The original main street of Palm Beach, now known as Royal Poinciana Way, was intended to take travelers from the Flagler Bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway to The Breakers hotel. Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler had brought the Florida East Coast Railway to the area by 1894, and his imposing resort opened two years later. Today, The Breakers remains the town’s grande dame, and Royal Poinciana Way is still one of the most imposing Palm Beach thoroughfares (even though Worth Avenue with its phalanx of designer boutiques is probably better known).
White Elephant Palm Beach
Just a block to the north, on Sunset Avenue, the latest addition to Palm Beach’s lineup of luxury hotels opened in November last year. The White Elephant Palm Beach occupies a restored Mediterranean Revival building dating from 1924. Somewhat implausibly, it is the sister hotel to the White Elephant Nantucket, a property that I have long recommended. I say “implausibly” because there can be few places in the country that, at first glance, seem more dissimilar than Nantucket and Palm Beach. Both are islands, it is true, but the resemblance appears to end there. “Oh, but the clientele is much the same,” the obliging receptionist explained as we checked in. “We gets lots of people from New England here, Connecticut especially. And they’re both yacht places. We work with the same yacht charter firm here that we do in Nantucket.”
From the cool marble lobby, with its coral sculptures and contemporary art — definitely no scrimshaw — we were escorted up to our King Room Private Balcony. Of the White Elephant’s 32 accommodations, no fewer than 19 are suites. (The two on the fourth-floor penthouse level, the three-bedroom Park Suite and the two-bedroom Palm Suite come with full kitchens, huge private terraces, dining pergolas, gas grills and panoramic views over the surrounding neighborhood.) At first sight, our room struck me as rather cramped, with much of its area being taken up by a king bed and an entirely superfluous sofa. However, opening the door onto the balcony, my impression became more positive. The generous outdoor space dispelled any sense of claustrophobia. A round table with four chairs beneath a black-and-white-striped umbrella provided sufficient room for a leisurely breakfast, while an adjacent sitting area seemed an ideal place in which to read or enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail. The view was unremarkable — the awning of the hotel restaurant, the small swimming pool and an anonymous strip of subtropical green — but the atmosphere was secluded and peaceful. Back inside, I investigated my surroundings with a more appreciative eye: The color scheme of pale grays and creams was restful; the closet space was more than adequate; and the adjacent marble bath, with its two sinks and glass-enclosed walk-in shower, was well appointed and sufficiently spacious, though it lacked a tub.