The Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida has a history that dates back to the late 1890s. As industry tycoons and wealthy socialites began flocking to the pristine shores of Palm Beach Henry M. Flagler, one of America’s great industrialists and founder of The Breakers saw the opportunity to purchase land and build grand estate hotels. He first built The Royal Poinciana, followed two years later by The Breakers. Twice the latter was destroyed by fire – in 1903 and 1925 – only to reemerge more luxurious each time.
The Breakers reopened in 1926 after the second fire and was modeled after the magnificent Villa Medici in Rome. Building it required that 74 artisans be brought in from Italy to complete the intricate paintings, detailed across the ceilings of the 200-foot-long main lobby and first-floor public rooms, both of which remain on display today.
Each successive year word spread and the resort’s reputation grew, ushering in aristocrats and glitterati to Palm Beach year-round. At any given time you could find the likes of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, Andrew Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan, not to mention US presidents and European nobility.
Much of the Breakers remains the same now as it was then, at least architecturally. You’ll still find unbridled luxury, the glamour, and aroma of the ocean out back and service that is second to none. In a world that is so interconnected, it’s nice to visit a hotel that lets you step back and takes care of your every want and desire. All with a price, of course.
As you enter the front door of the hotel after valeting your car, you’re quickly struck with the charm and opulence of the lobby. Look up at the ceilings as you tour the main floor and you can’t help but be in awe of the paintings and adornments you see.
Check into your room and let the enchantment begin. The Breakers offers guest rooms and suites that are all well-appointed. We were treated to a Junior Suite with an Oceanfront view. In the room was a large king-size bed, a couch with coffee tables and two balconies overlooking the water. The rooms are tastefully decorated and leave you wanting for nothing; simply pick up the phone and dial “0” if you can think of something you need and don’t have.
Dining is a special event all its own. On the property, there are eight dining venues; nine if you count Flagler Steakhouse across the street in the golf clubhouse. For my money, it’s the best restaurant on the property. After ordering a round of cocktails, start your meal off with a Seafood Tower, a collection of shrimp, crab claws, oysters and crab legs. Then it’s on to the main course; you can’t go wrong with any of their signature steaks, including the Bone-in Filet Mignon. For accompaniments, try something different, like Gorgonzola Potato Tots or Caramelized Brussels Sprouts. Top it off with an after-dinner drink and a piece of their award-winning Key Lime Pie and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven, albeit a few pounds heavier!
If seafood is more to your liking, you have to try the Seafood Bar. The bar itself is a giant aquarium, with the Atlantic Ocean serving as a backdrop. For drinks, they offer a wide variety of house-crafted beverages like a Pineapple-Infused Martini or a Flirtini. For appetizers you can’t beat their New England Clam Chowder or Blue Crab Nachos and the Broccoli and Kale Salad is outstanding. When it comes to the main course, Pecan Crusted Grouper is one of their specialties and the Blue Crab Fried Rice and Lobster Cole Slaw are truly delicious and unique. If you didn’t try the Key Lime Pie at Flagler’s you have a second chance at The Seafood Bar.
The Circle is a wonderful dining experience and home to what is probably the most extravagant breakfast buffet in the area. The room itself is quite impressive with soaring 30-foot frescoed ceilings and eight oval murals depicting Renaissance landscapes. As for breakfast, The Circle offers an artfully crafted buffet of hot and cold selections including fresh fruit and pastries to made-to-order crepes and omelets. If you’re not all that hungry, you can order off of their à la carte menu which features traditional favorites. I haven’t experienced it but I hear the Sunday Brunch is a culinary experience not to be missed.
There’s plenty to do at the Breakers once your food has settled. There are four pools and of course the beach, but there is also a world-class fitness center, spa, tennis, and shopping. Oh, and did I mention the two Rees Jones-designed golf courses: Breakers West, about 20 minutes to the property and the newly redesigned Ocean Course, right there at the hotel.
The Ocean Course at the Breakers as arguably the oldest golf course in Florida and was originally designed by Alexander Findlay in 1897. After closing for several months in 2018, the course reopened late in the year, fresh off a facelift from world-renowned architect Rees Jones. His makeover got its inspiration from The Breakers’ philosophy of balancing preservation and modernization. The renovation included a lot of reimaging and reshaping of fairways and greens the addition and maturation of several water hazards and the implementation of a new salt-tolerant grass, something that is sorely needed given the course’s proximity to saltwater. According to Jones, “Every hole has a different little twist and a different set of details.” At only 5,778 yards from the back tees, a course rating of 67.8 and a slope of 126, it’s certainly not going to overwhelm better golfers but as tight as it is, it’s certainly going to test your mettle. Four sets of tees produce yardages that anyone can handle.
The Breakers Rees Jones Course is located about 10 miles – west – of the main resort and can best be described as a massive land of green grass dotted with blue ponds. It is the more modern of the two courses and is the antithesis of The Ocean Course. From the back tees, the Rees Jones Course plays 7,104 yards (74.8/146); about 2 par 5s and a par 3 shorter than its sister course. Large fairways give way to some long water carries and well-undulated TifEagle Bermuda greens creating a memorable and challenging golf experience. Shaping the ball is a necessity out here if you want to score well. The 9th hole is particularly memorable. It’s a long dogleg left with water all down the left side tee to green. It requires a long carry over water to a small landing area with a deep menacing fairway bunker on the right. From there you’ll play your approach shot over the same lake into a green surrounded with sand and water and a lot of undulation in it. Although it’s handicapped number 5, it will test your accuracy and shotmaking ability.
There’s obviously a lot to do at The Breakers in Palm Beach. For more information or to book your next Breakers vacation, visit them online at www.thebreakers.com.