Secret Singer Island
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.