Ever since the oil tycoon Henry Flagler turned the alligator-infested jungle known as Lake Worth into a tropical paradise for the 1 percent (it was the Gilded Age, after all) with palatial hotels and a railroad to serve them, Palm Beach has been synonymous with the biggest and the best: fortunes, jewels, scandals. The 16-mile-long island of extravagant mansions, tony retailers and fanciful landscaping is rich in history and significant landmarks, from the magnificent Mar-a-Lago estate (completed in 1927 for Marjorie Merriweather Post, now Donald Trump’s private club) and the Paramount Theater (a former movie palace that houses a trove of vintage screen star photos) to St. Edward’s church (where the Kennedys worshiped) and Green’s Pharmacy (where John F. Kennedy enjoyed burgers in the luncheonette).
But Palm Beach is also a small gem offering simple pleasures. You can ride a bike anywhere or linger over coffee at a lunch counter and never be more than a block or two from the beach. Even the new Orange Line trolley that shuttles riders between arts destinations in Palm Beach and neighboring West Palm Beach adds a down-to-earth touch to this high-rolling town (and it’s free!).