GATEWAY

From polo to pad­dle­board­ing, Tak­ing on Ta­hoe, South­ern sip­pin’ and On our radar

Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - BY AARON KYLIE WITH PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JAVIER FRU­TOS

FLORIDA’S PALM BEACHES are abuzz. Cana­dian singing su­per­star Justin Bieber has been spot­ted around town, carous­ing with lo­cal pro golfer Rickie Fowler (pa­parazzi caught them at din­ing hot spot Gua­n­a­banas). It’s the talk of the county. Of course, Cana­di­ans have long been mak­ing the state’s orig­i­nal re­sort re­gion a favoured des­ti­na­tion. (Cé­line Dion and her mother have owned homes here.) And like the gamut of Cana­dian vis­i­tors, the Palm Beaches are home to a range of ac­tiv­i­ties — from fam­ily-friendly ecoin­spired to high-brow lux­u­ri­ous. Here’s a sam­pling of the spec­trum.

Flamingo Quest

“Oh, oh, oh, a least bit­tern!” cries one of the bird­ers on the Flamingo Quest tour as a small heron flies into a clump of cat­tails and dis­ap­pears from view. Some two dozen bird­ers train their binoc­u­lars and spot­ting scopes. Then sud­denly one shouts “there he goes!” and there’s a hardy cheer from all as­sem­bled. The Audubon So­ci­ety of the Ever­glades has been host­ing this flamingo bird-watch­ing tour (with no guar­an­tee, of course, of ac­tu­ally see­ing the iconic pink fowl) on se­lect Satur­days in March and April since 2014 at Stormwa­ter Treat­ment Area 2 just west of Welling­ton. Flamin­gos or not, masses of birds flock to the ar­ti­fi­cial wet­land, in­clud­ing red-winged black­birds, herons, hawks, egrets, os­preys and a va­ri­ety of ducks to name but a few. But the chance of see­ing a flamingo in the wild has, says the so­ci­ety’s Su­san Mck­emy, made the tour “the hottest ticket in the bird­ing world.”

Pad­dle­board­ing

Man­sions and man­groves — these are the life­styles of Jupiter. At least that’s the view from a pad­dle­board on the town’s in­tra­coastal wa­ter­ways, namely the Lox­a­hatchee River. It’s one of only two des­ig­nated na­tional wild and scenic rivers in the state, and Blue­line Surf & Pad­dle Co. of­fers pri­vate and group tours here with guides such as Alex Cotleur, who seems as one with the wa­ter as her In­sta­gram han­dle, @jupiter­sup­mer­maid, would sug­gest. Cotleur dishes on lo­cal celebs — the afore­men­tioned Bieber and Fowler, the new wa­ter­side restau­rant that Michael Jor­dan is build­ing — shares some lo­cal his­tory and points out wildlife (a tur­tle here, an os­prey there) along a five-kilo­me­tre route. There might not be a bet­ter way to ex­plore coastal liv­ing.

Tur­tle ap­proved

What bet­ter en­dorse­ment could coastal beaches have than be­ing fre­quented by thou­sands of sea tur­tles ev­ery year? Green, leatherback and

log­ger­head tur­tles nest on coastal sands through­out the Palm Beaches area each year, typ­i­cally from March through Oc­to­ber. That, un­for­tu­nately, puts them at risk from a range of hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, from ghost fish­ing lines and nets to coastal devel­op­ment, in ad­di­tion to nat­u­ral threats. En­ter the Log­ger­head Marinelife Cen­ter, a sea tur­tle re­search, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and con­ser­va­tion cen­tre in Juno Beach. The high­lights among its ex­cel­lent sea tur­tle ex­hibits? The re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion tanks and tur­tle hospi­tal, where vis­i­tors can get up close with tur­tles (some weigh­ing hun­dreds of kilo­grams), learn about their in­juries and what caused them and see tur­tle health care in ac­tion through the op­er­at­ing room’s pic­ture win­dows.

Snorkelling

Don’t sweat the shark. So ad­vises Visit Palm Beach snorkelling guide Kris­ten Marozzi as her charges wade into the Lake Worth La­goon to the south of Riviera Beach’s Phil Foster Park. The con­crete shark is in­deed no threat; rather, it’s part of a 250-me­tre-long ar­ti­fi­cial reef (known as the snorkel trail) about 60 me­tres off­shore. In the shadow of Blue Heron Bridge, the hot spot is con­sid­ered one of Florida’s most eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble dive lo­ca­tions, at­tract­ing both lo­cal and visit­ing snorkellers and scuba divers. The trail also fea­tures nu­mer­ous rocks, ar­ti­fi­cial reef struc­tures and even sunken shop­ping carts and a fish­ing boat, all in about two to 3½ me­tres of wa­ter — mak­ing it a great spot for be­gin­ners. The la­goon is an im­por­tant breed­ing ground and nurs­ery for many ma­rine species that can be spied along the trail, in­clud­ing bar­racu­das, an­gelfish and par­rot­fish.

Golf

The Palm Beaches claim to be Florida’s Golf Cap­i­tal. And if there were a capi­tol build­ing, it would un­doubt­edly be the PGA Na­tional Re­sort and Spa, home of the Pro­fes­sional Golfers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. The pub­lic re­sort also boasts four on-site cour­ses — the Cham­pion (re­designed by Jack Nick­laus in 2014, home of the Honda Clas­sic tour­na­ment and con­sid­ered one of the tough­est on the pro cir­cuit), the Palmer (named for its de­signer, Arnold), the Squire and the Fazio — and a fifth, the Es­tates, eight kilo­me­tres west. Be­yond the fair­ways, of course, there’s the full-ser­vice spa and a range of din­ing op­tions, most no­tably Iron­wood Steak & Seafood, which be­sides its top-notch turf and surf, has one of the most im­pres­sive wine lists in south Florida. It’s a golfer’s get­away dream.

Sun­day polo

Want a taste of posh Palm Beaches? Fol­low the BMWS, Range Rovers, Porches and Corvettes to the In­ter­na­tional Polo Club Palm Beach in Welling­ton for Sun­day brunch and polo. The events are typ­i­cally held Sun­days from late De­cem­ber to the end of April. Cham­pagne brunch of­fers an evolv­ing ar­ray of buf­fet op­tions, from fresh seafood to the world’s finest cheeses and ev­ery­thing in be­tween — a ta­ble for six runs $750, with a “com­pli­men­tary” bot­tle of Veuve Clic­quot. It’s the place to see and be seen (men, your vel­vet blazer won’t be out of place; ladies, your most out­ra­geous millinery like­wise). The matches that fol­low the deca­dent fare at­tract the world’s top polo play­ers. No mat­ter the re­sult of the game, the tableau won’t dis­ap­point.

Florida’s Palm Beaches prom­ise a range of fun, from golf at the PGA Na­tional Re­sort and Spa ( above) to pad­dle­board­ing ( bot­tom).

Vis­i­tors can go from The Log­ger­head Marinelife Cen­ter ( top) to brunch at the In­ter­na­tional Polo Club Palm Beach ( above).

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