The Breakers from the air. Photo: Mike Dupre.

Paradise Without a Passport: Escape to The Breakers

After months of pandemic lockdown, I needed a getaway to soothe my soul. NOW. The Wall Street Journal headline tells me I’m not alone:

“Vacationers venturing out – but not too far.” Airlines are out. Road trips are in. So off I go across the state to jump in the Atlantic, overlook the sea at sunrise, enjoy gourmet options in lavish surroundings and indulge in the ultimate fantasy of a private cabana by the beach.

Welcome to The Breakers. The legendary oceanfront resort in Palm Beach is a bubble of bliss, with all the pampering you would expect from a AAA Five Diamond property.

The resort was founded in 1896 by hotel and railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler.

What to pack? It’s a joy to raid the (untouched for months now) long cocktail dress side of my closet. Sorry, Mom, I’m not leaving the “good jewelry” at home. This is my chance to dress up and accessorize for more formal nights, anticipating a fun fling by day and more sophisticated options at night — minus the passport.

The four-hour drive in the rain across the state didn’t bother me. I’m checking in where VIPs and celebs have roamed. What a building! The design is historic beauty, the 200-foot-long lobby having welcomed visitors worldwide for over a century. Recently refreshed by celebrated designer Adam D. Tihany, it’s as if the Italian Renaissance has seamlessly been ushered into the 21st century.

The 200-foot-long lobby has welcomed visitors from worldwide for over a century. Photo: Cindy Cockburn

Here is a slice of the Gilded Age, fully in tune with the Covid Age. Everywhere you turn, signs about wearing masks and hand sanitizer stations remind you of safety precautions. Are the other guests practicing social distancing? Let the well-trained staff do the worrying for you — it’s a needed break from your own constant worry. Facial coverings must be worn by all persons when entering, exiting and moving throughout indoor and public common areas. Staff literally stand in each area of the hotel, beach and pool to remind you. I feel safe here.

The formality of it all is intoxicating. I can practically feel all of the celebrations of the past. How did they know to give me a “fainting couch” in my room that overlooks the sea? Nobody is here! I love this!

Recognized as one of America’s most iconic resorts, The Breakers is situated on 140 acres of oceanfront property. Founded in 1896 by magnate Henry M. Flagler, this legendary destination continues to thrive as an independent property. Each year, a reinvestment of more than $30 million in capital improvements and ongoing revitalization balances preservation and modernization.

The Breakers features 538 guest rooms and suites. The property offers nine restaurants ranging from casual beachfront to stylishly sophisticated, and a world-class private beach club with four pools, five whirlpool spas, 25 poolside bungalows and a variety of on-site watersports. Additional amenities include two championship golf courses; 10 Har-Tru tennis courts; a Forbes Five Star spa (massages not available now with the virus but you can get a mani/pedi); an indoor-outdoor oceanfront fitness center; 12 signature on-site boutiques; and a family entertainment center.

The balcony views are stunning. Photo: Mike Dupre.

The view of the Atlantic is spectacular from my spacious room with a balcony; I could have been happy just ordering from in-room menus for two days. But cocktail hour and sunset is calling, so I’m off to find my friends. The elevator is a little tricky to understand at first, what with all the safety and privacy precautions, but I find my way to the lobby and through the North Loggia to the lounge and dining room known as the HMF (as in Henry Morrison Flagler).

The eclectic, globally influenced menu is a surprise. The formal surroundings suggest an Old Fashioned and traditional steak dinner might be in order, but instead we find fresh sushi and sashimi and Wagyu beef sliders, a big hit with my friends. There’s also an acclaimed wine list of more than 2,000 unique selections.

By day, we live in bathing suits and crave a leisurely al fresco lunch overlooking the water. The Beach Club Restaurant has amazing lobster sandwiches and a tropical cocktail called a skinny margarita (sticker shock — it’s $25!). Instead of using an orange-liqueur like triple sec, Cointreau or Grand-Marnier, a skinny margarita uses fresh orange juice and a small amount of agave nectar.

Enjoying one of the resort’s four pools. Photo: Mike Dupre.
A delicious meal at Henry’s.

In June, the resort unveiled the newest addition to its dining collection, Henry’s Palm Beach. A newcomer to the island’s culinary scene, Henry’s showcases “elevated comfort food with character and a hint of nostalgia.” It’s located on Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach’s original Main Street. Specialties range from raw bar and “handhelds” to USDA-Prime beef and fresh fish. Butter Crumb Dover Sole is the signature dish, and daily specials include classics such as chicken pot pie, beef Wellington and fresh pastas; I loved the wood grilled filet mignon.

“The food is familiar, with something unexpected about every dish,” said The Breakers’ Executive Chef/Restaurants, Anthony Sicignano. General Manager and Sommelier Carter Phillips said the new dining room is already popular with locals.

The Breakers’ private half mile of beach serves as a playground for a long list of water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding or a ride on the resort’s Hobie Cat. The Beach Club offers a private outdoor oasis: four pools, restaurants, bars.

The ultimate in luxury? Rent one of the elegant, indoor-outdoor beach bungalows. Each is outfitted with living room-type furniture, a flatscreen TV, bathroom, and food and beverage service brought to you by a valet. Price? It can go up to $1,000 a day.

A guest enjoys one of the private beach bungalows. Photo: Mike Dupre.

Of course there’s a Lilly Pulitzer store here, known as the “authentic Palm Beach lifestyle” brand for more than 50 years. During a little rain shower, I’m checking out the dresses, sportswear, footwear and accessories, in bright colors and prints. Heads up: The Ralph Lauren store is reopening in the fall.

We’re not alone in our love of this resort. We bumped into several friends unexpectedly from Tampa Bay. All of us saying, “This is my fave Florida getaway!”

Where do the locals dine? My friends and relatives rave about the cuisine of internationally acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud. While in Palm Beach, make a reservation for Café Boulud, located inside another historic hotel, the Brazilian Court on Australian Avenue.

I drove about 15 minutes away from the Breakers one evening to check out the Spanish Colonial architecture and sat outside on their terrace sipping a mimosa in the lush tropical courtyard. This is a boutique hotel with only 80 rooms in a cottage-style design.

The French chef and restaurateur has restaurants in New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Miami, Toronto, Montréal, London and Singapore. Since we can’t easily go to any of those places right now, it’s nice to be able to sample his cuisine in Florida.

The above story is in the Fall 2020 issue of duPont Registry Tampa Bay. Hard copies are due to be showing up in fine mailboxes near you any day now, but meanwhile, enjoy the digital edition.

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