Your Florida

Se­cret Singer Is­land

RSWLiving - - Department­s - BY PA­TRI­CIA LETAKIS

There’s a dif­fer­ent en­ergy on the At­lantic Ocean side of the state, par­tic­u­larly in Southeast Florida. I love to wake up to glis­ten­ing sun­rises out­side my win­dow and lis­ten to the mighty roar of the waves, pad­dle to a bird rook­ery or join a ranger-led tur­tle walk. And when I’ve had enough of the beachy stuff, I love the thrill of dis­cov­er­ing the next trendy restau­rant or even—gasp!—hit­ting a shop­ping mall where bou­tiques carry fash­ion-for­ward mer­chan­dise that I can’t find in stores back home.

Luck­ily I find all this when I visit Singer Is­land. A fin­ger­like penin­sula in Palm Beach County, Singer Is­land may be con­nected to the main­land by a thin strip of land, but once I drive past John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, the sub­trop­i­cal veg­e­ta­tion like a bar­rier sep­a­rates me from the bus­tle of ur­ban life and an is­land mood takes over.

Sit­ting di­rectly north of its lav­ish neigh­bor Palm Beach, Singer Is­land too has its lux­u­ri­ous side. In 1920, Paris Singer, the son of the sewing ma­chine in­ven­tor Isaac Singer, plot­ted out an up­scale re­sort com­mu­nity on this strip of land. He re­cruited ar­chi­tect Ad­di­son Mizner, who was the dar­ling of Palm Beach at the time and known for his elite Mediter­ranean style. To­gether they planned ho­tels and a golf course. Un­for­tu­nately, the 1929 stock mar­ket crash killed such am­bi­tions.

Yet, the name Singer Is­land re­mained and af­ter World War II, the land was de­vel­oped. How­ever, it never be­came a South Florida des­ti­na­tion that at­tracts throngs of tourists, which is why I find Singer Is­land to be the per­fect se­cret es­cape.

Tow­er­ing high-rises stand ram­rod tall along the one road that trav­els Singer Is­land’s 5-mile stretch, but only two re­sorts are hid­den among them and the ubiq­ui­tous sea grape trees. And to me that means: no crowded beaches. I check into the Palm Beach Mar­riott Singer Is­land Re­sort & Spa for its one- and two-bed­room condo-style suites; I’m trav­el­ing with a friend and we both want our pri­vacy. I soon find out that the

ac­com­mo­da­tions are ideal for fam­i­lies, girl­friend getaways and even cou­ples va­ca­tion­ing to­gether.

Whip­ping up cock­tails in the full kitchen and kick­ing back in our con­tem­po­rary living room is fun, as is drink­ing a cup of java from our bal­cony as the morn­ing sun beams dance on the deep blue sea.

En route to the beach I pass the adult-only in­fin­ity pool and thatched-roof bamboo huts that serve as a surfer shop and the Reef Tiki Bar. Walk­ing with other guests, I strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with Su­san Fried­man, who’s spend­ing a week­end with a friend from Wash­ing­ton D.C. Point­ing to the bar, she clues me in, “The Co­conut Is­land Breeze is served in freshly cracked co­conut shells. Or­der one; it’s de­li­cious.”

But it’s the sandy shore that makes me smile even more. Ex­cept for ho­tel guests in front of the prop­erty, the beach north and south has nary a soul on it. I swim out to the rock for­ma­tion where bathers are snorkeling be­fore strolling to­ward the state park. Within five min­utes I make a sur­pris­ing dis­cov­ery: A stretch of rust-hued lu­narlike rock el­e­vated enough to pro­vide a perch for view­ing the long gold-tinged shore­line.

Far­ther north at the park, pad­dlers of all sorts are ex­plor­ing the es­tu­ary, where mana­tees ap­pear dur­ing win­ter. Some

kayak­ers set out for Mun­yon Is­land, a wad­ing bird rook­ery that’s home to cor­morants, pel­i­cans and great blue herons.

Notic­ing the area sig­nage about tur­tle nest­ing, I be­come cu­ri­ous enough to visit the Log­ger­head Marinelife Cen­ter in nearby Juno Beach. My tour guide Kathryn Rum­b­ley ed­u­cates us about the tur­tles that come ashore to lay eggs from March to Oc­to­ber. “Only one in 5,000 hatch­lings ac­tu­ally makes it to ma­tu­rity to re­pro­duce,” she tells us as we peer into out­door tanks that are home to five species—log­ger­head, green, hawks­bill, leatherbac­k and Kemp’s ri­d­ley.

Since the Palm Beach area is known for its fash­ion­able stores and restau­rants, I can’t re­sist pok­ing into the Gar­dens Mall where I’m greeted by a soar­ing atrium and a stunning dé­cor of faux laven­der fields. Splurg­ing on luxury brands is very tempt­ing here with mer­chan­dise rang­ing from wildly pat­terned Robert Gra­ham shirts to rain­bow print Lilly Pulitzer dresses.

Later the urge to sam­ple ar­ti­san cock­tails and a farm-to-ta­ble meal, takes me to one of Palm Beach County’s new­est hotspots: Cooper Craft Kitchen & Bar. Tucked in the PGA Com­mons, a buzzing court­yard of restau­rants and shops, the Cooper is filled with rustic wooden ta­bles and chairs and lan­tern light­ing. A sa­lumi and cheese board with sam­plings of finoc­chiona and Hud­son Val­ley camem­bert kicks off the evening.

The state park’s walk­ways pass through tun­nels formed by sea grape trees. Be­low from left: The Gar­dens Mall; a baby sea tur­tle at the Log­ger­head Marinelife Cen­ter.

Nes­tled be­tween the At­lantic Ocean and the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way, Singer Is­land is home to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.

Above: A suite and the 3800 Ocean restau­rant at Mar­riott Palm Beach Singer Is­land Re­sort & Spa. The north end of Singer Is­land is a mix­ture of coastal and trop­i­cal ham­mock and man­grove for­est.

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