Hotels with a Past

Hotel With A Past: The Breakers in Palm Beach County, Florida

Locations in this article:  The Palm Beaches

The story of this special hotel and resort starts in 1896, but its enduring appeal is its timelessness–140-acres of oceanfront property, a half a mile of private beach, golf courses, and pools–and a reputation for service that’s been indulging guests for decades. From the moment you first enter the property, you might be reminded of the line by the great American comedian Groucho Marx who said he would never join any club that would have him as a member. But I will make an exception for The Breakers, a true hotel with a past.


Originally called the Palm Beach Inn, this was the second hotel founded in Florida by prominent oil tycoon and businessman, Henry Morrison Flagler. His first hotel, the Royal Poinciana, opened in 1894 in Lake Worth…a city about 20 minutes south of Palm Beach in Palm Beach County. It soon became the largest hotel at that point in the world with 1,100 rooms. But when the Palm Beach Inn opened, regulars began asking for the hotel down by the breakers, and that’s how this hotel got its name.

The Breakers was a place to see and be seen–and when the hotel went through extensive remodeling in the 1990s–it recreated a space for people to socialize.

The hotel’s “HMF” (Henry Morrison Flagler) restaurant is an ode to the Gilded Age’s emphasis on gathering in communal areas. One of the most notable, and historic, features of the restaurant is the wine collection. A couple of its older bottles include the 1907  Malvasia Madeira by D’Oliveiras and the 1920 Lafite Rothschild.

But when you go beyond the wine selection at The Breakers, you get to the real stars of the show–the cocktails. During the 1950s and 1960s, The Breakers was an institution and one of the founders of classic cocktail culture. At HMF, you’ll find modern twists on classics that have been served here for years like the “Railcar #91”–its take on the famous cocktail, The Sidecar.

And that’s not the only thing the restaurant has updated. It has also rejuvenated the resort food fare. There’s the warm onion and reggiano dip, a take on the warm onion dips you might have had as a kid. Menu options include Korean short ribs and wood roasted Chilean sea bass. For dessert, the restaurant features a unique take on the whoopie pie and baked Alaska.

After an afternoon of being in the kitchen, I was ready to get out to experience what brings most people to The Breakers in the first place–the beach.

Built in 1896, there was once a 1,000 foot pier in front of The Breakers. In 1928, that pier was destroyed by a hurricane. The remains were left to form what is now The Breakers Reef.

And since the creation of that reef, almost a century ago, The Breakers has become a capital for watersports. Get out there on the reef, and see the nearly 400 species that call the reef home.

The Breakers is a hotel of living history–where the owners are constantly remodeling, updating and not just remembering their history– but building from it. And that is what makes The Breakers truly a hotel with a past.