From the grand estates of Palm Beach to the laid-back islets of the Florida Keys, South Florida has something for every style of relaxation. It is, quite simply, a yachtsman’s paradise with protected waterways, a myriad of quayside restaurants, warm waters and excellent diving and fishing. Thanks to the semi-tropical climate, yachting in South Florida can be enjoyed year-round.
The Palm Beaches
The island of Palm Beach has lured socialites and celebrities to its sun-drenched shores for generations, all of whom flock south for the winter season. The yachting set is included in this migration, as Palm Beach and its surrounds are chock full of high-end shopping, fine dining and cultural pursuits that are easily accessible just steps away from your yacht.
Shop @ Worth Avenue
A bastion of upscale shops, services and restaurants, Worth Avenue also is one of the most beautiful boutique-filled boulevards in America. Shop for the pampered pet at Bibi’s, slip on a new swimsuit at Vilebrequin or enjoy lunch at Ta-boo.
Culture @ Kravis Center
In downtown Palm Beach, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts hosts more than 800 events per year — there is always something enticing on the agenda. When you’re craving some cultural diversion off the yacht, the theater’s lineup boasts everything from Broadway tours to jazz music to family entertainment.
Connect @ Flagler Museum
Step back into the Gilded Age with a visit to the Flagler Museum, which is housed in the sprawling 75-room, 100,000-square-foot Whitehall mansion that Henry Flagler built as a present for his wife. Flagler and his wife used Whitehall as a winter retreat every year from 1902 until his death in 1913, setting the trend for the wealthy and elite to winter in Palm Beach. Today, the museum offers a look back at this period and at the man who shaped much of South Florida. The historic venue is an ideal place to host an event, should you need a base larger than the yacht can satiate.
Play @ Palm Beach Par 3
Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, the Palm Beach Par 3 golf course sits on 39 acres with a stunning backdrop of water views as far as the eye can see. Redesigned by World Golf Hall of Fame’s Raymond Floyd in 2009, sand bunkers and water hazards provide plentiful challenges. The course also is known for being one of the most fun in America. A new clubhouse with pro shop and restaurant opened in 2014.
Brunch @ International Polo Club Palm Beach
Come for the brunch, stay for the Polo. The International Polo Club Palm Beach throws a fabulous, champagne-soaked brunch on the veranda every Sunday. Entertainment and celebrity sightings are promised along with delicious cuisine. Then enjoy a rousing game of polo — stomping the divots is optional.
With a crisscrossing maze of canals, it’s easy to see why Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America. This sublimely beach-y city is best explored by boat, taking in the views of the palatial homes that line the water. Fort Lauderdale also is called the “yachting capital of the world,” which is why many megayachts make themselves at home here.
Shop @ Las Olas Boulevard
Offering just a dash of European flair in South Florida, the tree-lined Las Olas Boulevard is packed with sidewalk cafes, wine bars, high-end shops and art galleries. After strolling the shops, treat yourself to some of Kilwin’s famous Mackinac Island fudge or perfectly chilled ice cream.
Dine @ Cafe Martorano
Fort Lauderdale is never at want for new, trendy restaurants, which seem to change with each passing season. But it’s those that stand the test of time that really garner attention, such as the discreet Italian spot Cafe Martorano, run by larger-than-life chef and owner Steve Martorano. Delicious food and tantalizing people-watching is always on the menu. The music is nightclub-loud, the celebrity sightings are regular and the meatballs are huge.
Spa @ Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale is inspired by its oceanfront location, as evident in its signature Intuitive Ocean treatment. This 110-minute treatment uses sea salts and warm marine mud, harnessing the power of the ocean to aid in healing and utter relaxation.
Spicy, scintillating and never boring, Miami has mastered the perfect blend of relaxation and celebration. There is always a party to be found should the mood strike, or escape onto the water of Biscayne Bay and let all your troubles melt away as the city skyline disappears in the distance.
Shop @ Bal Harbour
The gated enclave of Bal Harbour Shops delivers private shopping bliss. Only high-end, luxury brands are found here, from Balenciaga and Chanel to Gucci and Valentino, and everyone in between.
Discover @ Stiltsville
Set a course for Stiltsville, the collection of wooden homes built out over the water of Biscayne Bay. The seven multi-colored houses that still stand today are all that’s left of a much larger on-the-water village that once numbered up to 27. Stiltsville Trust protects the houses and arranges visits or rentals for events.
