9 Best Sights in Palm Beach, Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum

Fodor's choice

The worldly sophistication of Florida's Gilded Age lives on at Whitehall, the plush 55-room "marble palace" Henry Flagler commissioned in 1901 for his third wife, Mary Lily Kenan. Architects John Carrère and Thomas Hastings were instructed to create the finest home imaginable—and they outdid themselves. Whitehall rivals the grandeur of European palaces and has an entrance hall with a baroque ceiling similar to Louis XIV's Versailles. Here you'll see original furnishings; a hidden staircase Flagler used to sneak from his bedroom to the billiards room; an art collection; a 1,200-pipe organ; and Florida East Coast Railway exhibits, along with Flagler's personal railcar, No. 91, showcased in an 8,000-square-foot Beaux Arts–style pavilion behind the mansion. Docent-led tours and audio tours are included with admission. The museum's Café des Beaux-Arts, open from Thanksgiving through mid-April, offers a Gilded Age–style early afternoon tea for $60 (11:30 am–2:30 pm); the price includes museum admission.

The Breakers

Fodor's choice

Built by Henry Flagler in 1896 and rebuilt by his descendants after a 1925 fire, this magnificent Italian Renaissance–style resort helped launch Florida tourism with its Gilded Age opulence, attracting influential wealthy Northerners to the state. The hotel, still owned by Flagler's heirs, is a must-see even if you aren't staying here. Walk through the 200-foot-long lobby, which has soaring arched ceilings painted by 72 Italian artisans and hung with crystal chandeliers. Meet for a drink and a round of eclectic small plates at the HMF, one of the most beautiful bars in the state.

Book a pampering spa treatment or dine at the popular oceanfront Seafood Bar. The $35 parking fee is waived if you spend at least $35 anywhere in the hotel (just have your ticket validated).

Worth Avenue

Fodor's choice

Called "The Avenue" by Palm Beachers, this half-mile-long street is synonymous with exclusive shopping. Nostalgia lovers recall an era when faces or names served as charge cards, purchases were delivered home before customers returned from lunch, and bills were sent directly to private accountants. Times have changed, but a stroll amid the Spanish-accented buildings, many designed by Addison Mizner, offers a tantalizing taste of the island's ongoing commitment to elegant consumerism. Explore the labyrinth of nine pedestrian "vias" off each side that wind past boutiques, tiny plazas, bubbling fountains, and bougainvillea-festooned balconies; this is where the smaller, unique shops are. The Worth Avenue Association holds historic walking tours on Wednesday at 10:30 am during "the season" (December through April). The $25 fee benefits local nonprofit organizations.

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This Gothic-style Episcopal church had a claim to fame upon its creation in 1926: it was built by the first Protestant congregation in southeast Florida. Church lecture tours, covering Bethesda's history, architecture, and more, are offered at 12:05 on the second and fourth Sunday each month from September to mid-May (excluding December) and at 11:15 on the fourth Sunday each month from the end of May to August. Also notable are the annual Boar's Head and Yule Log festivals in January. Adjacent is the formal, ornamental Cluett Memorial Garden.

141 S. County Rd., Palm Beach, FL, 33480, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Clarke Avenue Beach

Swarms of surfers have co-opted these choppy tides almost immediately south of The Breakers' private beach club. With almost no public parking nearby and a lack of basic facilities, this beach caters principally to locals who come here by foot from their posh crash pads. But if you're staying at The Breakers or visiting the main municipal Palm Beach, walk south or north, respectively, and witness the throng of boards in and out of the water and surfers riding the wave crests. Amenities: none. Best for: surfing.

S. Ocean Blvd. at Clarke Ave., Palm Beach, FL, 33480, USA
No phone

El Solano

No Palm Beach mansion better represents the town's luminous legacy than the Spanish-style home built by Addison Mizner as his own residence in 1925. Mizner later sold El Solano to Harold Vanderbilt, and the property was long a favorite among socialites for parties and photo shoots. Vanderbilt held many a gala fundraiser here. Beatle John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, bought it less than a year before Lennon's death. It's still privately owned and not open to the public, but it's well worth a drive-by on any self-guided Palm Beach mansion tour.

Phipps Ocean Park

About 2 miles south of "Billionaire's Row" on Ocean Boulevard sits this public oceanside park, with two metered parking lots separated by a fire station. There are four entry points to the beach, but the north side is better for beachgoers. At the southern entrance, there is a six-court tennis facility. The beach is narrow and has natural rock formations dotting the shoreline, making it ideal for snorkelers. There are picnic tables and grills on site, as well as the Little Red Schoolhouse, an 1886 landmark that hosts educational workshops for local kids. If a long walk floats your boat, venture north to see the megamansions, but don't go too far inland, because private property starts at the high-tide line. Parking is metered and time limits strictly enforced. There's a two-hour time limit for free parking—but read the meter carefully: it's valid only during certain hours at some spots. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: solitude; walking.

2201 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL, 33480, USA
561-227–6450-tennis reservations
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Rate Includes: Free

Society of the Four Arts

Despite widespread misconceptions of its members-only exclusivity, this privately endowed institution—founded in 1936 to encourage appreciation of art, music, drama, and literature—is funded for public enjoyment. The Esther B. O'Keeffe gallery building artfully melds an exhibition hall that houses traveling exhibits with a 700-seat theater. A library designed by prominent Mizner-peer Maurice Fatio, a children's library, a botanical garden, and the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden round out the facilities and are open daily. 

2 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach, FL, 33480, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $5 gallery; special program costs vary

Town of Palm Beach Municipal Beach

You know you're here if you see Palm Beach's younger generation frolicking on the sands and locals setting up chairs as the sun reflects off their gleaming white veneers. The Worth Avenue clock tower is within sight, but the gateways to the sand are actually on Chilean Avenue, Brazilian Avenue, and Gulfstream Road. It's definitely the most central and longest lifeguarded strip open to everyone and a popular choice for hotel guests from the Colony, Chesterfield, and Brazilian Court. Lifeguards are present from Brazilian Avenue down to Chilean Avenue. It's also BYOC (bring your own chair). You'll find no water-sports or food vendors here; however, casual eateries are a quick walk away. Metered spots line A1A. Amenities: lifeguards; showers. Best for: sunset; swimming.