I have long found Florida to be a source of both fascination and frustration. Geographically, it is one of the more varied of the Lower 48 states, with eerie cypress swamps, flatlands where some 15,000 producers raise cattle, the incomparable Everglades and, of course, beaches, miles of them, 663 to be exact. And then there are the man-made attractions: Miami Beach, the Disney and Universal Studio parks, and the Kennedy Space Center. And therein lies my frustration. With so much to offer to so many people, one might suppose that Florida would have an abundance of hideaways of the type that I strive to find. But there has been a relative dearth. Recently, unwilling to concede defeat, I decided to renew my efforts in the Sunshine State.
Seventy-five miles north of Miami, Palm Beach has been a favored wintering spot for the wealthy since the late 1890s, when Henry Morrison Flagler (co-founder of Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller) brought rail travel to Florida and opened two celebrated hotels, the long-gone Royal Poinciana and The Breakers, which still stands (and which many consider the finest grand resort hotel in America). Among the famous were even-today-recognizable names such as Kellogg, Vanderbilt, Colgate and Kennedy. And Mar-a-Lago Club, an august 126-room estate that once belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post, a leading socialite in her time and the owner of General Foods, is now owned by President Donald Trump.