An upscale village, North Palm Beach is at the north end of the Lake Worth Lagoon. I can’t help but be envious of anyone lucky enough to live in this place, with its shimmering bay waters, mangroves, and ocean beaches.
The village was first developed in the 1950s by the insurance magnate, John D. MacArthur (1897-1978). The Palm Beaches only state park was named for MacArthur when it opened in North Palm Beach 1989.
You can pass the days in North Palm Beach paddling on the lagoon, lazing by the beach, or playing a round at one of the state’s very best municipal golf courses.
1. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
On a breathtaking stretch of coast at the north end of Singer Island is one of the region’s most pristine parks. What you get is a true glimpse of a time when the Palm Beaches weren’t so developed.
The long stretch of beach along the Atlantic is the park’s main draw, but there’s also a variety of natural environments on the lagoon side. Paddling these mangrove-lined waters is one of my favorite things to do in the area.
The two portions are linked by a wonderful boardwalk, furnished with interpretive signs, and giving you a convenient but up-close look at the mangroves and tropical hammock.
2. Lakeside Park
There’s a delightful lagoon-front space right in North Palm Beach. For me, Lakeside Park is a little piece of perfection, thanks to its narrow but pristine strip of beach.
This is shielded from the rest of the park by mangroves, and the vistas are fantastic, not least at sunrise. You can also see the contrast between the high-rise condos of Riviera Beach and the unblemished nature of the John D. MacArthur Park.
Away from the shore you’ll find a children’s playground, basketball hoop and tiki-style picnic shelters, surrounded by mature trees.
3. North Palm Beach Country Club
First opened in 1963, this public facility has been a pillar of the community for more than 60 years now. The clubhouse complex was rebuilt in the late 2010s, and is the anchor for one of Florida’s great municipal recreation centers.
The showpiece is one of only two golf courses personally designed by Jack Nicklaus himself. This par-71 links-style course is intended as a test of everyone’s skills, with its contoured greens and interesting elevation changes.
Naturally, the rates are steep, but I think that’s a given at a course of this quality.
Other amenities at North Beach Country Club include ten Har-Tru tennis courts, a 50-meter pool with splash pad, and the Farmer’s Table community restaurant.
4. Manatee Lagoon Eco-Discovery Center
Florida’s iconic manatees are known to seek out warmer water during the winter. They find this a few minutes from North Palm Beach at the outflow for the Florida Power and Light power generation facility.
Come in the right season, and there’s no better place to see them than the Manatee Lagoon Eco-Discovery Center.
There’s several dedicated viewing areas, for unobstructed views of the lagoon’s clear twinkling waters. As I said, manatees are more commonly seen during the winter months, but the center is still a worthwhile visit out of season.
There are display tanks showing off local marine life inside, while a variety of fish including nurse sharks, barracuda and parrotfish can be seen from the observation areas in summer.
5. Phil Foster Park
The spot where the Blue Heron Bridge crosses the lagoon to Singer Island has long been a beloved snorkeling and diving site.
There’s an incredible abundance of life here among the seagrass beds and the artificial reefs. Entering at Phil Foster Park you can make your way along a snorkeling trail, featuring those reefs, underwater sculptures, and a wreck.
Nothing I say here will prepare you for the natural spectacle in these crystal clear waters. At depths of no more than ten feet, you’re likely to see frogfish, yellow stingrays, spotted scorpionfish, pearly razorfish, pipefish, and a variety of pipefish among many others.
6. Stand-Up Paddleboarding
With its peaceful inland waters, sandbars, uninhabited islands, mangrove tunnels, and large parks, the Lake Worth Lagoon deserves as much time as you can give it.
For me, the best way to really get in touch with this beautiful environment is on a paddleboard. There are several companies in the area ready to help you out.
For one, High Point Paddle Adventures can be found at MacArthur Beach, and offers a wide range of experiences. You can join an SUP and snorkel combo trip to Peanut Island, or venture through the mangroves around Singer Island.
Also local, South Florida Paddle has another extensive menu of public and private options. My pick is the dreamy sunset or sunrise tour of the state park.
7. Peanut Island Park
Out in the Lake Worth Lagoon, south of North Palm Beach there’s an 80-acre uninhabited island you can visit. The easiest way to do this is to catch the shuttle ferry from Riviera Beach.
The crossing took a matter of seconds, and I knew why I made the effort as soon as I arrived. Lapped by gentle, shallow waters, this is an idyllic beach hangout with a series of gardens along a path.
Underwater there’s perfect visibility and a lot of marine life around the artificial reefs, so it’s a prime spot for some snorkeling.