Dine @ Joe’s Stone Crab
A classic never goes out of style, as Joe’s proves by serving up succulent stone crab season after season for more than 100 years. Open October through May, this Miami Beach institution doesn’t take reservations but does offer private dining in a smaller room with seating for up to 16 guests.
Spa @ Tierra Santa Healing House
The new Faena Hotel on Miami Beach is a study in good service, only rivaled by that of a superyacht. Each floor of the hotel has its own butler, the pool boys personally rinse beach sand from your feet and the spa is divine. Lauded as the first South American-inspired spa in Miami, the Tierra Santa Healing House utilizes ancient indigenous ingredients and holistic healing techniques. Highly recommended is the spa’s exclusive Tree of Life Vibrations treatment, combining massage, sound therapy, Brazilian rose stones and hot oil-dripping to enhance the relaxation process.
Berth @ Fisher Island Marina
Only accessible by boat is the private Fisher Island, just across from Miami Beach. It’s the perfect escape to get away from the hustle and bustle of the “main land” with plenty of luxurious amenities to boot — tennis, golf, beach club, you name it — while being close to Miami when it’s time for fun. Fisher Island Marina accommodates yachts up to 250 feet with a 15-foot draft.
Just a few hours’ sail from Miami, the Florida Keys are eons away in style. The water here is a Caribbean-hued turquoise, the pie is Key Lime and the pace is delightfully slow. Laid back charm permeates these 1,700 low-slung islands, only 43 of which are connected by bridges running from Key Largo down to Key West. That leaves literally thousands more ready to be discovered by yacht.
Berth @ Ocean Reef Club
This 2,500-acre member’s only club on the northern tip of Key Largo allows non-members to use the 175-slip marina. The amenities at the club — or “The Reef,” as members call it — far outdo any that would come with your typical destination marina. These include two championship golf courses, a beach club, fine and casual dining, a host of shops, even an onsite medical center, school, fire station and private airport. Great fishing and diving await just offshore.
Dine @ Little Palm Island
Only a seaplane or boat can bring you to Little Palm Island, a private island that prides itself on disconnecting from the real world. No phones, TVs or alarm clocks will be found here. Little Palm is a blissful retreat, not only for the peace and quiet offered, but also for the exquisite meals served up by its beachfront restaurant The Dining Room. Sample from the Grand Tasting Menu with seven succulent courses. Specialties include the coconut lobster bisque and 72-hour chile-braised beef short rib. Be sure to request a private table on the beach or the exclusive Chef’s Table in the kitchen.
Dive @ Looe Key
Not far from Little Palm Island — about five miles offshore to be exact — is the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. Looe Key’s namesake is the HMS Looe, which ran aground on the shallow reef in 1744. The unique reef offers prime grounds for scuba diving and also is well suited for snorkelers. As it’s a protected park, more than 150 species of fish as well as rays, sea turtles and sharks are in abundance.
Drink @ Sunset Pier
Key West is famous for its sunsets, but avoid the hordes gathering in Mallory Square; instead perch over the water at Ocean Key Resort and Spa’s Sunset Pier. The pier is set between the chaos in the square and the solitude of Key West Harbor, allowing for a respite from the crowds of Key West, yet retaining all the zest the island is known for. Expect live music, cocktails and fresh seafood while you enjoy sundown views.
Culture @ Hemingway House
Literary aficionados and six-toed-cat lovers alike rejoice with a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Papa Hemingway came to the little island of Key West in 1928, and during his first visit here finished writing “Farewell to Arms.” The house was in a state of disrepair when Hemingway took ownership in the early 1930s. He made many improvements, including the addition of an in-ground pool, which was the first of its kind in Key West. Many of the furnishings that remain in the house today were collected by Hemingway during his time in Europe. Visiting the home offers a unique insight into the life of one of America’s most celebrated authors — and the nearly 50 polydactyl cats that are offspring of Papa’s original brood.
Explore @ Dry Tortugas
Those who think that the Florida Keys end in Key West might be surprised to learn that the islands stretch farther on yet. Called the Dry Tortugas, few of these islands have seen the touch of man. Approaching Garden Key, the Civil War-era fort rises from the water like a mirage. But the red brick Fort Jefferson, surrounded by a moat no less, is not an apparition. The fort was controlled by the North during the Civil War and housed a famous prisoner. It’s a fascinating place to explore and the anchorage is one of the most serene in all of Florida.