good pick is the The Colony which invites guests to "Relax in the tradition of Old Florida." Just steps from the ocean, the hotel offers fine continental cuisine in the Polo Restaurant and encourages guests to enjoy the climate by having their meals along side its Florida-shaped pool. Part of its charm is its origin as a private home, built as far back as 1928.

Visitors to Palm Beach also proclaim The Chesterfield as one of their favorites as it is "just a scone's throw from Worth Avenue." If you detect a bit of British influence here, you're right on track. Margaret Thatcher prefers it, with its Traditional English Afternoon Tea served in the library.

The Leopard Room at The
Chesterfield Hotel
The Churchill Cigar Room has its own humidors, but the most distinct feature of the establishment is its Leopard Lounge where the proper hotel shows a bit of its wild side. Get ready for leopard print carpeting and swirling naked nymphs that adorn its ceiling. Put on your glad rags and dance the night away after an oh-so-satisfying dinner. Click here for more lovely Palm Beach hotels

With the energy you have left, Worth Avenue is a must.

Palm Beach offers world-
class shopping on Worth
The world renowned shopping street is almost beyond description, with a dizzying array of the world's top boutiques and retailers, all within walking distance of each other.

What's your pleasure? Worth Avenue has it all.

The Esplanade on
Worth Avenue.
Starting at the ocean, shoppers are greeted by Saks Fifth Avenue, located in The Esplanade - a shopping experience of is own filled with fine boutiques. Soon to join the luxury retail giant is Nieman Marcus, now under construction directly across the street.

Just a short list of some of the names says it all - Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Giorgio Armani and Hermes speak to the essence of Palm Beach and its penchant, make that demand, for luxurious living.

Even if visitors find those retailers out of their reach, that's no reason not to at least window shop on the street that almost glitters with sheer opulence.

Local treasures also abound in such gift shops as Donald Bruce , where wonderful trinkets you don't need become things you must have. Or step into Palm Beach Gift and Gourmet for the most scrumptious chocolate encased cherries on this earth.

And there's always lunch, or dinner, that can be enjoyed on the Avenue or in one of its gorgeous vias.

Ta-boo: Birthplace of the
Bloody Mary
Ta-boo , for example, is a Worth Avenue institution that offers a comfortable yet elegant atmosphere. Frank Sinatra thought so, as did Joseph Kennedy and Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton who allegedly inspired the creation of the Bloody Mary at the restaurant's bar.

Renato's is another excellent choice where charm meets a warmth elegance while serving up contemporary Italian fare.

If you just want a snack or a light lunch on the run, you can have that too at Parisorbet and Gracie's Garden Cafe . Both offer a respite for tired shoppers who need a quick pick-me-up.

But while in Palm Beach, don't neglect the simple pleasures that can be overlooked amidst the staggering wealth.

Begin the day at the town's public midtown beach for a hint of the day's beauty to come as the sun rises over the ocean. Take an afternoon stroll on the Lake Trail that runs almost the entire length of the subtropical island along the Intracoastal Waterway. And grab a bench at day's end at the town's docks to get a glimpse of the stunning sunset sure to await you there. Click here for more sumptuous dining in Palm Beach.