Singer Island Serenade
Nature and R&R meet stylish surroundings on this quiet piece of paradise tucked away in South Florida.
If you ever used a Singer sewing machine, then the name Singer Island should ring a bell. This finger of land—actually a peninsula running parallel with the mainland in Palm Beach County—is where Paris Singer, the son of sewing machine inventor Isaac Singer, plotted out a luxury resort community on the Atlantic Ocean in 1920.
Together with architect Addison Mizner, who is credited with giving neighboring Palm Beach its elite Mediterranean style, Singer had grand plans for hotels and a golf course—that was until the 1929 stock market crash dealt a mortal blow.
Yet, the name Singer Island remained and after World War II, the land was indeed developed. However, it never became one of those South Florida destinations that attracts throngs of tourists, which is why Singer Island is such an ideal place to slip away for a relaxing few days.
Drive onto the island from the northern end and you’re immediately immersed in a huge swath of subtropical coastal habitat. A sanctuary for native plants and animals, the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is like a green buffer separating the bustle of metropolitan life from the serenity of island living.
Follow the one main road south past a string of high-rise condominiums to the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Resort & Spa, one of only two hotels on the 5-mile stretch. Although it may look like just another elegant oceanfront tower, the Marriott, with its one- and two-bedroom condo-style suites, easily accommodates families, two couples or girlfriends on a fun getaway. Rather than squeezing into one room, you have a full kitchen with bar amenities and huge counter space. The kitchen connects to a contemporary living room of dark wood and lime green walls that extends onto the balcony, which of course means you have views of the Atlantic, complete with ocean breezes.
En route to the beach from the hotel’s adult infinity pool (the family pool with its waterfalls and jumbo slide is separated by one of the towers) are two thatched-roof bamboo huts that add to the island mindset. One overflows with boogie boards, wide-brimmed straw hats and trendy sunglasses, and the other is the Reef Tiki Bar, where bartenders vigorously shake up the latest rum concoction served in freshly cracked coconut shells.
What’s so attractive about the beach on Singer Island is that if you want to be around people, you can plant yourself in front of the hotel and mingle. Just off shore is a rock formation where bathers congregate and snorkelers play peek-a-boo with fish. But if you want solitude, a five-minute walk north will take you to a slightly elevated shore of reddish lunarlike rock that offers a diversion from the popular gold-tinged shoreline. Bring a bag so you can collect seashells. The more ambitious can continue on foot to the state park.
Besides offering a swimming and snorkeling beach, MacArthur Beach State Park is a haven for paddlers of all sorts. With a rental kayak it’s easy to explore the estuary, where slow-moving manatees can be spotted during the cooler months. Paddlers traveling to Munyon Island, a nearby wading bird rookery, are rewarded with sightings of schools of mullet cascading across the surface, tarpon and even an occasional dolphin. Once on the island, hikers encounter pelicans, cormorants and great blue herons. With a little planning, you can sign up for a ranger-led butterfly walk through a hardwood hammock or a presentation about the park’s near-shore reef.
From March to October, turtles come ashore to lay eggs on the sand from Tequesta to the north, down to the state park. At the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, five species—loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback and Kemp’s ridley—swim about in outdoor tanks. Kathryn Rumbley, who gives tours at the center, shares facts about the turtles and their nesting habits. “Only one in 5,000 hatchlings actually makes it to maturity to reproduce,” she tells visitors, who are always surprised at the low survival rate.
Since the Palm Beach area is known for its fashionable stores and restaurants, spending time at the nearby Gardens Mall, with its soaring atrium and lavender fields décor, can easily fill an afternoon with window-shopping or splurging on luxury brands.
Follow your shopping excursion with a stop at the nearby PGA Commons, a happening courtyard of local restaurants and shops. One of the newest hot spots is The Cooper Craft Kitchen & Bar, where guests can indulge in artisan cocktails and farm-to-table dining in a rustic setting.
Know Before You Go
Singer Island, located in Palm Beach County, is an easy three-hour drive south from Orlando.
Wrap a weekend around a stay at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Resort & Spa and unwind with a HydraFacial at the Si Spa. Later, dine at 3800 Ocean, where from a sleek white leather banquette, you’re treated to the bluest views of the horizon. Linger over a coconut mojito before ordering the miso brushed black snapper. marriott.com
In June and July, rangers at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park lead Turtle Talk & Walk programs, which include presentations on sea turtle habitats and the nesting ritual, followed by a two-mile nighttime walk to observe a female loggerhead laying her eggs on MacArthur Beach. Book ahead. macarthurbeach.org
A trip to a shopping mall may not rank high on your list of things to do, but The Gardens Mall works hard at pleasing a discriminating Palm Beach clientele. Expect luxurious surroundings, classy shoppers and merchandise that most likely won’t show up at the stores in your local mall. thegardensmall.com