From polo to paddleboarding, Taking on Tahoe, Southern sippin’ and On our radar
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).