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Beaches

The farther north you head from populated Palm Beach, the more peaceful and pristine the coast becomes. Just a few miles north of the bustle, castles and condominiums give way to wide-open space and public parkland. There are dozens of recommendable spots. The following are a few of the best.

John D. MacArthur Beach is a spectacular beach that preserves the subtropical coastal habitat that once covered southeast Florida. This state park has a remarkable 4,000-square-foot Nature Center with exhibits, displays, and a video interpreting the barrier island's plant and animal communities. Dominating a large portion of Singer Island, the barrier island just north of Palm Beach, this beach has frontage on both the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Worth Cove. It's great for hiking, swimming, and sunning. Restrooms and showers are available. To reach the park from the mainland, cross the Intracoastal Waterway on Blue Heron Boulevard and turn north on Ocean Boulevard.

Jupiter Inlet meets the ocean at Dubois Park, a 29-acre beach that's popular with families. The shallow waters and sandy shore are perfect for kids, while adults can play in the rougher swells of the inlet where there are lifeguards. A footbridge leads to Ocean Beach, an area popular with windsurfers and surfers. There's a short fishing pier and plenty of shaded barbecue grills and picnic tables. Explore the Dubois Pioneer Home, situated atop a shell mound built by the Jaega Indians. The home was built of cypress in 1898 by Harry Dubois, a citrus worker, as a wedding gift to his wife, Susan, whose pictures are still in the house. The butter churn, the pump sewing machine in the living room, and the dining room and bedroom are straight out of Little House on the Prairie. The park entrance is on Dubois Road, about a mile south of the junction of U.S. 1 and Florida A1A.

Biking

Bike enthusiasts will enjoy exploring this flat and uncluttered area. North Palm Beach has hundreds of miles of smooth, paved roads. Loggerhead Park in Juno Beach and Florida A1A along the ocean also have great trails for starters. You'll find many more scenic routes over the bridges and west of the highway. Rent a bike at Jupiter Outdoor Center, 18095 Coastal A1A, in Jupiter (tel. 561/747-9666).

Canoeing

You can rent a boat at several outlets throughout northern Palm Beach County, including Canoe Outfitters, 9060 W. Indiantown Rd. (west of I-95), in North Jupiter (tel. 561/746-7053; www.canoes-kayaks-florida.com), which provides access to one of the area's most beautiful natural waterways. Canoers start at Riverbend Park along an 8-mile stretch of Intracoastal Waterway, where the lush foliage supports dozens of exotic birds and reptiles. Keep your eyes open for gators, who love to sunbathe on the shallow shores of the river. You'll end up, exhausted, at Jonathan Dickinson Park about 5 or 6 hours later. A pamphlet describing local flora and fauna is available for $1. Trips run Thursday through Monday and cost $50 for two people in a double canoe. Guided trips are also available for $45 per person.

Fishing

Before you leave, order an information-packed fishing kit with details on fish camps, charters, and tournament and tide schedules; it's distributed by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club (tel. 561/832-6780). The cost is $10 and well worth it. Allow at least 4 weeks for delivery.

In town, several outfitters along U.S. 1 and Florida A1A rent vessels and equipment if your hotel doesn't. One of the most complete facilities is Sailfish Marina & Resort, 98 Lake Dr. (off Blue Heron Blvd.), Palm Beach Shores (tel. 561/844-1724). Call for equipment, bait, guided trips, or boat rentals.

Golf

Even if you're not lucky enough to be staying at the PGA National Resort & Spa, you may still be able to play on its award-winning courses. If you or someone in your group is a member of another golf or country club, have the head pro write a note on club letterhead to Jackie Rogers at PGA to request a play date. Be sure the pro includes his PGA number and contact information. Allow at least 2 weeks for a response. Also ask about the Golf-A-Round program, in which selected private clubs open their doors to nonmembers for free or discounted rates. Contact the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 561/471-3995) for details.

Dotting the area are plenty of other great courses, including the Golf Club of Jupiter, 1800 Central Blvd., Jupiter (tel. 561/747-6262), where a well-respected 18-hole, par-70 course is situated on more than 6,200 yards of narrow fairways and fast greens. Fees range from $40-$70; they include a mandatory cart. The course borders I-95, so watch your swing.

Hiking

In an area that's not particularly known for extraordinary natural diversity, Blowing Rocks Preserve has a terrific hiking trail along a dramatic limestone outcropping. You won't find hills or scenic vistas, but you will see Florida's unique and varied tropical ecosystem. The well-marked, mile-long trail passes oceanfront dunes, mangrove wetlands, and a coastal hammock. The preserve, owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, 574 South Beach Rd., Hobe Sound, FL 33455 (tel. 561/744-6668), also protects an important habitat for West Indian manatees and loggerhead turtles. Located along South Beach Drive (Fla. A1A), north of the Jupiter inlet, Blowing Rocks is about a 10-minute drive northeast of Jupiter. Free guided tours are available Friday at 1pm and Sunday at 11am; no reservations are necessary. From U.S. 1, head east on S.R. 707 and cross the Intracoastal Waterway to the park. Admission is $3 for adults and free for kids 12 and under.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Year-round warm, clear waters make northern Palm Beach County great for both diving and snorkeling. The closest coral reef is a quarter-mile from shore and can be reached easily by boat. Three popular wrecks are clustered near one another, less than a mile offshore of the Lake Worth Inlet at about 90 feet. The best wreck, however, is the 16th- or 17th-century Spanish galleon discovered by lifeguard Peter Leo just off Jupiter Beach; any diving outfit off Jupiter Beach will take you there. If your hotel doesn't offer dive trips, call South Florida Dive Headquarters, 101 N. Riverside Dr., Pompano Beach (tel. 800/771-DIVE or 954/783-2299), or Seafari Dive and Surf, 75 E. Indiantown Rd., Suite 603, Jupiter (tel. 561/747-6115).

Tennis

In addition to the many hotel tennis courts, you can swing a racquet at a number of local clubs. The Jupiter Bay Tennis Club, 353 U.S. 1, Jupiter (tel. 561/744-9424; www.jupiterbaytennis.com), has seven clay courts (three lighted) and charges $16 per person per day. Reservations are highly recommended. More economical options are available at relatively well-maintained municipal courts. Call tel. 561/966-6600 for locations and hours. Many are available free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.