There’s history too, as an early 1960s bomb shelter for JFK is located here. Pushing into the lagoon from the north side is a long sandbar, and it’s not usual to see a crowd of boats anchored close by.
8. Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Something I haven’t mentioned is that sea turtles nest at beaches all along these shores in summer. For some background on these species, this educational attraction is a short drive away in Juno Beach.
Founded in 1983, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is dedicated to the conservation, research and rehabilitation of marine life, with a focus on sea turtles.
The center incorporates a hospital, research lab, and a public area with exhibits and aquariums. Pressed for time, I took the hour-long public guided tour, and got to see patients recovering at the hospital, with accounts of their rescue and treatment.
On your way out, the gift shop is bursting with cool stuff, and is another great way to support the center.
9. Rapids Waterpark
A major attraction for more than four decades, the largest water park in South Florida is under ten minutes from North Palm Beach.
Rapids Waterpark has a full 30 acres of slides and attractions for all comers. If high-speed descents are your thing, I’d look no further than Black Thunder with its dark vortex, or Brain Drain and its 70-foot drop.
There’s a lot more besides, from multi-person raft rides to a flowrider surf wave, and the 25,000-square wave pool, Big Surf. Smaller children meanwhile will have a blast at the likes of Splish Splash Lagoon and Barefootin Bay water play areas, both packed with interactivity.
10. The Gardens GreenMarket
The closest farmers’ market to North Palm Beach is a weekly event a few minutes away in Palm Beach Gardens. The Gardens GreenMarket happens on Sunday mornings, October through May.
The market goes back more than 20 years, and is a big boost for local growers, producers, and artisans.
Shopping here I saw fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, houseplants, pastries, eggs, pickles, spices, teas, jams, handmade soap, paintings, jewelry, and all kinds of other crafts.
Finally, you can always find something delicious for lunch, from smash burgers to empanadas to Cuban sandwiches.
11. The Gardens Mall
Palm Beach Gardens also has the nearest large enclosed mall, barely five minutes away. I’m sure you’re aware that malls have lost some of their luster, but that does not apply to the Gardens Mall.
On two floors, this is upscale retail bliss, with total occupancy throughout. For a sample of the brands awaiting you, there’s Gucci, Tiffany & Co, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Apple, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Hugo Boss, Tesla, and Michael Kors.
When I compiled this article, the anchors were Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Sears, and Macy’s. The food scene was equally vibrant, with locations for Shake Shack, Chipotle, and Haagen Dazs.
12. Ocean Reef Park
There are public beaches of all stripes, easily reached from North Palm Beach. One close pick, to the south of MacArthur Beach is Ocean Reef Park in Riviera Beach.
Couched between high-rise blocks there’s 700 feet of guarded sandy shoreline. The beach is notably wide at this point especially at low tide, and the surf is usually lively.
Breaking up the line of condos and resorts is a dune system, traversed by a boardwalk from the parking area. I like the little overlook by the dunes, while the park has all the full range of amenities, including showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and playgrounds.
13. Tulipan Café-Bakery
For those visiting the area in need of a coffee or Cuban-inspired food fix, I’d point you towards Tulipan Café-Bakery.
With two locations in the Palm Beaches, they are known for their strong, tasty café con leche and enticing cakes and pastries.
In fact, those in the know consider their café con leche to be the best in the area. I reckon quite a statement considering the abundance of Cuban spots in these parts. Pair a cup with a guava pastelito.
As well as pastries, there’s a range of savory lunch options, including empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, and croquettes.
14. Twisted Trunk Brewing
Close by in Palm Beach Gardens, this craft brewery was set up in 2015. The name Twisted Trunk comes from the banyan trees that flank the streets of the Palm Beaches.
To me, it’s the perfect place to relax with a cold one after a long day on the beach or out on the lagoon.
Twisted Trunk offers a variety of made-on-site beers that run the gamut from Stouts to IPAs. Personally, I was smitten by the refreshing West Palm Lager.
I adored the taproom here, in full view of the fermenting tanks, and with a bar carved from century-old elmwood.
15. Book Exchange & Comic Shop
For beach-minded vacationers like me, good books are imperative elements of quality time spent under the sun.
Like most of the country, South Florida has no shortage of national chain bookstores. Still, for those who’d rather browse a locally-owned business, an hour or so spent at Book Exchange and Comic Shop on Northlake Boulevard would be time well spent.
Featuring rows and rows of pre-owned books categorized by genre, it’s a bit like a treasure hunt. These aisles are packed with classic and contemporary literature as well as kid’s books and nonfiction.