The Palm Beaches get called a lot of names. They’re known as America’s First Resort Destination, Florida’s Cultural Capital, Florida’s Golf Capital, and even the gentler side of Florida. If you haven’t been yet, you really don’t know what you’re missing.
Just 50 miles north of Miami Airport, so very handy for the UK, The Palm Beaches are as beachy as they sound. But also packed with pretty towns and some of Florida’s smartest small cities, as well as the state’s largest lake, part of the Everglades and an astonishing amount of really wild wildlife.
Why families love the gentler side of Florida
Families love it here for its friendly, laid back atmosphere and freedom to stretch out – the beaches are beautiful but they don’t do busy. And you’re never short of water sports, waterparks, aquariums, zoos and great places to inspire young art lovers. The shopping is second to none whether you want outlet mall experiences, independent local artisans or international designers. And as The Palm Beaches are so wonderful to live in, plenty of great chefs make their home here, which is great news for you because eating is incredible from chic restaurants to seafood shacks to cute food trucks and arty cafés.
It all starts with The Palm Beaches
The best place to start getting to know The Palm Beaches? Down on the spectacular coast, of course. They might call this the ‘gentler side of Florida’, but it’s not shy when it comes to shoreline: all 47 gorgeous miles of it stretching along the Atlantic like a broad, snowy white ribbon made up of no fewer than 30 Atlantic beaches.
Naturally the sands are soft, creamy and made for playing all day, plus you’ll also find dozens of beachy towns and charming coastal cities to explore. Then there’s the water itself, which is warmer for longer than most places here thanks to The Palm Beaches being the closest you get to the Gulf Stream. It’s an interesting geographical fact, only don’t tell everyone, because a very pleasant lack of crowds is another big local secret.
America’s First Resort Destination brings next level beachy cool
Although less crowded could never be mistaken for downbeat, America’s First Resort Destination is as cool by the sea as everywhere else. In fact, you can even pick a stretch of sand where Oceanside Beach Service takes care of everything from sun beds and parasols to cabana hoods (great for younger kids) and fun stuff like snorkelling equipment, kayaks and SUP. So just pack as light as you like and save your energy for playing all day instead.
Beach Parks mix just the right amount of adventure and downtime that most families are looking for and The Palm Beaches do a lot of those too. Some, like Peanut Island, even add in the excitement of a water taxi ride, which you won’t be surprised to find kids like, a lot. And if young hearts are set on trying some of the legendary local surf, Spanish River Park is where to go first. Although there are 29 Beach Parks in all to choose from, so there’s a very good chance you’ll find your own, personal favourite.
Choose your perfect town or try all 39 of them
One of the things all families love about Florida holidays is exploring local communities and The Palm Beaches give you plenty to explore. Get to know at least a few of the 39 towns and small cities while you’re here, and don’t worry if you miss a few this time, you’ll almost certainly be back, it’s that type of place.
Some of the names might already be familiar, like Palm Beach, the city that trademarked the title, America’s First Resort Destination™ and continues to live up to its glossy reputation from stunning beaches to iconic architecture. For vintage charm and heaps of green space to match its seaside, Boca Raton has been winning hearts for almost 100 years. It’s also home to The Boca Raton, an opulent 1926 resort which is now as family-friendly as it is glamorous thanks to a recent multi-million-dollar renovation.
Then there’s West Palm Beach with its outstanding restaurants, world famous museums and enough shopping to fill several family holidays. The feel here is tropical, creative and energetic, teens will love hanging out in the indie cafés, and you can expect younger kids to be completely captivated by local enchantments like the LED Wishing Tree.
Laid back beach towns where kids are set free
When you want get-away-from-it-all chill, the quaint beachside village of Delray Beach invites you to explore cute cafés, indie stores, eclectic art galleries and a seriously fabulous waterfront. Manatee-keen kids will lose their hearts to Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach. And eco-adventurous families need to drop in on Jupiter & Juno Beach in the far north where not only do you have the 120-acre Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse preserve to hike, you can canoe through mysterious mangroves on Loxahatchee River: officially National Wild and Scenic designated.
