There’s no question that West Palm Beach and the whole of Florida’s Palm Beach County is a magnet for the rich, the famous and their yachts. Case in point, Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich’s 533-foot Eclipse docked at the Port of Palm Beach last November, albeit in a slip usually reserved for cruise ships. Another good example is the Palm Beach International Boat Show (PBIBS). Held annually in March, the show ranks as one of the top of its kind nationwide with more than $1.2 billion worth of yachts including those 150-feet plus on display. Yet, the Palm Beaches, a collection of 39 cities and towns located from Boca Raton to Jupiter and including the county’s capital city of West Palm, offers something for every mariner. The PBIBS makes this case equally clear since on display are everything from 8-foot inflatables, power boats, fishing boats, center consoles, bow riders, personal watercraft to superyachts.
“The plentiful availability of both public and private dockage to accommodate vessels both big and small is just one reason that makes the Palm Beaches such a great destination to visit by boat,” invites Alyssa Freeman, operations director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Inc. (MIAPBC), based in North Palm Beach. “Downtown West Palm Beach is accessible by tying up to the City’s public docks. Boaters can enjoy restaurants, many of which are waterfront and accessible by boat, as well as shopping, green markets, events, and more all in one convenient location. The Palm Beaches is a beautiful, less congested part of Florida. What’s more, Palm Beach is ideal because of its close proximity to the Bahamas, Cuba, and the Florida Keys.”
Native Americans first called West Palm home and were in residence when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon arrived at Florida in 1513. Fast forward to 1890, and some 200-people lived here, mostly those farming tropical fruits and vegetables to ship north. It was Henry Flagler, of Standard Oil and railroad fame, who really sparked growth and Palm Beach’s claim to fame as a sought-after tourist destination by extending his Florida East Coast railroad here in 1893 to reach his two spectacular Gilded Age-era hotels: the long-closed Royal Poinciana and the Palm Beach Inn, which today is called The Breakers. The Flagler Museum in Palm Beach is a great place to see some of this history.
One reason the Palm Beaches are a beacon for boaters as well as rail, air and road visitors is access to water. The County boasts nearly 50 miles each of oceanfront shoreline as well as Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). West Palm is separated from Palm Beach by the Lake Worth Lagoon.
“There is a great mix of marine facilities depending on what amenities boaters are interested in enjoying. For example, some facilities offer on-site amenities like a pool, café, fitness center, transportation, and more. For captains, especially of large yachts, the inlet for easiest navigation would be the Palm Beach/Lake Worth Inlet. For crews, there is an abundant amount of businesses that cater to the marine industries,” says MIAPBC’s Freeman.
Palm Harbor Marina, which over 200 slips for yachts from 50- to 200-feet, is the only marina located in downtown West Palm Beach. The city does have three public docks on the waterfront that are open to the public, free to non-commercial boats, and available on a first come first serve basis seven days a week from 5 a.m. to Midnight. Both the marina and public docks are within walking distance of the Clematis Street area, the historical heart of the city, where today there are several shops, galleries restaurants, nightclubs and open-air concerts. To the north is the Palm Beach Yacht Club & Marina, Rybovich’s resort-style 85-slip West Palm Beach Marina, and the Suntex Marina at Riviera Beach. Suntex’s Riviera Beach location offers mobile marine mechanical services in the Palm Beach area, which is a convenient way to get repairs completed and leave more time to enjoy the area.
There are many marine-related activities year-round in Palm Beach County, with the largest being the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March, according to the MIAPBC’s Freeman. “Palm Beach Paddlefest takes place in February (February 10) and is accessible by boat at Harbourside Place’s public docks in Jupiter. There are several fishing tournaments and regattas throughout the year as well as a couple of marine flea markets at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Beyond this, there are several great spots to enjoy paddle boarding and kayaking, such as the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter and around Peanut Island. Plus, Palm Beach County offers some of the best inshore and offshore diving in the world.”