Then there are The Glades. This lovely, tucked-away inland area may not give you beaches, but it’s home to three charming towns, a gateway to the Everglades and where you can find Lake Okeechobee. It’s only the largest freshwater lake in the state, and so big it’s known as Florida’s Inland Sea.
Wildlife is wild about The Palm Beaches too
Guess what else the gentler side of Florida encourages? Wildlife, and so much of it. There are lagoons filled with manatee here, and we’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love these sweet creatures. From March to October, this area becomes one of the world’s most important turtle nesting sites so you can witness the miracle practically anywhere on the shoreline. And dolphin tours from West Palm Beach, Singer Island and Jupiter, bring you up close as close to the local residents everyone wants to meet.
Get out into the wild with your kids
Wildlife wonders just under water in The Palm Beaches will amaze young snorkellers. And keen-eyed kids need to trek some of the Great Florida Birding Trail through Arthur R. Marsh Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach. Although, if it’s really rare you’re after, hit Palm Beach County Natural Areas where you can go hiking, biking or horse riding, and possibly even spot elusive Florida panthers.
Find places to play all over the place
Of course you can’t have a sun holiday without trying out waterparks and The Palm Beaches have plenty of those, including South Florida’s largest. Not much of a surprise to find incredible child-friendly museums at home here too, this is Florida’s Cultural Capital after all. And from cageless-zoos to astonishing aquariums and Lion Country Safari, you don’t have to be out in the wilds to encounter wildlife.
For thrills of a different sort, test drive the tech at sensational go-kart tracks or test your endurance with a game or two of laser tag. Creative kids can take classes at art institutes or be inspired by the views from the top of Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. And when nothing will do but the great outdoors, you’ll find snorkelling trails, paddling trails, hiking and biking all over The Palm Beaches so you can simply make your own adventure.
Plenty of playtime for parents too
Unlike a lot of places, The Palm Beaches don’t forget parents are on holiday here too. Want to golf? You’re in luck, this is the Golf Capital of Florida and there are courses of every sort, all with a generous side of scenic. Of course, quite a few come with sea views, but you’ll also find them in nature preserves, touching on the everglades and winding round world famous rivers here too.
When you want a spa day – or even just an hour – wellness is another big local talent. In fact Spa Palmera was named Florida’s Best Resort Spa at the World Spa Awards 2022 and makes its home at The Boca Raton, one of The Palm Beaches’ many historic resorts. Although, you’ll find exceptional boutique spas in the area too, as well as holistic spas and even spas with self-centred gardens. So just pick a spot and focus on indulging, you’re on holiday after all.
For indulgence of another sort, there’s no shortage of shopping opportunities from elegant Worth Avenue in Palm Beach to magnificent malls at Town Centre Boca Raton; unbelievable bargains from Tanger Outlets or unique finds at The Square in West Palm Beach.
Where to stay in The Palm Beaches
Genuine hospitality comes naturally to The Palm Beaches where the tradition of welcoming families for unforgettable holidays stretches back over 100 years. In fact, some of the extraordinary resorts which created America’s First Resort Destination, are still welcoming guests today and they look and feel as wonderful as ever: fabulous never gets old.
Although a resort stay is far from the only choice you have. Florida excels at holiday rentals and The Palm Beaches offer everything from smart waterfront apartments to beach houses and enormous villas with private pools, gardens and plenty of room for a multi-gen family break.
Chic and boutique stays in beautiful cities give you the chance to score cool points with older kids or teens. And hotels here aren’t limited to grand resorts, so you can still find great places to stay that work a budget and don’t compromise on fun extras like pools, family rooms, good restaurants and lovely, beachfront locations.
Now you know more, visit The Palm Beaches Florida for everything you need to plan a family trip.